Multisensory play and learning is all the rage right now in early childhood circles. But the truth is, occupational therapists have known for a long time that kids are more likely to learn and retain information when they engage with materials using a variety of senses!
Mutlisensory learning is helpful for ALL children because all kids have different learning styles. This is especially true when it comes to teaching children to correctly form letters.
With each sense that is engaged while learning to write letters, the brain is given an additional opportunity to encode and “integrate” the information so it is available for the future. Here are some examples:
- Letter practice that involves tactile (touch) and proprioceptive (muscle resistance, vibration) sensory input allows the brain to process and remember the motor patterns based on information directly from the skin and muscles. This is especially important for kiddos with dyslexia, since they typically struggle with auditory and/or visual processing and really benefit from hands-on, whole body learning when it comes to letters and language.
- Letter practice that involves sound and music (such as saying the steps of the letters while writing or singing songs about how to form the letters) reinforces motor patterns based on auditory memory.
- Letter practice that involves visual engagement with letter formation (watching the steps modeled for them, using various colors and different-looking materials) reinforces letter formation based on visual memory.
- Smell is the sense that is most strongly associated with emotional memory, so letter practice that involves smell (scented materials) can engage not only the olfactory system but also emotional memory (positive or negative experiences related to writing) as children create memories of working on letter formation.
Okay, now we know why multisensory learning is important when teaching kids how to write. So how do we do it???
Provide kids the opportunity to write in or with multisensory writing materials!
Below is a round-up of 30 fun, super creative ways to engage your kids in multisensory writing practice. The majority of the activities target tactile, proprioceptive, and visual learning, but some also include smell and sound so be sure to check out all of them. Don’t be overwhelmed by the creativity in these posts…many of these activities are surprisingly simple!
Want to pin all these ideas to Pinterest? Done. You can repin these posts directly from my brand new Pinterest board, “Multisensory Writing Activities“, by clicking here. I’ve even provided additional commentary on many of the activities so follow the board, learn some new stuff, and pin to your heart’s content!
Writing in multisensory materials:
1. Salt on a lightbox – from Train Up a Child
2. Painting play dough letters – from Train Up a Child
3. Salt tray writing – from Rainy Day Mum
4. DIY Salt tray and alphabet cards – from This Mumma’s Life
5. Q-tips on a paint bag – from Scribble Doodle and Draw
6. Shaving cream – from Scribble Doodle and Draw
7. Shaving cream on a window – from Putti’s World
8. Writing on a craft canvas – from Make, Take & Teach
9. A stick and some dirt – from The Golden Gleam
10. Inexpensive and DIY sandpaper letters – from Living Montessori Now
11. Stamping letters - from Creative Playhouse
12. Cornflour paste writing – from Blog Me Mom
13. Chocolate sensory salt tray – from Growing a Jeweled Rose
14. Writing in craft sand – from Make, Take & Teach
15. Resistive writing with non-hardening clay, short pencil, and beads – from Pinterest
Writing with multisensory materials:
16. DIY Montessori-inspired sensory letters – from Train Up a Child
17. Toothpicks and upcycled styrofoam trays – from Train Up a Child
18. Building letters with blocks, bodies, shadows, and fabric letters – from Royal Baloo and Logi Bear Too
19. Vanishing words – from Nurture Store
20. Finger-pen-paint – from Nurture Store
21. Writing with glue and puffy paint – from Make, Take & Teach
22. Building letters with pencils and pipe cleaners – from Nurture Store
23. Building letters with play dough – from Nurture Store
24. Building shapes and letters with Wiki Stix – from Scribble Doodle and Draw
25. Building letters with yarn – from Scribble Doodle and Draw
26. Building shapes and letters with Q-tips – from Putti’s World
27. Building shapes, letters, and pictures with colored craft sticks – from Putti’s World
28. Building shapes and letters with blocks – from Putti’s World
29. Building shapes and letters with crayons – from Putti’s World
30. Sensory letter journal with glue, sprinkles, tea leaves, coffee grounds, dirt, garlic, and more – from Growing a Jeweled Rose
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In addition to being mama to two sweet little boys and wife to a crazy awesome husband, Christie is a Registered & Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Education from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA...Go Bruins!), and an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC OT). She has experience working as a pediatric OT in early intervention (birth to 3), clinic-based, and school-based settings. Her mission with MamaOT.com is to encourage, educate, and empower those who care for children. Christie loves that she gets to PLAY when she goes to work, is hopelessly addicted to Kettle Corn, and is known for being able to turn virtually anything into a therapeutic tool or activity, from empty food containers to laundry and everything in between. Learn more about Christie and what inspired her to become an OT.
Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”. Some OTs help people diagnosed with disability, injury, or disease. Others help prevent disability, injury, or disease. Because of occupational therapy, people of all ages are able to say, "I can!" no matter what their struggle. Isn't that amazing?!
. . . . .Please provide appropriate supervision to the child in your care when completing any activities from this site. You as the grown-up will need to decide what types of products/activities on this list will be safe for your child. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when implementing any ideas or activities from this site, particularly if there is any risk of injury (e.g., falling, crashing), choking (e.g., small parts), drowning (e.g., water play), or allergic/adverse reaction (e.g., materials/ingredients). The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.