The Sensorial area consists of materials that educate and refine the child’s senses. The child learns to recognize similarities and differences, to discriminate between similar objects; to grade similar objects. Qualities discriminated with the visual sense are size, shape, and color; with the tactile sense are texture, temperature, and pressure; with the auditory sense are intensity and pitch. Basic sensations of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty are discriminated with the gustatory sense; various odors/fragrances are used to discriminate the olfactory sense. A primary purpose of the Sensorial Exercises is that “the child train himself to observe, that he be led to make comparisons between objects, to form judgements, to reason and to decide” (Dr. Maria Montessori in Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook).
Materials used in the area of visual discrimination include many sets of wooden cylinders, square prisms, cubes, color tablets, geometric plane, and solid figures, with names such as the Constructive Triangles, the Binomial Cube, the Trinomial Cube, the Geometric Cabinet.
Materials in the area of tactile discrimination include boards and tablets with varying grades of sandpaper, sets of fabrics with different textures, tablets with different weights, and metal cylinders filled with water of different temperatures.
A lovely set of bells is used to discriminate the sounds produced by striking each bell in turn with a mallet, then pairing and grading the tones. Intensity of sound is discriminated by using two sets of cylinders filled with different grains.
The Gustatory sense is exercised by experiencing the four basic tastes and also numerous foods. The Olfactory sense is exercised by smelling the substances in two sets of jars and then pairing like odors/fragrances. Montessori also included what she called the Stereognostic Sense which is a tactile-muscular experience in identifying various geometric solids and everyday objects with the combination of touching and holding (feeling) with the child’s eyes either closed or blindfolded.