To teach the children what the five senses are and which parts of the body they use to experience these senses. To provide a variety of activities which encourage the children to use those senses to better understand how they work.
Make a large outline of a child on either butcher paper or posterboard. Attach to wall, chalkboard, or bulletin board. Draw in hair and clothing, but leave out the face. (Out of separate posterboard or paper you need to draw and cut out ears, eyes, mouth, and nose). Ask children how this child would learn about things which were happening around him/her. The children might need help, so you could ask, "Can he see?" "Can he hear?" etc. Tell them that the only way he could know about anything around him was by touching things and people. Have the children suggest what the child might like to learn about your daycare, and what parts of the body he would need to learn it. As children name the parts of the face, tape them to the appropriate place in the outline, and label them with the words SIGHT, SOUND, SMELL, and TASTE. Label the hands with the word TOUCH, but explain to the children that we touch with all parts of our skin. Tell the children that these are the words for the five senses that let us know what the world around us is like (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 5).
Rewards for children
Use a variety of stickers for rewards: scratch & sniff, "fuzzy" stickers, stickers with glitter on them.
Pictures / Posters
Find pictures / posters of people USING their five senses and put on walls, bulletin board, etc. (Remember to put them at children's eye-level). Use these to stimulate conversation during the day. If you cover them with clear Contact paper, they will withstand touching and handling by the children, as well as not tearing if the children pull them off the wall. Labeling these with the words SIGHT, SOUND, SMELL, TASTE, & TOUCH helps the children recognize these words more quickly.
Check your library for any books that have to do with the five senses. Toddlers' "feelie" books (the ones with items of different texture inside) are good, as are any books that deal with what you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. Other books to think about are books which deal with the parts of the body through which we use these senses. (For example the Dr. Seuss books: "The Nose Book," "The Foot Book," "The Ear Book," "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb").
Books on Tape
These are especially good for this unit, because not only do the children listen to the story, they have to HEAR the auditory cue (bell or beep) to turn the page and respond accordingly.
Goldilocks & the Three Bears (with a twist!)
Tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Have the children listen carefully, and every time Goldilocks uses one of her 5 senses, they respond with an appropriate action: wiggle fingers in the air (touch), stick out their tongue (taste), make "glasses" with their hand and put up to their eyes (sight), wiggle their ears or nose with their finger (hearing, smell). If the children are very young, you may have to go slow and help them a bit. (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 7).
Play rhythm instruments -- either store-bought, or homemade (see Arts and Crafts) -- and pay attention to the different sound each one makes, and how combinations of 2 or more sound together. Then allow the children to play them to music, noting how they sound.
Scented Markers (have the children draw pictures with them, then exchange pictures and compare scents -- "The Best of Totline Newsletter," page 151)
Make rhythm instruments
There are many good ideas for making instruments in craft books (check your library!). Instructions for three instruments follow. Make sure you allow children to play the instruments when finished!!
Wrist Bells. Glue or sew 3 jingle bells to a strip of felt about 8" long (sewing is more secure, but would have to be done ahead of time for young children). Overlap the ends of the felt strip to make a circle and glue in place. Children play by putting them on their wrists or holding in their hands and shaking.
Shakers (maracas). Give each child 2 plastic or paper cups. Fill one cup 1/3 - 1/2 full with lentils or rice. Turn the other cup upside down and set on the first cup (so that the rims of the cups are together). Tape them together with a sturdy tape (duct tape is good, and comes in a variety of colors). Play by shaking. Notice that the different ways you move it, it makes different sounds!
Drum. Take an oatmeal canister or coffee can and stretch part of a large balloon (cut off the "neck" of the balloon) over the opening. Secure with rubber band, string, or leather lacing. Make sure it's taut. Play with fingers, hands, pencils (as drumsticks), etc.
You can stretch this project out by letting the kids decorate the cups, cans, etc. first. This also individualizes the project for them. For example, if you use a coffee can for a drum, cut a piece of construction paper the right size to wrap around the can. Have the kids decorate the paper (you could even use scented markers!), then glue the paper to the can (rubber bands will help hold it in place).
Make a collage (or book)
Let children look through old magazines and find pictures of people using whichever sense you're talking about. Let them cut the pictures out and glue to a large sheet of paper to make a collage. The children could add to this collage with new pictures each time you introduce a new sense. Variation for older children: have them write a story about what the people in the pictures are doing, print it, and put it in book form. They can then use the pictures they cut out to illustrate their book.
Make a "feelie book"
Cut posterboard into "pages" the same size. The idea is to produce a book with a different "texture" on each page. For example: have the children draw a beach or sandbox scene on one page. For the sand, either spread glue and sprinkle salt or sand on it, or glue on a piece of sandpaper cut to the correct size. Draw a picture of a dog or teddy bear and fill in with "fake fur." Use your imagination for the rest of the pages, using a variety of textures. When all the pages are done and dry, punch holes along the left side and bind together with yarn. Note: if the children are too young to draw the pictures, you could photocopy simple drawings and attach to the posterboard pages with rubber cement (smoother than glue) ahead of time. Then the children could just color the pictures and glue the textured item. With this method you could already pre-cut the textured items, too, since you would know what size they would be. (One final note: you will want to stagger the placement of the textured item on each page so that the book closes more easily).
Make a pomander
Note: if done near the beginning of April, this will be ready to give as a gift by Mother's Day!
Oranges, lemons, or limes (1 per child)
Explain to the children that pomanders are old-fashioned gifts that make drawers or closets smell good. Have each child make two crossing circles of masking tape around his/her orange, lemon, or lime (one going around the "equator," and the other going around "perpendicular" to it). Have the children stick cloves into the rind, filling each quarter outlined by the tape. (The cloves should not touch each other). Help the children remove the tape and roll the pomander in ground cinnamon. Wrap each pomander in tissue paper and let it dry for about four weeks. When the pomanders are unwrapped, help each child tie ribbons around his pomander, following the lines left by the tape. (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 29).
Peel an apple and a potato and cut into small pieces. Have children plug their noses and taste a bite of each. Can they tell the difference? Then have them repeat the experiment with their noses unplugged. Is there a difference now? Explain to them that our sense of smell and taste work together. That's why sometimes when we have a bad cold we can't taste food very well.
"Looks the Same, Tastes Different"
Gather several groups of items which look the same, but have different tastes. Examples are: salt & sugar, root beer & cola, 2 types of apple (a sweet and a tart). Give each child two plastic cups and pour a little of each liquid into each and have them taste. Give each child a plastic spoon and put a little sugar in one, and a little salt in the other and have them taste. Give each child a piece of each type of apple and have them taste. Ask questions about the appearance of the two similar items, then about the taste. Try to get the children to use words to describe how the items tasted to them. (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 33).
"Smell the Difference"
Put some water in a clear plastic cup, and some white vinegar in another. Show the cups to the children and tell them that one contains water, and the other holds something that tastes very sour. How could they tell which glass to take a drink out of if they were thirsty? Let them take turns smelling the two cups and telling you which has the water in it. (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 29).
How Our Eyes Work
Show children how our eyes respond to light by shining a flashlight into one child's eye while allowing others to watch. Make sure that the child who had the light shined in his eye gets to observe this on someone else. Explain to children that the pupil is a little hole that gets bigger in dim light to let more light in to help us see better, and smaller in bright light to make sure not too much light gets in our eye. Follow-up activity: Draw an eye with a large pupil and an eye with a small pupil on posterboard. Show children pictures of people engaging in different activities: playing outside in bright sunlight, sitting at the dinner table, taking a moonlight walk on the beach, sitting around a campfire, swimming in a pool, etc. (Get these pictures from books, magazines, etc.). Have a child come up and show which way those people's eyes would look by pointing to the appropriate "eye" on the posterboard.
"See Them Separate"
White blotting paper or coffee-filter paper, cut into six-inch strips
Green, purple, and orange wide felt markers or food coloring
Red, yellow, and blue wide felt markers or food coloring (Optional)
A pan of water
Tell the children they are going to do an experiment to learn about colors. Let each child choose either green, purple, or orange marker or food coloring, and mark a stripe or put a drop on a strip of the paper about one inch from one of the ends. Tie a string over the pan of water, and using clothespins, hang each strip over the pan, colored end down, with the bottom touching the water. (After a few minutes, the color should separate into the two primary colors which make it up, and bands of these two colors will spread up the paper.) Make sure children understand that each color they put on the strip of paper is a mixture of the two colors they now see. Allow the strips to dry, and the children can either use them as a bookmark or give them to a parent to use as a bookmark. If you wish, repeat the experiment with the three primary colors, and compare the results -- they will not separate! (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 11).
"I Spy" -- helps stress sight (also has the benefit of reinforcing color learning for younger children)
"Find the Timer" -- hide a kitchen timer and let children try to find it by listening for the ticking
"Memory Game" -- Show the children three or four common objects as you count, "One, two, three." Cover the objects and ask the children to name the objects. (The older the children, the more items you can add).
"Memory Game" (commercial version) -- any version of the Milton Bradley Memory Game is good to play during this unit.
"Find the Cotton Balls" -- Soak a few cotton balls in perfume. Hide them around the room, and have the children find them by sniffing.
Take the children on walks outside, calling their attention to different sights, sounds, smells, and textures. If you are also working on another unit (Spring, for instance), tie this in if possible ("How many sounds of Spring can you hear, boys and girls?" "What do you see that shows you Spring is here?"). Other ideas to make these walks more meaningful:
Take along binoculars or magnifying glasses to explore things more closely.
Give each child a lunch sack to collect various objects along the way. When you return, look at some of these objects under magnifying glasses or a microscope. Make rubbings of some of the textured items. Allow the children to glue some of the items to a paper or a bulletin board to make a collage.
If on your route, visit a bakery or some other place with distinctive smells.
Water & Sand play
Water and sand play fit nicely into this unit and lead to discussions about how these feel, look, and sound. Sand is especially good if you can leave part of it dry, and make part wet. Then compare the two and talk about the differences in how they feel and the differences in what you can do with the two.
Activities with tape recorders
Record some common household and/or outside sounds on a tape player (train whistle, car horn, bird singing, bell ringing, dog barking, water running, toilet flushing, etc.). Do some that are easy, and some that are harder. Play the sounds and see how many the children can guess.
Children often like to hear how they sound on a tape recorder (we all sound different to ourselves than we do to others). Allow them to tape themselves talking, singing, etc. and listen to themselves.
Older children could make books on tape for younger children by reading a story and ringing a small bell when it's time to turn the page. They might even want to experiment with some sound effects, if working on this as a group project. Then they can listen to the finished project, making sure page turns are at the right place and that any sound effects are properly done.
Record simple one- , two-, or three-step directions on a tape recorder. For example, a two-step direction could be, "Pick up a red block and put it in the toy box." Let the children play the directions and follow them.
Find coloring book pictures which have several objects that are very similar, but only two are exactly alike (most "color and activity" books have at least one "Find the two which are exactly alike" page). Either photocopy them and give a copy to each child, or try this method to save paper and money: mount the picture on construction paper, using rubber cement. Cover with clear Contact paper. Allow children to take turns doing this activity by marking on it with a grease pencil (it will wipe right off with a tissue). You can use this method for a variety of activities.Note: For very young children, the pages which have four items -- three alike and one different (three butterflies and one bee) -- might be more appropriate. The child picks the one that is different.
"Spicy Scents" -- Have your children smell spices and extracts from the kitchen. Which ones do they like the best? ("The Best of Totline Newsletter," page 303).
"The Nose Knows" -- This is a "smelling" matching game. Collect several margarine tubs, yogurt containers, etc. (just so they're not see-through). Poke several small holes in each lid. Put a different scented item in each container. Some ideas are: peanut butter, lemons, cinnamon, onions, cocoa. Cut out or draw a picture of each item and cover the pictures with clear Contact paper for durability. Let the children smell the tubs and try to match them to the picture of the items they contain (not all have to be food items, by the way). ("The Best of Totline Newsletter," page 151).
"Comparative Tasting" -- Let the children compare the taste of different varieties of the same foods such as red and green seedless grapes, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples, and cheddar and mozzerella cheeses.
"Clapping Patterns" -- Have the children close their eyes and listen as you clap simple rhythm patterns with your hands. Let them try to duplicate each, still keeping their eyes closed. Then let them open their eyes and do it some more. Did they find this easier?
"Telephone" -- Punch a small hole in the bottom of two tin cans or yogurt containers. Put one end of a long (at least 8') string through one can/container and make a knot to secure. Repeat with the other end of the string through the other can/container. Have one child take one end, and another take the other and walk apart from each other until the line is taut. Making sure it stays taut, have one child speak into his cup, and the other listen into his. He should hear what the first child says. Allow each child to take a turn speaking and listening.
"Sensory Beanbags" -- Make beanbags and fill each one with a different stuffing such as sawdust, foam pieces, gravel, rice, or plastic-foam peanuts. ("The Best of Totline Newsletter," page 302).
"Feelie Box" -- Find a box with a lid (like a deep shoe box) and cut holes in one or both short sides, big enough for a child's hand to go in. Put an object in the box and let the child try to guess what it is by just feeling it. Encourage the child to use words to describe the texture and shape of the object.
"Blocks in Socks" -- This is a wonderful activitiy to help teach that we use more than our hands when we use our sense of touch! You need six large socks, a large flat box, and six different-shaped wooden or plastic blocks. Place a block inside each sock. Tie or rubberband the opening of the sock shut. Number the socks 1 - 6 with a marker. Put the six socks down into the large box and put a child's chair up to the box so a child can sit down in the chair and his/her feet will be in the large box. Have the child remove his/her shoes and feel the socks with his/her feet only. Have the child try to identify the shape of each block using only his feet. If the children are very young, it might be wise to have duplicates of the blocks on a tray next to the chair. Then when a child identifies one, he can pick up the matching one from the tray, rather than trying to verbally describe what his feet are feeling. (MacMillan Early Science Activities, "The Five Senses," page 41).
Choose snacks that have a good aroma, as well as taste. Perhaps have popcorn one day, if the children are over age 2. Popping it in a popcorn popper -- an archaic device used back in the late 1970's/early 80's when I was in college, before the days of microwaves! -- is best (if you can find one), because the children can SMELL, HEAR, and SEE the popcorn popping. Talk about the textures, smells, and tastes of all snacks.
These all came from "The Best of Totline Newsletter," page 139
1 cup salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup water
Powdered tempera paint
Mix salt, flour, and water together in a bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make the mixture a doughy consistency. Sprinkle powdered tempera on and mix well. Objects made with the clay will air dry in about 48 hours.
Ingredients (per child):
1 shredded wheat biscuit
2 tablespoons glue
Food coloring (optional)
Crumble the shredded wheat biscuit into a bowl. Add the glue and, if desired, several drops of food coloring. Mix the ingredients together until the cereal is completely coated. Objects made with the Crunchy Dough will air dry in about 12 hours.
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Mix the water, cornstarch, and several drops of food coloring together in a saucepan. Heat and stir the mixture until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Let it cool. Store in a covered container. Use the paint for fingerpainting or as an almost dripless easel paint. If the mixture becomes too thick, add water until it reaches the desired consistency.