Young children learn so much by exploring the world using all of their senses. Child care providers can encourage children to explore the world using sensory information. Sensory exploration is also a good way to practice skills of scientific exploration, such as asking questions, testing hypotheses, and evaluating answers. Here are a few activities that encourage children to use senses other than vision to explore the world around them.
Simple Ideas for Exploring Smells, Sounds and Tastes
One of the most effective ways to encourage scientific discovery in child care is to provide a variety of experiences that nurture all the senses. A keen sense of observation is essential for successful learning. Use the following ideas to encourage children to use their senses. Be sure to participate in these activities with the children instead of simply observing.
- Sound Containers :Teach children to listen closely and identify sounds. Fill pairs of small containers with small items, such as beans, sugar, paper clips, buttons and popcorn, and tape them closed. Encourage children to shake the containers to distinguish and identify different sounds and pair up containers that have the same sound.
- Scent Jars :Teach children to distinguish a variety of smells. Place items that have distinctive odors, such as coffee, cinnamon and rose petals, in covered containers. Punch small holes in the lids or cover each container with a black nylon stocking. Children can smell the containers and identify each odor.
- Taste Tests :Teach children to distinguish and appreciate a variety of flavors and textures in foods. Choose foods that have distinctive flavors. Blindfold children or have them close their eyes and give them small tastes of different foods, one at a time. Ask if the food tastes sweet, sour or salty. Encourage children to identify the food.
- Touch Boxes: Teach children to identify items by shape and texture. Place an object in a box or paper bag. Encourage children to reach in and feel the object without looking at it. Based on what they feel, have them guess what the object is, and then check their guess by removing it. This activity also works well with old socks tied closed.
For More Information
To learn more about nurturing scientific discovery skills and encouraging sensory exploration in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
- The Science and Nature Center in Child Care
- Planning a Successful Science and Nature Center in Child Care
- Using Sensory Activities to Teach Wonder, Investigation, and Discovery
- Helping Young Children Practice Science Skills By Planting a Garden