Creating multi-sensory learning experiences for children enhances engagement and increases learning!
At first it may seem challenging to add new sensory elements to an activity, or create a brand new multi-sensory activity but the more you do it, the easier it becomes! We love creating rhythm based activities that include movements and visuals and/or props!
This is how we create a rhythm based multi sensory activity (we'll use examples from one of the song activities we created):
Step One: Make a list of the goals you want to target in the activity
Motor goal: reaching with index finger extended (pointing)
Bringing open hand to chest (“me”)
Expressive Language goal: Bilabial sound /buh/ /me/
Step Two: Choose preferred subject matter
Example: Sesame Street characters
For one of our young learners, Sesame Street characters are a preferred subject matter. Repetition is important so we created a song that would allow us to practice our targets many times while keeping it fun and engaging.
We wanted to add in motor actions like patting legs as well as the two target motor goals, so we decided this song would not be accompanied by an instrument.
Step Three: Choose what the characters are going to do in the song that will help the child develop the targeted goals.
Because this child was developing reaching and pointing skills as well as working on patting his chest to sign “me,” we decided the characters would be going for a boat ride and would invite each character onto the boat in the words of the song. Fow each character invited, we would be pointing forward for “you” and patting chest for “me”. We printed, cut out, and laminated five Sesame Street characters and a big yellow boat. We chose a yellow boat because this child had been observed to say the word “yellow” on occasion and we wanted to reinforce that. Then, we added Velcro to the backs of the characters and the boat so that they could really go for a ride on the boat without falling off!
Step Four: Create the song based on the targeted goals
We came up with a simple melody that put the target in an emphasized spot of the song where the music would naturally prompt it.
Here are the lyrics we came up with:
Let’s you (pointing) and me (pat chest/ encourage verbalizing /m/ sound)
Take a boat out to sea
Let’ you (pointing) and me (pat chest)/encourage verbalizing /m/ sound)
Take a boat out to sea
We’ll go riding on a big yellow boat (encourage /b/ sound on “boat”)
Yes we’ll go riding on a big yellow boat
It goes bumpity bumpity bumpity bump
Bumpity bumpity bump (encourage /buh/ sound on final “bump”)
For the “bumpity” section the child could be seated in an adults lap and rock back and forth or bump up and down for added sensory input. A child could also be seated in a large gathering drum for this song and could gently spin side to side during this section.
This repeats with each character, inviting the next character onboard. With this particular child we would add a little dialogue and humor in between each character as humor was very motivating for him. Then the next character would get invited on within the words of the song, repeating until all characters were on board. At the end the boat always goes on a ride through the air!
Why use a song?
Adding a beat helps to prime the body for movement! Rhythm activates and engages the brain, and adding music helps us retain the information because it is a global experience in the brain. Music gives structure to an activity, a container providing a clear layout of what is expected and when it will end. It is predictable which lends to it being very successful and also reducing anxiety of not understanding what is expected. The elements of the song and phrasing help prompt the target, when it is strategically placed at these points of the song.
Give it a try!
What can you add to an activity that you’ve already created to increase the sensory experience? Can you add visuals that enhance comprehension and can also build opportunities for sequencing and discussion? Can you add movements that increase engagement and activate the brain and body? Can you add some sign language? Props? There are so many ways to add more substance to our learning experiences for children. I have found that the more I create them, the more ideas come to me! Just be cautious of copyright materials. We love using Shutterstock to purchase our visuals for our songs. There is a great selection!
If you need some song based activities to help get you started, visit our online shop where we have packages of printable visuals, lyrics, chords, and instructional videos. We are always adding new interventions to the shop! We also have several instructional videos on our YouTube channel.