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SENSORY ACTIVITIES!
Click for Activity Central Preschool activities that explore the 5 senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. New activities are sprinkled throughout the theme.
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The 5 Senses
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Sense of Hearing

Sense of Smell

Sense of Sight

Sense of Taste

Sense of Touch

 

Sense of Hearing

Where Is My Mommy?
Youngsters become aware of different sounds during this fun activity by Shirley A. 

 Materials: Camera Film Canisters,
 Different small objects that can fit in the canisters,
 Stickers using alphabet and numbers.

Description:
Fill the film canisters with items like peas, beads, rice, sugar, 
rocks, etc.  Be sure to fill two canisters with the same things so they will match.  Place a sticker on each canister and remember to make a key so you will know which canisters match.

Give each student a canister and let them walk around the room to find the one that sounds like theirs.  When they have found a match, instruct them to stand by that person.  Then call out the stickers that match each other and see how many students found their mommy / or match.

Homemade Instruments
Barbara offers this noisy activity.  Or just make a band.

Materials:
Oatmeal box, beans, rubber bands, pieces of wood, screws, screw driver.

Description:
Put beans in Oatmeal container and tape shut and you have a shaker. 
Screw together a square shape piece of wood, add screws to the top and bottom (not screwed all the way in).  Put rubber band on screw at the top and bottom and you have a harp. 

Discovering Sound
Jennifer K. suggests this early childhood activity for Sound.

Materials: A prerecorded tape of different sound effects

Description:
Play the tape and have the children guess what the sounds are.  If 
it is a train sound, ask them where they can hear a train.  If it is the sound of a car, ask the children what other sounds a car can make.  Let them know that the sense of sound is important because without it, they couldn't get out of the way of a honking car, or they wouldn't be able to hear a police car driving down the road. 

The Sound Game 
Preschool children will use listening, fine motor, expressive and receptive language skills as well as the science skills of observation, experimentation and evaluation during this fun game.

You will need:
Objects that make sounds that are fairly easy for children to recognize such as keys, tambourine etc. Also a bookcase or large box to hide behind.

At circle time introduce the concept of sound by hiding a few objects that make sounds the children will recognize behind the bookcase or box.  Make the sounds one at a time without letting the children see the objects and ask them to guess what each sound is coming from.  "What do you think is making this sound?  How do you know if you can't see it?"

After playing the game ask children to listen to the sounds in the room.  Are there any sounds they can hear in their own bodies?  Try swallowing together.  Then invite each child to bring in a "mystery sound" object tomorrow.  Explain that it's important to bring the 
objects in a bag or box so no one else will see them.  In the meantime take an outdoor activity "Listening Walk".

The preschool children lead this activity the next day. The teacher starts the game by hiding her own "mystery sound maker" behind the bookcase or box and then making the noise with this explanation.  "Now I'm going to make a sound with something.  Try to guess what it is, ready?"  If children have trouble guessing the sound, give them hints about the object you're using.

Next say, "Now it's your turn.  Who would like to try?" If the children have difficulty, encourage them to give each other clues.  Once someone has guessed, ask the child to show the object so everyone can make a visual connection. If there are some children who forget to bring a "sound maker", help them look around the 
classroom for an object they can use.  The Sound Game can also be played in small groups.

Try reading one of the following books  about sounds to children.

       "Listen! Listen!"  by Ann and Paul Rand
       "Listen to that!"  by H. Klurfmeier
 

Listening Walk 
You'll need a tape recorder.

Tell children that they will be going on a Listening Walk. Describe the area for the walk (park, around the block etc.). Tell them "We're going to use our ears to listen to all the sounds that we hear".  During the walk record the sounds that the children hear on a tape recorder.  Then return to the classroom and play the tape. Ask the young children to listen carefully and try to identify the sounds 
they hear. 

Possible extensions:  Tape the preschool children's voices and ask them to identify each other. If you're searching for a terrific activity about sounds try the Large Group and Circle Time Activity:  "The Sound Game".
 

Creative Play: Hush Puppy Sounds

You will need: 
Craft sticks, markers, fabric scraps, glue.

Ask preschoolers to make droopy eared "Hush Puppy" hound dog stick puppets during a small group time/art experience.  Take the dogs out for a listening walk.  The puppets will remind the children to hush and listen for interesting sounds that surround them.

Back in the classroom, have the pooches take turns "speaking up" about what they heard.  Teachers make a list of loud sounds, soft sounds, high sounds and low sounds.  Which sounds were heard the most? The least? Not at all?  Experiment with this activity at different times of the day.  Do morning sounds differ from afternoon sounds?
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Sense of Sight

Eye Spy Activity Books
You will need:
Empty cardboard toilet tissue rolls, circles cut out of construction paper (assorted colors), crayons, markers, pencils.

Take a walk and have preschool children use cardboard rolls to look through (for safety have children stand or sit still when looking through tubes).  Recite the rhyme:

             "I spy with my little eye something that is
               yellow (or brown, or green etc.)."

Then provide preschool children with large circles cut from corresponding colors of construction paper.  Ask children to draw a response to satisfy the rhyme on the circular paper ( the circle represents the circular spy glass).

Teachers then write the complete "Eye Spy" rhyme on each page (ex. "Eye spy with my little eye something that is yellow, a daisy!").  Decorate an extra circle to resemble an eye and use as the cover of the book. Bind the circles together by punching a hole in each one and securing together with a plastic shower curtain ring.

Discovering Sight
Jennifer K. offers this small group preschool activity to help young children discover the importance of sight.

Materials: Blue paint,  yellow paint,  5 old ties,  2 zip lock bags.

Description: Have 5 children at a time in a group.  Put some blue paint in a zip lock bag. Don't show them the yellow paint. Show the children the baggie of  blue paint and then blindfold each child.  While they are blindfolded, mix some yellow paint in with the blue so it turns to green.  Don't tell the children what you are doing. 

Take off their blindfolds and tell them that the blue paint changed into green.  Tell them that since they couldn't use their eyes, they didn't see it.  Explain that we use our eyes to see things.  Then with the blindfolds off, put some blue paint in another baggie (you could also have this prepared beforehand).  Mix yellow into the blue so it changes to green.  Explain that they had to use their eyes to see the colors change. 

Gayle's Hint:  If young children object to the blindfold, simply hide the bag behind a table top screen .  You can make one from a cardboard box.

Science Idea:  Kaleidoscope
During this preschool activity a welcome addition is 
created for you science center.

You will need:
Three square pocket mirrors, firm tape, a piece of white paper, and small colorful items.

Teachers help young children tape three square mirrors together to form a triangle.  Put the mirrors on a piece of white paper and drop some colorful items to form repeated images in the kaleidoscope.  Try small, colorful plastic blocks, buttons, stringing beads, flower petals etc.  Permit the kaleidoscope to remain in your science area for independent "scientific investigation".
 

Science Activity:  Flashlight Exploring
This preschool activity encourages young children to use 
large muscles and cognitive skills to search and find 
objects in dim lighting or dark areas.

You will need:
One flashlight for each child and one for the teacher.

Find an area, room or hallway where you can go to explore the surroundings as a group (no more than 5 children per adult).  The area should be lit so that a light switch turns the lights off without making it completely dark.  With the lights on, discuss the objects children see; chairs, a picture on the wall, their own shoes etc.  Show children the flashlights and how they turn off and on.

Next, give each child a flashlight and encourage him/her to explore turning it on and off.  When the flashlights are on, ask children to point the lights to an object.  Do this before turning the lights off.  Have fun pointing the flashlight at different things. 

Now, with the flashlights left on, tell children that you are going to turn the light off and then the room will darken.  Give children a minute to let their eyes get accustomed to the change.  If you sense that a young child is a little afraid keep him / her close to you reminding the child that you are near and, "We are all safe".

Focus the children's attention on their flashlights and ask, "Can you find a chair with your flashlight?  Can you find your shoes?"  See if anyone can find things you hadn't previously discussed.  Encourage children to talk about what they see.  Point your flashlight in an area and ask, "What do you see here?"  If some of the youngsters want to explore a closet or under a table, encourage this exploration but stay nearby and ask them to report what they find (a few children may be afraid of dark closets).

End the activity by turning on the lights and talking about the light helping them see the whole room clearly, while the flashlights help them see small places clearly.  Ask the children what could they see if there were no light in the room.  Help children discover that light must be present in order to see objects.  Later, talk about the ways our eyes help us.
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Sense of Touch

Textures
Debbie offers this preschool activity about textures saying, "I give the children different items that have different textures this teaches that things feel differently".

Materials: Paper, paste, cotton balls, rice, sandpaper, small pieces of soap. 
 and any other materials for textures you want to use.

Description: I make up a worksheet that has boxes. In the bottom of one box is the word "rough" another box says "smooth", another box says "soft" and another box says "bumpy".  Have the children feel their cotton ball, rice, sandpaper, soap etc. and decide which item they think goes into the box.  Have them paste the item in the box. They can take it home to share with mom and dad. 
Comments: For younger children we just glue pictures onto the page without using the "first letter" concept. For the 3-6 we use the 1st letter concept.

No Cook Modeling Dough
Kim S. offers this recipe that she uses as a science experiment.

Materials:
 2 cups flour
 food coloring
 1 cup salt
 water
 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Description: Mix the ingredients.  Add oil unless you want the dough to harden.

There's lots of playdough recipes and activities in Playdough, Goop, Obleck & Clay

Sensory Shaving Cream
Kimberly M. suggests this tactile activity for the following reasons:
 1. To enhance children's tactile sense.
 2. To enhance children's visual discrimination when adding colors to the shaving cream.
 3. To encourage children's social skills by having them co operate with each other.

 Materials: Shaving cream, a big bin, smocks, paint, additional resources i.e.. cars, figures etc.

Description:
Spray the shaving cream into the bin.  set up the figures and
drizzle paint all over the shaving cream.  Ask question about how it feels different with the paint... how the shaving cream and paint feels and smells.  Ask the children to tidy up when they are done.

Cornmeal Fun
Kimberly Mc. offers this early childhood activity with the following  objectives:

 1. The children will improve their tactile sense by feeling what the 
     cornmeal feels like.
 2. The children will enhance fine motor skills by pouring and scooping with     the spoons and bowls.
 3. The children will improve their social skills by sharing the materials.

Materials: Cornmeal, big bin, toys (figures, cars, boats, plows), spoons and bowls.

Description:
Pour the cornmeal into the bin.  Add the toys, spoon and bowls to 
the bin.  Give the children the opportunity to examine and play in the cornmeal.   Ask the children what it feels like, whether it is light or heavy etc.

Comments: Great but kind of messy.

Toe Painting
Tracy P. offers an activity that allows preschoolers to experience a new way to paint and use gross motor skills with eye foot coordination.

Materials:
Finger paint paper and paint of your choice. A bucket of water to 
rinse children's feet and a towel for drying. A paint brush .

Description:
Child will sit in a chair and a piece of finger paint paper is placed on the floor in front of the child. The child will remove their socks and 
shoes. Place some paint on the paper and allow the child to do as they wish and paint with their toes / feet.  When the child is done you will need to wash their feet and dry them.  Then instruct them to put on their socks and shoes.

Comments: I have done this activity with 2-4 year olds and they had so much fun.  They enjoyed the feeling of the paint on their feet and the idea of painting with something other than a brush or their fingers.
 

Senses (Feely)
Young children experience the feel of different textures during this activity offered by Barbara.

Materials: Shaving cream, playdough, Goop (glue and liquid starch) a recipe is several activities below.

Description:
At 3 different places put a material at each place and let them go 
around feeling it.

Cotton Candy
Julisa N. uses this early childhood activity to develop eye hand coordination, to enhance the sense of touch through feeling  shaving cream and cotton balls.  And to develop the pincher grasp technique by picking up the different materials.

Materials:
Shaving cream, food coloring (red), white cotton balls (if the children are very young substitute whipped cream for shaving cream which can sting eyes).

Description:
Prepare activity by making cotton candy (recipe below), and 
gathering materials to sensory table.  After cotton candy is made and added to sensory table add gathered material.  When sensory activity is ready to be implemented, gather children to activity with excitement and enthusiasm. 

Encourage the children  to use their materials while putting the cotton in their hands.

Recipe:
Put shaving cream in a large bowl,
Add food coloring to change the color.
Next, add the white cotton balls to the shaving cream and work into
lather.  Open dry for 24 hours.
 

Jello Play
During this activity contributed by Julisa N. youngsters enhance their senses, develop eye hand coordination and practice picking up with different objects.

Materials:
Jello, jello trays (bowls also work well), plastic eggs, plates or trays.

Description:
1. Make Jello using the "jigglers" recipe on the back of the box. 
Pour into five small bowls.

2. Collect 5 trays, dump the jello into each tray.

3. Gather objects that children can use as manipulative while         playing with Jell, such as  plastic eggs. This is to build their hand eye coordination.

4. Invite 5 children to your area.  Present your activity to the children by talking about Jello, and how they can manipulate it.

5.  Encourage each child to use the manipulatives while playing with the Jello.

Discovering the Sense of Touch
Jennifer K. shares this sensory activity to help children experience the sense of touch.

Materials: Play Dough:
 1/2 cup of salt
 2 and 1/2 cups flour
 2 packages of Kool-aid
 3 tbs. oil
 2 cups boiling water

 Goop or  Slime:
 1 part liquid starch
 2 parts elmer's glue
 food coloring

Description:
Set up the playdough at one table and the goop / slime at another. 
After 10 min they should switch tables.  Discuss the differences of the two items. 

Finally, one at a time, blindfold the child and either put the playdough or the slime in front of them.  Ask them to guess which they are feeling.  Ask them how they know.  Explain that without the sense of touch, we wouldn't know which was which.
 

Touch and Tell
In this language activity preschool children will use the sense of touch to compare and describe items hidden from sight.

You will need:
Brightly colored paper bags, one for each child in your group (gift bags work well), small items for each bag such as, sandpaper pieces, cotton balls, velvet fabric scraps, burlap scraps, small toys, etc.

In advance place one small item in each bag.  Gather your group together and explain that there is something inside each bag.  But they can only feel what's inside, no peeking.  Then each child tells everyone how the object feel to their fingers.  "Is it hard or soft?  Smooth or bumpy?" etc.

After describing the item ask, "Can you tell us what it is?"  Finally, invite the youngster to take take his / her object out of the bag to show it to everyone.  Give everyone a turn.  Try singing the following song to the tune of "Frere Jacques" before each child has their turn.

              Is It Bumpy?
              Is it bumpy?,
              Is it bumpy?
              Smooth or soft,
              Smooth or soft,
              Tell us how it feels.
              Tell us how it feels.
              Tell us (child's name),
              Tell us (child's name).
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Sense of Smell

Smelly Bottles
Michelle B. helps youngsters explore the sense of smell with this basic activity. 

Materials: Plastic film canisters, food extracts, perfume and any other 
non-toxic liquid that has an odor that children might recognize, and cotton balls.

 Description:
Saturate cotton balls with different scents.  Place the cotton balls in individual film canisters.  Punch several small holes into the tops of the canisters.  You may tape the sides of the canisters to discourage the children from opening them.  Have children try and determine what they are smelling.

Comments: You may also want to attach a picture of the scent to the side of the canisters.  For example, if you put strawberry extract on a cotton ball, you could label the outside of the canister with the word strawberry and a drawing or picture of a strawberry.

Scratch and Sniff Watercolors
Jessica L. combines color and the sense of smell in this preschool activity and says, "With these watercolors, you can paint pictures of oranges that smell like oranges, grapes that smell like grapes and cherries that smell like cherries".

Materials:
1 Tbs. unsweetened powdered drink mix
1 Tbs. warm water
Several small containers (muffin tins work well)

Description:
Mix water and unsweetened drink mix together in a small bowl. 
Repeat this step several times using various flavors of drink mix to create different colors of paint.  Allow finished works to dry overnight before scratching and sniffing.

Comments: You can create scratch and sniff greeting cards and wrapping paper

Discovering the Sense of Smell
Jennifer K. contributes this activity to help children understand the sense of smell.

Materials:
5 containers with lids, cotton balls, 5 scents (such as vanilla, lemon juice, vinegar, liquid butter, soy sauce,  orange juice...).

Description:
Dip 5 cotton balls into different scents and put them in the  containers.  Have a group of children sit together.  One at a time, have each child smell the scents.  Write down on chart paper what they think the scents are.

When you are done, explain to the children that they used their sense of smell to discover what was in the jars.  Explain that our sense of smell can help us if there was a fire.  Ask them what they smell when their Mom or Dad or Grandma/Grandpa, Aunt/Uncle, etc. are cooking.

Kitchen Smells
While making a smell collage children experience scents, color recognition and fun!

You will need:
Large sheets of white paper, glue, spices (paprika, curry, ground cloves, cinnamon, Jello powder) plastic spice jars (shakers).

In advance put the each spice in a separate plastic spice jar. Encourage children to smell each spice jar and tell if the smells reminds them of anything.  Next, ask children to put glue on their papers and shake on the spices.  As the youngsters create designs with the spices talk about the different colors, shapes and smells.
Encourage children to think of as many different words as they can to describe how their collages look and smell. 

Shake off any excess spices from the collages and allow to dry. Put the shakers on display for the children to smell at anytime.
 

Smell Pictures
During this activity children will use their sense of smell to identify different items.

You will need:
35 mm film containers with holes in the top, onions, nutmeg, turkey seasoning, lemon, vanilla, cotton balls, manilla drawing paper and crayons.

In advance place each item in a separate film container. Pour the liquid scents on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball inside a film container.

Begin the activity by showing the children the film containers and explaining that each container has a different smell.  Encourage children to explore and describe the smells. Ask, "What do you think is in the film container?"  Don't remove the tops as the youngsters try to identify the contents by smelling. 

Next, provide the paper and the crayons and ask the children to draw pictures of what they think might be in a few of the containers.
Label the completed picture with the children's descriptive "smell" words.

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Sense of Taste

Tasting Party
Acquaint preschoolers with different tastes during this activity.

You will need:
Paper plates, napkins and foods that are salty, sweet, sour, bitter spicy and bland.  For example, carrots, pickle sticks, cheese cubes, radishes, raisins, grapefruit juice, chocolate milk, whole milk.

As youngsters taste the different foods, talk not only about how the food tastes, but also about the texture and appearance of the foods. Which ways do they look different?  Do they smell different?  Do they feel different?  How are they alike?  Talk about salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, bland, crispy, soft, hard, order, shape.

Understand when children "eat" rather than simply "taste" the foods.

Bread Painting
Preschool children explore the sense of taste, smell and touch during this activity contributed by Theresa.

Materials:
Slices of bread, food coloring, cups, Q-tips, milk, toaster.

Description:
Teachers have children wash their hands.  Give them each a slice of
bread on a paper plate or napkin.  Add food coloring to 3-4 tablespoons of milk.  Mix (use more milk if you have a lot of children).  Give them each their own Q-tips to paint with.  When they are done, teachers put the bread in a toaster. Children DON'T use the toaster!!!

Children top bread with butter, cinnamon and sugar or jelly. Enjoy!
 

Discovering the 5 senses
Jennifer K. combines all the five senses in this activity. Children are encouraged to discover the difference between them.

 Materials: Chart paper

Description: On the chart paper make a graph.  On the left hand side draw  pictures of a mouth, eyes, a nose, hands, and ears.  Cut pictures out of a magazine such as a car, water, food, a radio, a baby, a fire.  Glue these pictures across the top. 

Put check marks next to the senses you use for the pictures.  For example:  Food should have a check mark next to eyes, mouth, hands, and nose because you use all these senses when you eat food.
A baby should have a check mark next to sound, eyes, mouth, hands, and nose!!!

When putting the check marks up, ask the children how they use their senses for  each of the pictures!

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