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Written by: Kathryn Ring, OT & Tiffany Thomsen, OT. Edited by: Teresa Hans, OT.

Why is multi-sensory learning important during the virtual school day?

Graphic showing shaving cream play and gel bag writing.

The truth is, all children benefit from hands-on learning.

Why?

Providing children with multi-sensory opportunities helps build connections to learning. Using sight, hearing, movement, and touch stimulates the brain in a variety of ways to allow the brain to form meaningful memories that will integrate to form lifelong memories and higher level functioning. With school being virtual, teachers are excited to provide interactive learning options for their students. Teachers have been in training since the beginning of the pandemic preparing to offer innovative ways to provide engaging experiences for their students through the virtual platform. Based on your child’s individual learning goals and assignments, Progressive Pediatric therapists can also provide creative ways to use at home common items  to incorporate multi-sensory learning opportunities into their virtual school day to supplement the virtual experiences and provide rich, hands-on learning experiences within the home.

Jose learns the letter "A" using three different sensory approaches: tracing on a tablet, forming the "A" using playdough, and exploring a cut out letter "A".
Jose learns the letter “A” using three different sensory approaches: tracing on a tablet, forming the “A” using playdough, and exploring a cut out letter “A”.

How can I incorporate multi-sensory learning into my child’s virtual school day?

Try these activities using common, everyday materials found in the home:

  • Shaving Cream, Sand, or Salt Writing- Place shaving cream, sand, or salt on a cookie sheet and have your child practice their letters, vocabulary, or spelling words! 
Sierra practices letter formation by drawing in shaving cream.
Sierra practices letter formation by drawing in shaving cream.
  • Craft Sticks- Have your child build shapes, letters, and pictures of whatever they are learning with craft sticks! 
  • Ziplock Sensory Writing Bags- Fill a freezer bag with hair gel and add food coloring. Use a q-tip or finger for writing. 
Sierra traces number "3" using a sensory gel bag over an outline.
Sierra traces number “3” using a sensory gel bag over an outline.
  • Scented Paint- Paint letters or vocabulary words. Have your child sprinkle something smelly on top! Cinnamon and garlic powder work great! 
  • Scented Playdough- Make letters and words out of playdough! Add some peppermint oil to the playdough to add in scent. 
  • Secret Back Words-Draw words or letters on your child’s back and they have to guess what you are writing! Have them draw on your back and switch roles! 
Christian practices forming letter "H" using chalk on a mini chalkboard.
Christian practices forming letter “H” using chalk on a mini chalkboard.

Have you tried some of these multi-sensory techniques? Do you have any other favorite ways to reinforce learning through use of multi-sensory instruction and play? Share with us in the comments!

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