preschool curriculum activities Preschool Activity Theme
The Five Senses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early childhood education activities that involve young children in sensory experiences. Here you'll find lesson plans and ideas for exploring the five senses of touch, sight, smell, taste and sound. During this theme children identify, compare and classify items as they investigate the world around them. 
Science Educators AwardThis Preschool Rainbow 5 Senses Theme is selected by the SciLinks program, a service of the National Science  Teachers Association. 

E-mail GayleE-mail Gayle  to include your favorite sensory preschool activity.

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Preschool Five Senses Activity Theme

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Sensory preschool activities
Sense of Touch

Sense of Taste

Sense of Smell

Sense of Sight

Sense of Sound

Five Senses Song
Mary Jo W. suggest this song to reinforce learning about the senses and the corresponding body part.

 Five Senses 
 (Tune: Where is Thumbkin)

 Five senses, five senses
 We have them. We have them.
 Seeing, hearing, touching,
 Tasting and smelling.
 There are five. There are five.

I point to the parts of the body as I sing the song. The kids love it, know their 5  senses and their parts of the body that correspond to each sense.
 
 
 

Sense of Touch
 

Sensory Texture Painting
Jocelyn F. suggests this easy hands on sensory experience that encourages young children to explore various textures and promotes the use of observation, plus descriptive and expressive vocabulary.

Materials: Tempera paint in a variety of colors, sand, coffee grounds, spices, crumbled natural items, epson salt, baking soda, liquid starch, salt, corn meal, etc.

Description: Offer painting experiences with paint to which one of the above 
ingredients has been added. Encourage children to use words to describe what 
they see, feel, and smell.
 

A Texture Book
Preschool children will use the sense of touch during this lesson plan.  They'll also observe, compare, experiment and practice descriptive and expressive skills.

You will need: 
A variety of different textured materials such as cotton balls, scraps of velvet fabric, aluminum foil, sandpaper, burlap, dried leaves etc. Large sheets of oak tag or construction paper, crayons, scissors, stapler and old magazines. 

Teachers, with a small group of young children, set out a collection of different textured items on a low table.  Include a few samples of each type of texture so that there are enough items for children to compare.  Together, talk about the different ways things feel.  Teachers can say, "Today we are going to feel many different things.  What do your hands and fingers tell you about each of these?" 

Encourage preschoolers to feel the objects and talk about what they notice.  Help them use describing words by saying, for example, "Look, this one feels bumpy.  Can you find another one that is bumpy?"  Permit time for exploration.

As preschool children begin to feel and find things that are similar in texture, help them group the like textured items together in piles.  While doing this ask, "Why do you think this one goes in this pile"  How is it the same as the others?"  After youngsters have sorted the items, they might want to mix them all up and sort again.  This process is fun!

Some young children can become "texture scientists" by selecting a textured item to hold and going around the classroom finding something that feels the same.  When they find something ask the other children to go and feel it too.  The process of matching a small textured piece to something similar in their environment helps young children practice comparative thinking.

Make the Book
After the textured pieces are sorted into piles, invite children to choose a pile and make a collage.  Use each collage as a page in the book.  When the book is completed look at the pages together and ask preschoolers to give you descriptive words and phrases that describe each page.

For example, you can say, "This page is full of rough scraps.  They are as rough as..."  Write the descriptions on the pages and enjoy your completed book together.  Place the Texture Book on display for children to "read" and touch.

Extension:  If you have a few textured pieces left over make a texture chart by using oak tag, glue and a felt tip marker.  Use the same words for the chart as the children used to describe their pages.  For example, next to the cotton, the word "soft" etc.

Story time:  Share books about touching such as,

Find Out By Touching   by Paul Showers

My Bunny Feels Soft   by Charlotte Steiner


art and movement activity  Art and Movement Activity
      "Painting with Feet"
Preschool children often engage in finger painting.  But for this preschool activity children will use sensory motor and problem solving skills as they paint with their feet.

You will need:
Mural paper or craft paper on a roll, newspaper, tempera paint (2 compatible colors), liquid detergent, at least 4 flat pans, towels for cleanup, relaxing instrumental music, and an adult helper.

Teachers before you do this preschool activity in the classroom send notes home to parents. Explain that their children will be participating in a messy painting experience and ask them to send their children to class in old clothes.  It might also be a good idea to have a change of clothes available for each child.

Prepare the painting area in advance by carefully taping a long sheet of mural/craft paper to the floor so that none of the edges can come loose.  Surround the mural paper with taped down newspaper.  Take the time to make sure all paper is taped down securely.  This will make a big difference when the activity is in progress.

Next, place a tub of warm soapy water at one end of the mural paper.  At the other end, place flat pans lined with thin moistened sponge cloths.  Mix tempera paint with liquid detergent and pour it on the sponge cloths.  The sponge cloths will keep the children from slipping in the paint and from getting too much paint on their feet!

Teachers and children now gather together and talk  about different ways people can paint.  Start the discussion by saying, "Sometimes we use a brush to paint.  Sometimes we use our fingers and hands.  Do you think we could paint with our feet?"  Encourage children to think of ways they can paint with their feet.  Dipping bare toes in paint and making toe prints?  Or how about dancing with paint on bare feet!

Help two or three children at a time to take off their shoes and socks and roll up their pants (don't forget, you can join them).  Put on calm instrumental music and help each child to carefully step on the paint sponge pad and walk or dance his / her way to the other end of the mural/craft paper.  Suggest that children let the music move their bodies as they dance with  paint on their feet.  Don't be surprised if some children want to get more paint and dance over and over again.

As preschool children dance and paint, suggest different ways they might use their feet.  For example, you can ask, "What would happen if you painted on your tiptoes? How would it look if you used just the sides of your feet?  How can you draw with your toes?"  Take time to verbally recognize the other suggestions they make.

When each child is finished painting, help him / her to step into the tub of warm soapy water to wash off their feet.  Some children will find that this is the best part!  Make sure that an adult is nearby to help children completely dry their feet.

Story time Suggestions:

Feet   by Jill Bailey

The Foot Book  by Dr. Seuss

Take a peek in the Rainbow Resource Room  for more senory "touch" activities. 
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Sense of Taste

Science Activity: Tongue Tasting
During this early childhood education activity preschool children explore the 4 major tastes that the tongue can sense; bitter, sweet, sour and salty.

You will need:
Lemon wedges and lemonade, candy, potato chips and unsweetened cocoa, a pitcher and cups (for lemonade), small paper plates, small spoons, unbreakable hand-held mirrors.

Teachers should know that taste buds are grouped on the front, sides and back of the tongue.  And, that they are also in other parts of the mouth. Prepare in advance plates with samples of the foods for each child.

While talking with young children about the different foods they like encourage them to use words like sweet, sour, salty and bitter to describe the foods.  Tell them that they can taste the small samples of foods that are on their plates by putting a little on their tongues. Explain that they have "taste buds" on their tongues which help them taste and provide a few unbreakable, hand-held mirrors so they can look at their tongues.

Older children can be asked to predict how the items will taste.  For very young children use only two tastes and compare.  When preschool children frown etc. as they taste ask, "Why are you frowning?  How does the ____taste?  Is it sweet, sour, bitter or salty?"  Understand when instead of sampling, children eat the foods they like.

Finally talk about the tastes they like the best and not the best.  Provide the lemonade and while you are enjoying the refreshing drink ask what the lemonade reminds them of.

Extension: Take note of the words and phrases children use to describe the different tastes and use them to create an experience chart reflecting the four major tastes.

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Sense of Smell

Sensory Experience with Playdough
Kris C. encourages preschool children to use several senses in this early childhood activity and cautions, "I would probably not recommend this for kids that are still prone to eating playdough.  It smells really good and they might try to eat it, and the 
 extract can make them sick."

Materials / Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
Water to achieve desired consistency, usually 1-2 cups
Extract of your choice
Food coloring

Description: For St. Paddy's Day, I made playdough with my 4/5 year olds.  I added green food coloring and then surprised them by adding peppermint extract to the playdough!  They loved it.  I gave them shamrock cookie cutters and  they got very involved making  "peppermint" cookies with the playdough.

It  was great!

Science Activity:  "It Smells Like..."
This preschool science activity encourages children to observe, compare and use language skills as they describe scented items.

You will need:
One 35 mm film canister with pinholes in the top for each of the following scented items: (use cotton balls for the liquid scents)
 

onions
vanilla extract
vinegar
cinnamon
rubbing alcohol
coffee grounds
perfume
peanut butter
banana chunk
lemon oil
peppermint extract
mothballs

In advance, put pinholes in the top of each film canister.  Then put a scented item or scented cotton ball in each canister.

Start your group talking about the sense of smell by asking everyone to close their eyes and spraying a little perfume into the air.  When the children open their eyes ask them what they smell.  Talk about how our noses help us smell things and introduce one canister.  While each child is smelling the scent, talk about what it smells like.
Encourage the use of descriptive words.

Next, introduce the other film canisters, making certain each child has one.  Allow time for children to talk about the smells and encourage older youngsters to exchange canister.  Ask, "Can you guess what it is by the way it smells?"  After children have opportunities to guess, open each canister.  Show them how you poured the liquid onto cotton balls to create the the "smelliest"

Finally, place the closed canisters in the science area for future smell investigations.

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Sense of Sight

Science Activity: "Mirror, Mirror"
Preschool children can do simple science experiments when they use their sense of sight to learn about reflections.

You will need:
All kinds of unbreakable mirrors; hand-held, stand-up, pocket etc., other items in which children can see their reflections such as appliances, windows, metal spoons, foil and water; and a piece of experience chart paper and a felt tip marker.

Invite a few children (3 or 4) to walk around the classroom with you to find places where they can see their reflections.  Talk about what a reflection is and in which shiny items children have seen themselves, such as metal appliances (toasters or toaster ovens), windows, metal spoons, foil or water.  Together find examples of reflections. 

Emphasize the word reflection by holding up a mirror and saying, "I can see my reflection in this mirror.  It's
just like a picture of my face!"  Then offer the mirror to each child to see his / her reflection, too.

After your classroom "reflection walk", sit with a few children and show them different types of mirrors.  Permit plenty of time for youngsters to look into and investigate them thoroughly.  What happens when children breath onto the mirror?  What happens a few seconds after they see their breath on the mirror?  Ask them to hold a mirror in different locations such as in front of their mouths with their mouths open, at arm's length -  slightly higher than their shoulders, and against a corner in the classroom.

Suggest that preschoolers try holding a mirror out a doorway while standing inside.  What can they see now?  Use a piece of experience chart paper to record their discoveries.  Later, hang the experience chart in your science area with the mirrors for further independent investigation.

Extension: Some preschool children may enjoy looking in mirrors while they draw pictures of themselves.

Story time books to share:

My Mirror  by Kay Davis

Look! Look!  Look!  by Tana Hoban

Look Again!  by Tana Hoban

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Sense of Sound

Whistle Game
Even toddlers can play this game by Jan M.

 Materials: One whistle

Description: During circle time, teachers give one child a whistle and have them go and hide.  When the child is hidden, instruct the child to start blowing the whistle.  The other children are then to follow the sound of the whistle to find the child.  The child who finds the hidden child is next to get to hide.

Language Activity:  A Listening Game
During this early childhood education lesson plan  children will use listening and speaking skills to re-create sounds in their environment.

You will need:  Adult and children's voices and the sound in your environment.

During a few days before playing the game, point out and describe sounds as they occur.  You might say, "Wow, (child's name), your car makes a loud, roaring sound when you move it".  Or "(child's name), can you hear the wind blowing?  Come put your ear close to the window.  It's a very soft sound."  "That sound is so loud, I can't hear the music. Oh, listen it's a jackhammer, fire engine etc."

Preschool children and teachers take a "listening walk" together.  If the weather is mild, take a walk outdoors.  If not, stroll around indoors.  To help focus children's attention on sounds before your walk, ask a few open ended questions such as, "What kinds of sounds do you think we will hear on our walk?"  "How can we make sure we hear on our walk?"  How can we make sure we hear everything?  Where should we go to hear lots of sounds?"  As you walk, encourage children to tell you about the sounds they hear.  Help them use descriptive words such as loud, soft, banging, roaring, ringing, etc.

After the walk, sit  together and talk about the sounds you heard.  Invite children to try to re-create the sounds using only their voices.  Provide helpful clues such as, "Yes, (child's name), that sounds like the bird we heard but I think the bird made a softer sound."  Or,
"(child's name), that  does sound like water running in the sink."  Continue to re-create sounds.  You might want to record them on a tape recorder to play back and try to identify at another time.

Remember that listening to, hearing, and re-creating sounds are separate skills.  Children need lots of practice listening and tuning in to sounds before they try to re-create them.

Extension:  Try singing this Sound Song  and substituting the objects and sounds you heard on your walk.

sound song Sound Song
(to the tune of "Did You Ever See A Lassie?")

Did you ever hear a bell ring,
A bell ring, a bell ring?
Did you ever hear a bell ring?
Ding, dong, ding, dong, ding.

Did you ever hear the wind blow,
The wind blow, the wind blow?
Did you ever hear the wind blow?
Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish.

Story time books to share:
Sounds  by David Bennett
Richard Scarry's Just Right Word Book
by Richard Scarry
There's another 5 Senses Theme in the Rainbow Resource Room.
E-mail GayleE-mail Gayle to share a five senses preschool activity or lesson plan.
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