Young children are natural born explorers of their worlds, and the primary way they do this is through the 5 senses. You can use this natural inclination for exploration to help children at your child care centre learn about objects and their qualities. Not only do the kids learn about objects in their world, but they also learn how to describe them.
Exploration is fun for children, and that fun is an important element in helping them to remember what they’ve learnt during the lesson. Here are some ideas for engaging with the senses when teaching children.
Put a box of items together that have different properties that you can feel with your fingers. Some examples of items you might include could be stones, soft fabric, fluffy material, a damp sponge, moisturising cream and shaving foam. Just make sure no-one tries to eat anything that’s not edible! Maybe explaining that this is the “touching box” could help.
When engaging the sense of hearing, you could make use of simple musical instruments like bongo drums, a triangle or rhythm sticks. You could find other ways of approaching it too by making your own instruments. A rainstick can be made by filling a Pringles tube with some rice and taping the lid shut. Musical instruments don’t have to be high-tech for children to find them interesting. You could also fill containers with different noise-making items like dice or coins.
Think of some items with distinctive smells – you might choose things like unlit scented candles or soaps, dried lavender, perfume, fresh mint or basil, eucalyptus tree leaves, strong smelling flowers, chocolate, or ground coffee beans. Again, just be careful that no-one tries to eat any of these interesting smelling things. Perhaps you could advise them to “just use their noses”. You could even have a picture of a nose and a tick next to it to drive home the point.
In order to identify tastes, you can use the framework of sweet, sour, salty and fruity. For sweet, you could use a sweet piece of fruit or a confectionary. For sour, a wedge of lemon is the obvious choice. Salt itself can be used for salty − just make sure they don’t “taste” too much of it! You could also try using a bag of crisps for salty. For fruity, an easy option is a fruit drink, as it can combine multiple fruits for a fruitier taste than from one real fruit alone.
To help highlight the sense of sight with kids, give them a magnifying glass to explore the textures of everyday objects up close. For example, an orange can look interesting under a magnifying glass due to its unique texture. You can also give them binoculars to look at things outdoors from far away, or provide kaleidoscopes to create a lesson in colours as well as sight.
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