Child DevelopmentEducation

Engaging the senses is a crucial element to whole body learning with hey dee ho

early years chid with a frog puppet on their finger

Whole brain learning, and the importance that our senses play in enhancing our capacity to ‘on board’ new information is a crucial element of contemporary research which grounds educators’ understanding of how children learn.

Multisensory activities – that is, activities that engage two or more senses at once – are based in whole brain learning, which is the belief that the best way to teach concepts is by involving multiple areas in the brain.

When children are learning a new concept, such as the idea that symbols and sounds can be associated (which is the forefront of learning to read) it can be helpful to engage multisensory activities to consolidate the learning. In its simplest form, multisensory learning explains why we teach children to sing their ABCs long before we teach them to read or write them.

Multisensory learning is rooted in contemporary educational theory, and is “a dream come true” for those who prescribe to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which argues that each and every learner, from the youngest of ages, has one or more ways in which they are highly intelligent, and which encourages educators to learn these intelligences to unlock children’s potential.

“We know that each and every child who participates in our programs brings their own special gifts, talents and preferred way of learning,” hey dee ho Director and co-owner Jenny Wilkinson said. “Some children are visual learners whilst others are more auditory or kinesthetically focussed.”

“It’s our job to work with these innate talents, and to build on them using our knowledge of children along with our unique and engaging programs to bring out their very best.”

Taking on a multisensory approach to learning is something which is core for hey dee ho presenters. All of hey dee ho’s programs include as many senses as possible.

All classes use the visual sense – with brightly coloured scarves to dance with, custom made graphics and photos – the auditory sense (with a range of instruments which make different sounds, the voices used for characters in stories, the guided meditations children engage in, and of course, the beautiful singing) – and the tactile sense, with a range of props of different textures, stones to ground children during relaxation, and opportunities to feel their bodies move through space, engaging their vestibular system.

As a whole body experience, participation in hey dee ho programs also elicits what many know as a ‘total physical response’ – a method of language learning created by Dr James J Asher, which asserts that caregivers and children have ‘language/body’ conversations in which the caregiver instructs verbally, and the child responds physically.

For example, an educator may say to a child who is not yet verbal “can you give me your hand?” and the child responds by giving the caregiver their hand. Over time these conversations develop the child’s language, with neural connections building, and the child learning about speech patterns, word association and sound.

Once the child has ‘decoded’ enough, they will begin to reproduce language also.

“It really is one of the best parts about what we do,” Ms Wilkinson said. “We have the unique privilege of watching children grow and develop, not only in their language, but also in their physical development, social and emotional learning, and with their musicality.”

hey dee ho has a wide range of programs including yoga, music, storytelling and a multiskilled fitness program, all of which address the varied developmental needs of all children from birth to five years of age.

The programs have been specifically designed to nurture cognitive and physical development in babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and to engage and delight their senses.

As well as being lots of fun for children, and an opportunity for educators to be supported in implementing educational programs, the hey dee ho offering has a strong focus on research and aims to maximise educational outcomes and support the Early Learning Years Framework and National Quality Standards.

This article was originally published by The Sector.