Learning about the five senses is a classic preschool and kindergarten unit. Yes, it’s fun to watch students taste something super sour, or take a listening walk around the school, but why do we teach the five senses? Here’s everything you need to teach the five senses, including rationale, books, songs, and activities.
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What are the five senses?
The five senses are the primary ways that we experience the world around us.
- Sight: how we see light and color
- Sound: how we hear frequencies of sound
- Taste: how we taste sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and umami
- Smell: how we identify chemicals in the air and flavors of food
- Touch: our skin identifies pressure, vibrations, and other types of touch
Why do students need to learn about the five senses?
When we teach students about the five senses, we teach them about their bodies and how they experience the world around them. That’s just the beginning. The five senses are foundational, and spending time examining, experimenting, and understanding the five senses helps students:
- Focus on one thing at a time: When we ask students to just taste or just listen, they are training themselves to focus and attend.
- Learn the scientific method: The process of asking questions and experimenting to learn more about the five senses is often students’ first opportunity to put the scientific method into action.
- Learn how humans take in information from the environment: Kids are learning how they work, and an important part of that is how we take in information and use it. Students will use their five senses throughout school and their lives to understand the world around them.
- Connect with other ideas: Talking about senses also exposes students to vocabulary and concepts that they’ll use in other areas. For example, talking about differences between tastes, or opposites like loud and quiet.
Activities To Teach the Five Senses
Here are our favorite ways to teach the five senses.
1. Head out for a five senses scavenger hunt
A nature walk is one of the best ways to engage all five senses and introduce the concept to kids. Try it in different seasons for a new adventure each time!
Learn more: Nature Scavenger Hunt at Childhood 101
2. Hang a five senses anchor chart
Post an anchor chart and fill it in as you discuss each of the senses and the body parts related to them. (Tip: Laminate your anchor charts so you can reuse them from year to year.)
Learn more: Five Senses Poster at Kindergarten Smiles
3. Make oobleck
Create oobleck with corn starch, water, and food coloring and see what words you can use to describe how it feels to touch, to drop, and to smush in your hands.
Learn more: Oobleck at Raising Dragons
4. Break out Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head toys are perfect for teaching little ones about the five senses. Learn how to make a Potato Head poster from Fun With Firsties, then grab the free printable spinner from A Little Pinch of Perfect and use it to play a fun senses game.
5. Make a set of finger puppets
Get your free body-parts printable at the link below, then have kids color them, cut them out, and glue them to wood craft sticks. Use them for all sorts of five senses activities!
Learn more: Five Senses Puppets at Simple Everyday Mom
6. Sort objects according to senses
Sorting games are always fun for kids. Use a muffin tin to sort smaller items, or try Hula-Hoops for sorting larger items.
Learn more: Senses Sorting Activity at The Preschool Toolbox
7. Set up Five Senses Stations
Allow kids to explore each of the senses on their own with these stations. Visit the link for plenty of great ideas for what to include at each one.
Learn more: Five Senses Stations at We Have Kids
8. Use all your senses to explore popcorn
Popcorn is a terrific food for senses activities, especially if you can use an air popper to make it fresh while kids watch. Plus, you get a yummy, healthy snack when you’re done!
Learn more: Popcorn 5 Senses Activity at Play to Learn Preschool
9. Or try Pop Rocks instead
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, tear open a few bags of Pop Rocks candy and use your senses to experience them to the fullest. Kids will go wild for this one!
Learn more: Pop Rocks Activity at Little Bins for Little Hands
10. Solve the case of salt vs. sugar
Guide kids as they try to determine which jar has salt and which has sugar. The catch? The sense of taste is the last one they get to use!
Learn more: Salt vs. Sugar Activity at Kindergarten Kindergarten
11. Put on a pair of lookers
In the clever story The Looking Book (Hallinan/Barton), two boys discover the world around them after their mom gives them each a pair of “lookers”—which are really just toy glasses. Pass out pairs to your students and send them out to use their sense of sight.
Learn more: Lookers Activity at Mrs. Jones’ Creation Station
12. Explore up close with a magnifying glass
Take the sense of sight even deeper with a magnifying glass. Show kids the tiny details their eyes can see with that bit of extra help.
Learn more: Magnifying Glass Activities at Stay at Home Educator
13. Take a listening walk
Inspire kids with a reading of The Listening Walk (Showers/Aliki), then head outside to take one of your own! Make a list of the sounds you hear, or give kids a checklist (get a free printable one at the link below) of sounds to listen for.
Learn more: Listening Walk at Teach Preschool
14. Learn how sounds help you make decisions
This is a cool activity to help kids understand that while our five senses collect information, it’s our brain that helps us interpret information and make decisions. You can use this idea with hearing or any other sense.
Learn more: Sound Activity at Completely Kindergarten
15. Play a sound-matching game
Fill plastic eggs or medicine bottles with a variety of small items. Ask kids to shake them and see if they can figure out what’s inside based on sound alone. It’s harder than they think!
Learn more: Sound Eggs at Play to Learn Preschool
16. Decide which flower smells the best
Let kids use their sense of smell to decide which flowers smell the best. You can try this with all sorts of items, and remind kids that sometimes there’s no one right answer!
Learn more: Smell Activity at No Time for Flash Cards
17. Write scratch-and-sniff names
Write the letters with glue, then sprinkle them with Jell-O powder. When it dries, kids can feel the texture and sniff the scent!
Learn more: Scratch-and-Sniff Names at Fun-a-Day
18. Sniff a collection of scent bottles
Add a few drops of essential oils to cotton balls and drop them into spice jars. Ask kids to sniff them without looking, and see if they can identify the smells.
Learn more: Scent Bottles at Things To Share and Remember
19. Go on a scent hunt
This activity also uses essential oils, but this time you hide the scented cotton pads around the room and see if kids can sniff their way to the right locations!
Learn more: Scent Hunt at PreKinders
20. Test your sense of taste with jelly beans
Looking for five senses activities for students with a sweet tooth? Jelly Belly Jelly Beans are known for their true-to-life flavors, which makes them perfect for a blind taste test. Want to make it even more interesting? Add some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans into the mix!
Learn more: Jelly Beans Activity at Stay at Home Educator
21. Do an apple taste test
Our sense of taste is more subtle than kids might realize. It’s easy for them to recognize the taste of an apple, but they’ll be surprised to discover they can actually tell different kinds of apples apart too.
Learn more: Apple Taste Test at Play to Learn Preschool
22. Stroll down a sensory walk
Fill up a series of plastic tubs with different items like beads, sand, shaving cream, and more. Then let kids take a walk through them, experiencing all the different sensations.
Learn more: Sensory Walk at Teaching Mama
23. Build a texture board
This is such an easy DIY project! Just pick up an inexpensive cutting board, then attach fabrics and papers with different textures. Little fingers will love to explore them.
Learn more: Texture Board at Pre-K Pages
24. Describe how different things feel
The sense of touch gives us some of the best descriptive words. Ask kids to feel a variety of items and list the adjectives they’d use to describe them.
Learn more: Touch Board at Some of This & Some of That
25. Make mystery touch boxes
Turn empty tissue containers into mystery boxes! Drop an assortment of items into them, and ask kids to reach in and identify what they are using only their sense of touch.
Learn more: Touch Boxes at PreKinders
26. Make and use Whisper Phones
Kids can hear their voices in their head, but what do they really sound like? Create whisper phones out of PVC pipe and put them in the reading area. Have students read stories to themselves, either by reading the words or reading the pictures.
Learn more: Whisper Phones at Oz Lit Teacher
27. Tasting bottles
Use little bottles with droppers to create taste bottles. Fill each bottle with a different taste. Some ideas:
- Sugar water or juice (sweet)
- Salt water (salty)
- Lemon or lime in water (sour)
- Cocoa powder dissolved in water (bitter)
Have students put a drop of each on their tongue (or in a spoon to taste) and record which taste they experience.
Learn more: Tasting Bottles at Gift of Curiosity
28. Create a flip-book
A flip-book that combines images and words gives students a reference to prompt vocabulary as they’re working on other five senses activities.
Learn more: Flip Book at Mrs. Richardson’s Class
29. Peg the sense
An activity like this, where students look at a card and identify the sense that you use to experience each, could be a good practice activity for centers. It could also serve as an assessment that students can complete on their own.
Buy it: Peg the Sense Activity at Teachers Pay Teachers
30. Learn what it’s like to live without a sense
Once students have a feel for the five senses, teach them about how people who are blind or deaf use their other senses. Show students how to read a braille book (public libraries often have collections of braille books to check out), or put headphones on and watch a subtitled movie. This is a good time to read about Helen Keller and how she learned language through touch and smell.
Learn more: Hellen Keller Activity at Saddle Up for 2nd Grade
Read more: Helen Keller books for young readers
31. Sing songs about the five senses
If you’re looking for activities to teach the five sentences that include music and movement, try adding a five senses song to morning meeting to reinforce the vocabulary.
What is a morning meeting without Jack Hartman?
Another five senses song students will love!
32. Read books about the five senses
Read alouds are perfect activities to teach kids about the five senses. Picture books show students all the ways they use their senses, and some silly ways too.
My Five Senses by Aliki
This classic book is a straightforward informational text about our senses and what we do with each.
Buy it: My Five Senses on Amazon
I hear a Pickle by Rachel Isadora
This book puts a clever spin on the five senses with information about the various ways we can experience everyday items through our senses, like hearing a pickle (crunch!).
Buy it: I Hear a Pickle on Amazon
How Do Animals Use Their Five Senses by Alejandro Algarra
An overview of how animals use the five senses, and a starting point for a discussion about how the five senses shape who we are.
Buy it: How Do Animals Use Their Five Senses? on Amazon
Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli
The board book is simple but effective. A little boy tastes all kinds of things, some are yummy and some are yucky.
Buy it: Yummy Yucky on Amazon
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
In this book, students can point out what they see—it’s all about perspective. This reinforces the idea that we can all see things slightly differently.
Buy it: Duck! Rabbit! on Amazon
The Blind Men and the Elephant retold by Karen Beckstein
In this classic story, a blind man has to use his sense of touch to figure out what an elephant is.
Buy it: The Blind Men and the Elephant on Amazon
Ten Ways To Hear Snow by Cathy Camper
A little girl goes on a walk to her grandma’s house and along the way counts all the ways she hears the newly fallen snow. Such a great book to introduce the idea of listening intently and creatively.
Buy it: Ten Ways To Hear Snow on Amazon
Llama Llama Yum Yum Yum! by Anna Dewdney
A Llama Llama book with scratch-and-sniff … yes, please!
Buy it: Llama Llama Yum Yum Yum! on Amazon
Love these five senses activities? Check out Inspiring Science Books for Kids in Elementary School.
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