Monday, September 1, 2008

Sensory Activities

Welcome to our first Theme of the Month: The Five Senses! This is a wonderfully broad topic and there are literally thousands of Sensory Activity ideas out there. I'll start you off with a few favorite ones, but please share some of your own discoveries during the month in the theme post which will remain at the top of the blog throughout September. Feel free to use the Mister Linky box or the comments section in that post.

Taste--Conduct a taste test. Grab 3-5 different brands of one food or drink and let your child answer questions about the taste: sweet, salty, sour, smooth, crunchy, etc. For older children you can even incorporate information from the nutritional information label to aid you in deciding which one tops your list.

Touch--Make a texture collage. For a few days or a week hang on to any clean trash that has a noticeable texture: old nylons, plastic onion bag (the mesh ones), cardboard box, plastic food tray, etc. Together with your child create a collage of all the different textures you have collected and if possible write down the descriptive words next to each collage material.

Smell--Play a blindfolded food guessing game. You may want to go through the foods one by one without the blindfold first, discussing the different scents. Then, put on the blindfold and see if your child can correctly identify the food again. Pick some foods that are very pungent and easily recognizable like pickles or lemons, plus some that might make them analyze carefully before guessing.

Sight--Hold a color scavenger hunt. Try doing this both inside and outside and then comparing your results. Make the list specific for some things (a yellow magnet) and more general other times (something green that grows). You can even make it harder for older children by giving more specific colors that they may be learning about: chartreuse, magenta, taupe, etc.

Sound--(I couldn't narrow it down to one, so here are two quick ideas.) Go on a listening walk. Write down all the sounds you can hear while you go on a walk. Notice if they are loud or quiet, pleasant or noisy. /Move to music. Find several different types of music to play: fast slow, loud, soft, exciting, sleepy, etc. Together with your child make movements that are inspired by each different kind of music. Discuss how your feelings might change with each new combination of sounds.

Here are some other things to keep in mind while engaging your child in Sensory Activities.

1. Our five senses are largely what help us understand and describe the world around us. Focus on building new descriptive vocabulary as you are exploring the senses. They will understand meanings much better through hands-on activities, take advantage of that opportunity.

2. Remember to associate each sense with a part of their body. Have them point to the body part that can hear sounds or ask what can their tongue tell them about something. You can even make it into a game: "Simon says touch something that can see."

3. Since you have an entire month, try spending one week on each sense for the month, or one day per sense for an entire week.

4. Show how our senses have to work together to describe and identify things. Do a few experiments where they have to use multiple senses. For example: sight alone can't tell the difference between salt and sugar, or plugging your nose changes the taste of some foods.

5. Explain that some people have damaged senses, like blind or deaf people. Help your child to see how they use their other senses to compensate for the missing ability and what special things they might have to change in their life.

6. Lastly, remember the benefits of developing senses through Sensory Activities. Children are better able to observe, analyze, and describe their world. They can understand things more quickly and come to their own conclusions about the things they encounter in life.

And a few links: (if you try any of these activities, please let us know how they went!)
Paso Partners (not sure the exact title of this site, but it has a lot of teacher ideas for a 5 Senses curriculum)
Nibbles (a few activity ideas)
HHMI (this is definitely for older kids or for your own learning--it has in-depth descriptions of the senses and how they function)