The signature of the Montessori method is teaching the child through all of the senses.
Of course, these are the five basic senses we tend to think about, but Montessori education has a more extensively defined list all its own:
Visual - our ability to differentiate objects by form, color, and size
Tactile - just another name for the sense of touch, or how something feels on our body
Baric - differentiation based on weight and/or pressure
Thermic - the ability to sense various temperatures
Auditory - another name to describe the sense of sound
Olfactory - our sense of smell
Gustatory - the sense of taste
Stereognostic - a muscular sense, or the ability to distinguish an object without seeing it, hearing it, or smelling it, but relying of touch and muscle memory alone
When teachers are able to create situations where children are able to freely use their senses, children are able to make deeper connections and can apply knowledge more easily. Senory play can be especially benefitial to those children with special needs who may struggle with traditional ways of learning and expressing themselves. Montessori may have been on to something when she suggested the extensive list of senses and the importance of children using each of them. This approach is universal in that it ensures that instruction addresses all learning styles therefore all children are included.
For providers who are looking to incorporate more sensory play into their instruction and build on the Montessori method, H&H Child Care Training Center offers courses that provide ideas for sensory activities, the benefits of sensory play, and universal approaches to learning. "Messy Play", "Universal Design and Materials for Children with All Abilities", and "Role of Play in Learning" are courses offered at H&H that will help providers create meaningful activites for children that promote teaching through the senses. With more courses added each week, there is always something new to help providers in their work with young children.