God’s Gifts of the Senses
God has made each person, and therefore each learner, unique—all in his image and special in his or her own way. The world is filled with learners of varying interests, needs, and abilities. The children enrolled in our faith formation programs and sacramental preparation programs mirror this reality. What a blessing it is that parishes and religious education classrooms are comprised of so many unique talents, interests, strengths and abilities!
We can appeal to all the senses in sacramental preparation and Catholic faith formation activities, and doing so can have beneficial results for children.
Download a support article about the benefits of multi-sensory learning with suggestions for implementation in class and at home.
A multisensory approach to faith formation integrates sensory activities, and invites children to activate their senses while they learn. A multisensory approach stimulates more than one sense at a time, helping children to stay engaged as they learn about their faith. This approach offers more than one way for children to learn, and helps them to make connections. Not only will children learn more effectively when using multiple senses, but they will also develop a true appreciation for the gifts of their senses that God has given them!
Providing multisensory learning opportunities in Catholic faith formation activities is a great way to ensure that ALL children are included!
Auditory opportunities are a great way to explore faith in a multisensory way. These kinds of opportunities can incorporate sound, including music, audio or video clips, discussion, and storytelling. Here are some examples of ways you might include listening experiences in faith formation:
Invite children to close their eyes and listen as you read aloud favorite Bible story, play an audio book, or even stream a podcast. Then, invite discussion.
Incorporate different styles of liturgical, traditional, or contemporary music into class or prayer time.There are many examples of music that can enhance catechesis and celebrate the many cultures within the Catholic Church.
Invite children to sing or use sound to lend their voices to reinforce faith concepts.
Provide audio prayers or guided meditations for children to listen to as a group or individually in a listening station.
To support disciples visually, there is no limit to the number and kinds of images and strategies that can be used and shared during faith formation. Here are some examples of ways you might include visual experiences:
When reading from a text or the Bible, consider using color variation or highlighting.
When designing learning resources or activities, try simple effects like folded paper, colors, visuals, varied font type and sizes, and page layouts to stimulate learning.
Incorporate maps, charts, or diagrams to help children to organize and show their thinking.
Invite children to sort or sequence pictures for fun visual activities that also incorporate movement.
Use felt boards to act out stories and scenes for a visual activity that also uses movement, speaking and listening, and texture.
Support Scripture study or faith concepts by showing fine or modern religious art.
Invite children to draw or use art as they reflect on or apply what they are learning about their faith.
For tactile learners, hands-on learning supports them as they use their sense of touch to experience their faith. God’s gifts include many things that children can explore through touch! Here are some examples of ways you might include tactile experiences in faith formation:
Provide textured objects, such as feathers, rocks, and cotton balls, to stimulate tactile learning. This is also true for materials that are squishy, stretchy, slimy, hard, hot, cold, wet, or for materials like foams that have “push back.”
Provide dolls or other pieces to act out familiar Bible stories and other moral scenarios.
Provide various textured materials to enhance children’s work on crafts or projects, such as paint or sand.
Kinesthetic learners are eager for the chance to get up and go. Here are some examples of ways you might include kinesthetic experiences in faith formation:
Play music and invite children to move or dance around.
Act out stories, sing songs and play games—great and memorable multisensory opportunities that involve the whole body.
Share sign language.
Promote movement with finger plays, which are songs or chants that use hand movements matched with the words.
Use a deck of cards with pictures on them that cue movements. For example, when telling the story of Noah’s Ark, you can use cards to cue movements that match the key characters and symbols in the story. Tell the children, “When I hold up a card as I am telling the story, that means you can act out the card.” When you say the name, “Noah,” while telling the story, hold up a picture of him and the children can pretend they are hammering nails. When you say the word, “rain,” hold up a picture of rain and they can make their fingers wiggle like raindrops falling. When you show the rainbow card, they can trace a rainbow arc in the air with their fingers. They can even make the sounds of different animals as an auditory component.
A Sensory Story Activity
A sensory story is a short story made up of brief sentences that all children are able to enjoy. For each sentence of the story, share a sensory experience with the children. There is no limit to the stories—and exploration of senses that you can incorporate, making sensory stories memorable opportunities, experiences and lessons for all learners.
Invite young children in your religious education class to sit in a circle with you and share the Creation: A Sensory Story Activity. A list of suggested materials is provided on the free download, or feel free to supplement other resources that may be better suited for your group of learners or program.
A Sensory Bin Activity
Provide younger students with several sensory opportunities at once by setting up a sensory bin. Sensory bins are typically plastic containers or tubs filled with objects and materials that stimulate the senses. Children aged preschool through grade 2 will especially benefit from the chance to interact with different materials. You can fill the bins with items that connect with a certain theme or story. Rocks, pom-poms, cotton balls, packing peanuts, ice cubes, sand paper, play dough, kinetic sand, water beads, feathers, buttons, colored dry pasta, dried rice, rubber bands, beads, shakers, tiny wind chimes, colorful pictures, origami, and scarves are just some of the many items you can include in a multisensory bin. You might be inspired by a Bible story or a sacrament for a sensory bin. Gather materials and symbols related to your theme or topic and keep them together in a sensory bin. Reach for these objects during your lessons, allowing students the opportunity to see, hear, smell, and touch. Keep materials stored in bins for easy reference.
For a springtime Catholic faith formation activity for children in the preschool or primary grades in your Catholic faith formation program, download instructions and inspiration for a Signs of New Life Easter Themed Sensory Bin.
There are many ways to integrate multisensory experiences into Catholic faith formation activities. Thinking outside the box these activities will boost engagement for all the children in your religious education classes, including those with special needs or diverse learning differences. When you plan a new activity, like those suggested in this article, think about ways it can be enhanced for all the senses, our God-given gifts.