The Five Basic Senses - Introducing a New Essential Sense!
By Jen Holmstrom

Children absorb information more efficiently than adults. We've been aware of this fact for a long time, but have we applied this fact to our lives? One of the biggest reasons why sensory activities are enjoyed by small children is because their brains are taking in information in all forms at a much quicker rate than others. Their developing minds are making connections between different neurons, so understanding concepts from different perspectives helps that development. It is beneficial to provide opportunities to experience all the senses to our young children.

When I mention sensory, I am referring to all types of senses. The five basic senses are a great place to start.

Touch. All parents know that small children can’t help themselves when it comes to touching things. Their little hands are overwhelmed with curiosity to feel things they see. This curiosity comes from a distinct desire to learn! They want to learn about what they are looking at. They want to investigate an object’s properties and determine it’s uses. There are so many fabulous ideas on how to facilitate touch sensory for your children. Many of those activities involve dry rice or beans, craft pom poms, shaving cream, playdough, water and sand, etc. Pinterest is filled with other sensory activities to keep those little hands busy and engaged. The next time you get upset because your little one has once again gotten into something, remind yourself that they were merely performing an experiment for educational purposes.

Taste. How many times have we caught our little ones putting things in their mouth. Eek. It makes it difficult to see anything but an exchange of germs! But after you’ve ensured everything is disinfected… keep in mind that this is another way for your child to explore. It is a natural way to not only investigate an object, but to investigate the sense of taste. It is nice to remember that our children are not just trying to ingest dirt (haha); they are trying to know their surroundings. A great way to facilitate the sense of taste is to have fun with meals. This takes more effort in meal planning. But when a child has a few different options on their plate with a variety of flavors, shapes and even colors, their sense of taste is highly intrigued and it can captivate a child to be more adventurous at meal times. Again, head to Pinterest for some fun ideas!


Sight. Any of these activities can facilitate exploring sight, but there are some activities that specifically can cause our eyes to be enthralled. Sensory bottles. Children love to swish these around and see how the water reacts with the oil and food coloring. There are also the tornado bottles or lava lamps that are always popular to watch. Watching events in nature: rain, snow, or even two squirrels playing together. Another activity that is a wonderful way to explore sight is to visit an art gallery or museum. These are all things that may seem insignificant, but our eyes like to watch things in a peaceful setting and the sights, shapes, and colors we take in are helping us gain better perspective.


Smell. This is a sense that is often taken for granted, but many of our memories are linked to the sense of smell. Some people smell chocolate chip cookies and think of Grandma’s house. Some smell the ocean air and remember the fun summer they had as a child. Our sense of smell is an important one, and there are a few ways we can help to link smells with positive experiences. When I make playdough for my children, I like to add in a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Around the holidays, making peppermint playdough can be a fun activity. Allowing children to help out in the kitchen to cook dinner is another way to spark up the sense of smell. And popping a bag of popcorn is always fun; sometimes I do it without telling my kids, just so I can hear them happily say, “I smell popcorn!”

Sound. Incorporating sounds into your day is very simple. Music is an incredible source for all activities. It is surprising to see the difference between a child doing a task in silence vs doing a task while there is music playing. I love to play classical music while we do an art project. You can also sing songs together or organize a mini band with musical instruments around the house. Your children will fascinate you with the objects they use to make sounds. The game Telephone is a big hit with all children! The concept encourages listening skills and also results in long fits of laughter; a perfect activity for perking up the ears. Outside play can also be a fun way to explore the sense of hearing. If you ask your children to sit quietly and write down all the sounds they hear, it will be a peaceful activity that supports reverence and meditation.

EMOTIONS. I like to call this the Primary Sense, because I feel it is the most important senses we possess. And guess what? It is one of the only senses that every single person has! And furthermore, it is the one sense that is deeply connected with every other sense imaginable. In all experiences or activities, we take in our surroundings using our five basic senses, but we always associate an emotional connection with those observations. Whether it is a negative emotion, an ambivalent emotion, or an uplifting emotion, those emotions are incredibly powerful! It is our overall emotional experience that bonds our minds to our experiences. While engaging our children in activities, it is valuable to interact emotionally with your child. While they are observing a new painting, ask them how it makes them feel or what they think the artist was feeling while they painted. Ask them what their favorite smell is and why. If they have just finished up a math assignment, ask them if they liked that type of math or if it frustrated them. It is through observing and exploring feelings that we learn the most about ourselves and the path that is most beneficial for us. This is a big part of why many of us homeschool. Emotions play an integral part in education and brain development, and when we focus on those emotions and working with them we can help each other flourish in the field of learning.


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