Multi-sensory learning

Multisensory education is proven to be effective with, no only students with disabilities, but all students.  Multisensory learning is learning that involves two or more sense.  This means children will take in information more than just auditory (ears) or visually (eyes).  They use a combination of the senses to learn new skills and practice previously taught skills.

I know what your thinking, "Caitlin, I don't have time to add in one more thing to my day".  The great part is, you are probably already doing some of this. Other things are just minor tweeks and you are on our way to involving multiple senses.

multisensory learning: smelly markers
One of the easiest things to incorporate are smelly markers and smelly pens.  I use these for the kids to draw and color with, but also when writing their letters or practicing their word sort words.   The kids love to use them and I like to giggle when I see the little dots under their noses.

multisensory learning: sandpaper

Sandpaper is another great multisensory tool.  You can have students place the sandpaper under their paper and then use various writing instruments (Take those smelly markers back out!) to have them write or draw with. The rough texture of the sandpaper provides some additional tactile input.  I found a stack of over 30 pieces of sandpaper at the Dollar Tree.  I have also cut letters, shapes and numbers out of sandpaper so that students can rub or trace over it and form that shape.

multisensory learning: gel board

Another great attention grabber is gel boards.  I have various versions of these.  The first comes from Wilson.  We bought these to use with students when we had the Fundations program and now I use them with my kiddos who have Orton-Gillingham or Wilson instruction.  The kids use the stylus to write and then erase with their hand.

multisensory learning: gel bag

I have also made my own gel boards. My students use gel bags to practice writing letters, words, numbers, shapes, or just to play around with.   Last year I shared these boards that I made with freezer bags, hair gel and food coloring.  They are great, but leak easily.  At the beginning of the school year I stumbled across this blog post from Capitals First! about making durable gel bags.  Well, I wrote a grant to get the food sealer and I am in love.  These bags are not only easy to make and hold up to more love from students, they provide additional sensory input.  The seal-a-meal bags have a texture to them on both sides, but I found a roll of bags on Amazon and those are textured on one side and smooth on the other.  My students just can't get enough of them!

multisensory learning: boogie board

The last tool I am going to share today is Boogie Boards.  I was first introduced to these little devices a few years ago by an awesome PT we had.   They have gained popularity in our school and no the company has come out with all different types.  The new ones have a place to store the stylus, you can change the battery, and they have magnets on the back so they can stick to your white board or chalkboard.  To use you simply write on the board with your stylus and then press the button to erase.  I took these out today use my students to introduce and get the play part out of the way.  I didn't even have to ask them to write their alphabet, they just jumped right in.  These boards can be used writing letters, words, numbers, math problems, answering questions and the list goes on.  Yes, they are a more expensive white board, but they add to the engagement factor for some kids.

There are a lot of other ways that you can add multisensory learning into your day (shaving cream, move & sit cushions, wobble stools, etc) and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I would love to read about the various tools you use in your classroom.  Please share in the comments section below.


  1. Caitlin,
    I had recently thought about buying some boogie boards for my class, but when I read the reviews on Amazon, everyone was saying that the erase button stops working after just a few days! Have you had any issues with yours?


    1. I have not had any problems with mine and one of my co-workers has had her's for 3 years and they still work great!


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