Texture provides us with important information from all our senses. Texture is an important visual cue that works with shape, line, color and other information to help us separate one object from another and to infer the dimensionality of an object. For example, without touching a surface, we might determine, “It looks like wood.” Many artists have learned how to mimic real-life textures and create still life’s and other enriched works. Visual texture has been difficult to define and analyze by cognitive and neuroscientists, especially natural textures like grass that aren’t uniform like corduroy and other human-made textures. However, visual texture also helps us predict how to interact with our world. For example, we can see that a floor looks slippery and thus walk on it differently than we would on a dry floor. Textures, just like perspective, provide distance cues: Fuzzy images look further away. Clearer images look closer. Distant objects look more densely packed.
Texture provides important tactile information and may even be essential to survival. Consider the studies of baby monkeys raised without mothers who preferred spending more time with the wire surrogate covered with a nubby washcloth than the one with a baby bottle and milk. Part of our like or dislike of different tastes is texture-related. For example, some people love “crunchy” but] can’t abide “slimy.” In music, texture is perceived as polyphony.
Texture also provides a scaffold for language development and understanding. “A team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like ‘The singer had a velvet voice’ and ‘He had leathery hands’ roused the sensory cortex.” http://news.emory.edu/stories/2012/02/metaphor_brain_imaging/
Early experiences with textures enrich a child’s brain and build a solid foundation for later learning and development. At New World Kids, texture is an important element in the Sensory Alphabet. To help your children, try these:
- Try to identify an object in a bag by its texture. Or go on a “blind walk” and try to identify leaves, tree bark, concrete, etc. just by touch.
- Use crayons or charcoal and thin but tough paper to make rubbings.
- Use pictures from magazines or recycled materials to create a collage or a grid of textures: A texture blanket.
- Take a slab of clay or make a sculpture and “texture” it, using plastic forks, toothpicks, or other tools. Or decorate it with feathers, pipe cleaners, corrugated cardboard strips and other textures.
- Mix cornstarch with water and make “Oobleck.” Poke it slowly. Poke it quickly. Drip it. See how the texture changes.
- Play with “Garage Band” or other apps to create your own musical textures.
- Cook or assemble a meal with only one texture or with five different textures. (A salad is a great possibility.)
- Make a long list of texture words. Write a poem or story, using as many of the words as you can.
- Take “selfless” and change the textures with apps on your computer.
After many experiments, ask children which they liked best. Provide them more experiences like their favorites.