By: Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate
Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”
Children use their five senses every day to gather data about their world. Here are a few fun activity and book ideas to fuel your young scientists’ explorations.
FIVE SENSES OVERVIEW
The outside world shapes children’s development through experiences, which include using their five senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Drawing a child’s attention to the five senses and discussing them increases understanding of and communication about the world around them.
When children play games that involve sight, they’re also practicing early literacy skills! Sight games help children recognize words, patterns, objects…and help them develop their memory!
- Play “I Spy”: While reading a book or taking part in everyday activities, play “I Spy” with the child about things he/she sees on different pages of the book, throughout the house or out on errands.
- Memory Game: Place four or five familiar objects on a tray. Give children one minute to look at all of the items and then cover the tray and ask the children to share what they saw on the tray. As children get used to this game, they will begin to focus more on the objects so that they are able to share when the tray is covered again.
Over time, children will recognize certain smells as comforting, yummy, scary, exciting, etc. Encourage the child to experiment with scents and smells that he/she recognizes and those that are more unfamiliar.
- Blindfolded Smell Test: Blindfold the child and place some familiar scents under his/her nose, such as chocolate, cinnamon, playdough, etc. Ask him/her questions such as: What do you smell? Do you recognize it? Does it remind you of something else?
Like other skills that children learn, listening takes practice. Developing good listening habits helps children get important information from family members, teachers, friends and coaches.
- Patterning: Using your hands or another object, make clapping patterns. Take turns having the adult lead, followed by the child leading a pattern, and vice versa. After doing clapping patterns, try the same routine with bells or another noise-making object. Ask the child: Which sequence is harder to repeat—the claps or the bells? Which sound do you prefer to listen to? Which sound is louder?
- Take a Sound Hike!: Whether taking a sound hike at the mall, a nearby park or on a family trip, ask children to notice the sounds they hear and then use sound words as they describe them.
Children develop taste preferences based on what they are fed when they’re in the early years of their lives. Helping children think about which tastes they do and do not prefer will encourage them to try new foods and/or new combinations of foods.
- Identify Foods: Gather up different foods (preferably that the child enjoys!) and have each child taste each food and guess what it is as he/she is blindfolded or has their eyes covered. While the child is tasting, discuss certain words such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, fruity, etc. that will help him/her understand the meaning of the words.
Children learn about their bodies and how to communicate with others through touch. Most of the feeling that we do happens through our feet and our hands. Taking part in activities where children feel with their feet and hands help them learn how to write, button their shirts, tie their shoes, etc.
- Feeling With Your Feet: Have the child, barefooted, feel things with his/her feet and think about the way it feels. Some things to try include paint, playdough, grass and carpet. Ask the child questions such as: What does it feel like? Do you like the way it feels? Is it rough or smooth? Cold or hot? Does it tickle your feet? Do the same activity with your hands!
- Pillow Play: Place familiar objects inside of an empty pillowcase. Let the child try to guess what the objects are. Help the child describe how each object feels. Vary the activity by using holiday/seasonal items or items with a theme such as animals or shapes.
Sources For More Ideas:
Read, Write, Think: Engaging the Five Senses to Learn About Our World
University of Illinois Extension: Teaching Children about the Five Senses