Recently, I was invited to be part of a teacher in-service at a local Montessori pre-school. We met in the evening, after the children had gone home. As I entered the classroom, I saw shelves lined with familiar Montessori activities—all colorful, well-organized and designed to entice young learners. There is a special place in my heart for Montessori pre-schools, because their teaching method includes techniques and tools that work well for a multitude of learning styles, especially our visual and kinesthetic learners. Their engaging activities get the children interested but are also designed to help children develop discrimination, sequencing and organization skills that are critical to successful learning.
When I first set out to write Being Visual, I thought I was writing about my experience seeing the way art can be used to enhance learning. But while writing and researching, I had a very profound shift in my own understanding. I, like many others, thought learning was learning and art was there as a benefit—an enrichment. As an artist myself, I had always enjoyed participating in art class alongside my other studies. But, I now realize I had grossly underestimated the power and value of art as it relates to education.
It’s Saturday morning—time to take my grandson, Brayden, to the library for a new set of picture books. Oh, how he loves books! First, we go around the house gathering all the books we need to return. As we review them, Brayden has a bit of emotion about letting some of his favorites go, but is encouraged about finding new books—new “friends”. We jump in the car, drive over and enjoy the return process before heading in to select new friends to check out and take home.
Cooking with our kids is a great way to spend time together while involved in purposeful activity. But there’s much more that happens when we invite our kids into the kitchen. Cooking is an engaging, visual, spatial, tactile, hands-on activity that can reinforce classroom learning while developing fundamental cognitive skills.
After a late night reading stacks and stacks of books during our “sleepover,” my grandson and I were up early and in the kitchen to start our day, making and doing. Brayden, who is four years old, climbed on his special kitchen stool, while I got out the ingredients. Making breakfast quiche was going to be a great opportunity to measure, pour, mix and roll, all things that would thoroughly engage a curious preschooler. This multisensory activity is one that I often engaged my own children in as they grew, knowing the benefits go far beyond just having fun.
Participating in theater is about so much more than playing dress-up. There are significant cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits to participating in live theater. Many of these benefits are just what our visual-spatial kids need, but are also a safe, fun way for our more auditory-sequential kids to develop their “other” side.