We studied all five senses in one two hour session. But each one could be a week’s theme in itself. Or if you’re in a homeschool or in a five day a week school setting, you could do one sense per day.
Free Exploration Stations
Lenses: Put out a wide variety of items that you can look through: such as binoculars, magnifying glass, kaleidoscope, telescope, a mask with different colored lenses over each eye, a device where they could turn the wheels to see different colors, diffraction gratings, lenses that distorted things, or turned one image into twenty (bug eye lenses). Kids could just explore them, looking through them and discovering how they changed the view. (Optional: you could add an art project where they draw what they see….)
Light table and Lite Brite: We had a homemade light table (plastic tub with Christmas lights in it) and we put on it colorful plastic cups and clear plastic cups they could decorate with markers for imaginary people play.
Visual gradient: Take 5 – 8 matching test tubes or glasses. Fill with water. Put one drop of food coloring (or liquid watercolor) in the first one, two drops in the second one and so on. Then mix up, and ask kids to re-sort them in order from lightest to darkest.
How does using your sense of sight help you use your other senses? On our five senses day, we also had some exercises of: can you recognize this taste without looking at what you’re tasting? Can you recognize the smell without looking in the container to see the item? Can you recognize a sound in a shaker without opening it to look?
Thaumatropes: A thaumatrope is a Victorian toy, where there are two images on two sides of a card. It is mounted on a string (like a button spinner) or on a straw and when it spins, showing first one side, then the next, they seem to spin together to create a single image. This is due to persistence of vision. Instructions here: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2021/03/17/thaumatropes/
Spy glasses: We made some “binoculars” with toilet paper tubes, where we taped two tubes together, added strings for hanging them around our necks on the hike and decorated them. We also used just toilet paper tubes. We went for a hike in the woods. When you look at the world through a focused tube, it focuses your attention very differently, and you see things in a very different light than normal. (Really, adults… try this! It’s intriguing how it changes the details you see.)
Kaleidoscopes: We made kaleidoscopes by taking paper towel tubes, wrapping in wrapping paper (to make them prettier – optional). Then we took Dixie cups we’d cut the bottom off of so you could look through them. We taped saran wrap over one end, filled with some decorative stones, then taped saran wrap over the other end, then taped the cup onto the end of the tube. (Sorry I didn’t get a picture of a final product!)
Ways to improve this project for the future: I think it would have worked better to use the small plastic dip containers with lids rather than Dixie cups. They would have been sturdier and held items better than the saran wrap did. Also, I think lightweight confetti type items would be better than the heavy glass stones. (Note: if you want to make a more sophisticated kaleidoscope with a triangular mirror in the center to reflect the items, see Inna’s Creations’ post and minieco.co.uk)
Camouflage: We hid plastic dinosaurs in the woods. We were careful to hide the yellow ones near yellow fallen leaves, the green amongst holly and salal, and we hid the velociraptor – the one with stripes on its back under the sword fern.
On our hike, we reminded them of last week’s discussion of habitats. We explained how another way animals adapt to their habitats is they develop similar coloring to their surrounding so they’re harder to spot. We asked questions like “Can you see a polar bear in the snow? How about a giraffe? Could you see a giraffe in the snow? Where would be a better place for a giraffe to hide?” Then, we had them seek out the dinosaurs. They were surprisingly well hidden! Even the adults who hid them had a hard time finding them all! (Hint: make sure you count how many you put out, and take a picture of them! We’d found nine out of ten and I couldn’t even remember which one was missing till I looked at the picture. Then I showed the picture to the kids and then they found the velociraptor under the sword fern.)
What if your sense of sight didn’t work? There are lots of things you could do to explore this question with children. Turn off the lights, or blindfold them. Then:
- Play “listening tag”. Put the blindfolded child in the middle of a circle. Ask the other children to be quiet. When you point at a child, they talk. The one in the middle points to where they think the talking person is. Then point to another child, and so on.
- Play “wet rag on a stick.” If it’s a hot summer day, it’s hard to beat the loud, wet fun of this game. Make a circle of kids holding hands. Put a child in the middle with a blindfold. Give them a stick and then hang a sopping wet washcloth off the end of it. The circle of kids circles around the child shouting, calling their name, taunting (nicely). Then the child decides who to try to nail with the rag, and when ready, flings it. If they miss (or the kids dodge) they keep the blindfold on. If they hit, the kid who got hit is now it. (And is now sopping wet….)
- Let them explore a safe obstacle course.
- Have another child lead them around a room or outdoors.
- Have them touch common objects and see if they can identify what they are touching. Or play instruments/noisemakers and see if they can identify what you’re using. Or have them smell things. Or taste things… All these things will illustrate how we use all our senses together to create a more nuanced view of what we’re experiencing.
- Find a book like The Black Book of Colors that has braille writing (not just picture of braille letters – actual three dimensional braille.)
- Where’s Waldo books or I Spy books give children a chance to practice spying things and looking at details closely.
- There are LOTS of books on the 5 Senses. I review them all here.
Watch this video on How Animals See the World Differently than humans.