Multisensory Learning: Emotion Activities

In this blog post, you’ll discover 4 Multisensory Emotion Activities for Preschoolers that utilize multisensory learning and exploration to promote emotional intelligence for kids in the preschool age. Let’s take a look at these social emotional activities for children ages 3-5. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to teach children about emotions through hands-on learning activities, designed to help children remember how to process their feelings even in times of stress. Simple activities like emotions playdough mats can support skill building in playful and fun ways.

multisensory learning emotions activities for preschoolers

Multisensory Learning: Emotion Activities

When children are overwhelmed, they don’t listen to reason. Learning new skills through play, using multi sensory forms, help children recall these skills at a moments notice. 

What happens when you sit your child down to teach them a new skill? Do they remember what they learned 5 minutes later? Do they seem interested in listening to you talk to them or would they be more engaged in their learning if they actively solved a problem with you. 

If we use at least two of the following 4 components to teach new emotion skills, children (even adults) will remember better. 

  1. Touch/Tactile
  2. Sight/Visual
  3. Sound/Auditory
  4. Movement

Why do children learn how to manage their emotions better when they learn a new skill in multiple ways?

Multisensory Learning

Multisensory learning engages all the different parts of our brain and our body! An amazing article discusses Multisensory Learning is an Effective Strategy for Teaching Students How To Read.

As they dive deeper into the topic of reading, they describe the neuroscience behind multisensory learning as: “the human brain has evolved to learn and grow in a multisensory environment.

According to the whole brain learning theory, all brain functions are interconnected for this reason. We remember how to do things best when the directions we’re given engage multiple senses.

The definition of multisensory learning, then, is using the neuroscience behind how we learn to teach lessons that engage two or more senses.

Most educators add audio or visual multimedia into their assignments, but multisensory learning can also include tactile, smell, and taste-related materials. As long as the activity engages multiple areas of the brain, it can help students develop stronger memories around how to do it.”

The definition of multisensory learning is using the neuroscience behind how we learn to teach lessons that engage two or more senses.

Multisensory Learning for Emotions

As we teach children how to respond to their feelings and the feelings of others, we can use tactile, visual, movement and auditory cues to make these activities more meaningful and memorable. 

Let’s take a look at some ways that using the senses as a tool supports development in these multisensory learning emotion activities based on sensory systems.

Tactile Experiences and Emotion Activities

When you hear the word “pumpkin goop” how do you feel? Do you instantly cringe? Do you think about the pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin and feel hungry?

Touching something directly affects the touch receptors on our skin. This signal moves through our body to the thalamus, which relays information to our brain! This powerful sense helps our brain understand what we are doing and associates an emotion that goes along with that activity (such as “eww,” or “this is hot!”)

When we have a positive experience learning a new skill through touch, our brain remembers that feeling and makes it easier to recall the experience. If we use tactile activities within our teaching approach, children will be able to remember what they did and why, making recalling new skills easier. 

Children engage longer with tactile experiences. 

Visual Processing and Emotion Activities

When children are toddlers, they need lots of hand gestures to know what to do when given a direction. Seeing an action helps them understand. When children are learning how to name objects, showing them pictures of objects (or showing them the object) allows them to associate the name of the object. This is true for all learning activities. Looking at visuals that explain a new concept, such as emotion faces or letters in a book, help children remember.

Per this article, 65 percent of the population are visual learners. Hearing a direction or sound  goes into our short term memory, while seeing something goes into our long term memory. Per this report, 

One of the easiest ways to ensure that learners store information in their long-term memory is to pair concepts with meaningful images. Visuals help students make sense out of the content and direct attention, increasing the possibilities that the learners will remember the material.”

Visuals help with faster recall.

Auditory System and Emotion Activities

Listening to music during activities keep us calm and alert. Sounds of nature, environmental sounds and communicative words help our brain remember specific things. Do you remember what song you danced to at your wedding? Or the top 10 hits of 1985? I bet if you hear just one word, phrase or instrumental bridge from any of those songs, you will be singing at the top of your lungs in minutes! 

When children learn new skills, paired with a song, such as “Old MacDonald,”  “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “BINGO” they remember the sounds of animals, how to spell BINGO (even if they don’t know how to spell their own name yet) and that the stars are up in the sky! Pairing new skills with sayings or songs help us recall the lesson quickly. Are there any emotion songs that you know?

Auditory supports help children remember easier.

Kinesthetic System and Emotion Activities

According to this link, in an article by Marwa Abdelbary, physical therapist, children are able to remember more when movement is embedded in their day.

She reports that  “studies show that children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing, and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the day sitting still. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital to both learning and physical and neurological health.”

Learning while moving engages muscle memory and new areas of the brain. 

Multisensory Learning for Emotional Awareness

When you teach  a child a new skill using all of the components, they will remember the best! 

This “Playful Alphabet Curriculum” is a great example on how to teach the name and sound every letter using visuals, tactile, movement and recall games.

It starts with reading an interactive ABC book, then introducing each letter with five different activities: sensory, art, movement and literacy. Each of these activities use a different part of the brain to learn the letter name and sound. 

Teaching children emotion words and how to process their feelings is a very important skill. Let’s teach them using every sense so they can remember quicker.

We previously covered specific strategies to teach teach emotional vocabulary to preschoolers. Be sure to use those emotions words strategies.

Multisensory learning activities for teaching emotions to preschoolers

4 Emotion Activities using multiple senses

These multisensory learning emotion activities use multiple senses to teach preschoolers and engage them in multisensory learning through play and hands-on activities.

Multisensory Emotion Activity #1: Calm down and remember how to problem solve with “Soothing Sammy”

Soothing Sammy” creates a positive spin on calming down and talking about feelings. This three step program uses tactile, visual, auditory and movement components to teach preschoolers all about their emotions! First, read through the “Soothing Sammy” story, then practice all the different ways to calm down (sipping water, squeezing a ball, jumping, and more!)  After, allow your child to build Sammy’s house out of an empty box, and place sensory calm down items in.

Encourage them to visit Sammy’s house and read his book when they become overwhelmed. Play the Sammy music, create the Sammy mask and complete the calming down activities (like the lavender bubble mix) to help children remember how to calm down when they feel overwhelmed.

Multisensory Emotion Activity #2: Use a fun theme!

This Frog Themed Slide Deck offers a fun frog theme way to work on identifying facial expressions and practicing visual memory skills.

Movement and auditory components can be added to any game, including this amazing frog themed slide deck. After having your kids match the emotions to the pictures, recreate the scene by asking your kids to jump like a frog! Add some music to initiate a freeze dance! When you pause the music, have the child jump like a frog and make an emotion face! What face are they making!

Multisensory Emotion Activity #3: Get clear on facial expressions and emotion names.

Use this Social Emotional Learning Worksheet as a guide.

This freebie is a great way to prompt preschoolers to think about their emotions. Although they will be too young to write, let’s bring in a visual instead, a mirror! Ask your child what makes them sad, then make a sad face in the mirror. If available, take a picture of your child making the face, print it out, and allow your child to make their own facial expression book. 

Multisensory Emotion Activity #4: Move with heavy work.

Add Play Dough and Movement to this adorable Bugs Emotion Set.

Heavy work activates the proprioceptive system and adds kinesthetic value to learning. Using play dough as a heavy work activity helps learning “stick” and makes activities fun and engaging.

These adorable bugs are experiencing lots of different feelings! Have your child make the same face the bug is, then imitate how the bug moves. Does it slither along the ground? Does it crawl or does it fly by flapping its wings. Next, using playdough and a hard surface, have your child make the bug and create its emotion face with a toothpick!

A final note on multisensory learning and emotions…

These multisensory learning emotion activities are designed to help preschoolers develop social emotional skills in fun ways!

Learning new skills through multi sensory activities help children recall their lessons faster. Through visual, tactile, movement and auditory enhancements, any activity can be effective. Teaching new skills through play, using more than two sensory components will help children remember how to respond to their feelings quickly and appropriately in a variety of situations.

Generalizing this skill through multisensory learning experiences will help preschoolers at home, at school and out in the community. 

How can you incorporate these multisensory learning emotion activities into your home or classroom?

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

multisensory learning emotions activities for preschoolers