Sensory Science

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Young children learn best when they can experience new things with all of their senses. Pre-schoolers need to see, hear, feel, touch, smell, and sometimes even taste a learning material in order to really understand it fully. A keen sense of observation is essential for successful learning.

The following ideas will encourage children to use their senses and help them develop confidence about the world around them:

  • Buy touch and feel books or scratch and sniff for her first reading material.
  • Mix up pudding or other creamy foods to use as finger paint in writing numbers and words. Or help her create letters out of bread dough.
  • Use Cheerios, raisins, or peanuts as counters for doing simple math activities.
  • Help awaken early scientific exploration through natural multi-sensory experiences, such as cooking, building dams and forts, and water play.
  • Encourage language experiences through drama and dress-up activities.
  • Make animal sounds such as that of a cat, dog, sheep, cow, pig and so on and encourage the children to make animal sounds and identify and draw the animal whose sound they've heard on a piece of paper.
  • Teach children how flowers grow by planting a flower or any other plant in a pot and watering it and nourishing it regularly.
  • Leaf painting is not only educative it is also a lot of fun! Put a paper flat on the table and then put a leaf under the paper. After you've done that, use the crayon to shade the print of the leaf on the paper. If you are using paint, you put the leaf in the paint and then print in on the paper.
  • Teach children about ice and water. All you need is some ice cubes and a plate. Show children some ice cubes and let them touch it. Talk about how they feel, soft, hard, cold, hot and so on. Keep it aside and watch it slowly turning into water. Keep asking questions and devote a good amount of time to letting the children come up with answers.
  • Preschool children often engage in finger painting. But for this preschool activity children will use sensory motor and problem solving skills as they paint with their feet. Prepare the painting area in advance by carefully taping a long sheet of mural/craft paper to the floor. Surround the mural paper with taped down newspaper. Take the time to make sure all paper is taped down securely. Mix tempera paint with liquid detergent and pour it on the sponge cloths. Next, place a tub of warm soapy water at one end of the mural paper. At the other end, place flat pans lined with thin moistened sponge cloths so that the kids won't slip on paint and also won't have too much paint on their feet. Encourage children to dip their feet in the paint and walk/dance on the mural paper. Suggest interesting ideas like painting with toes, walking on tiptoes, trying to draw a circle with toes and so on.
  • While talking with young children about the different foods they like encourage them to use words like sweet, sour, salty and bitter to describe the foods. Bring samples of food like Lemon wedges and lemonade, candy, potato chips and unsweetened cocoa and let the kids guess the taste.
  • Put an unbreakable mirror in the class room and invite children to see their reflection. Talk about what a reflection is and in which shiny items children have seen themselves, such as metal appliances (toasters or toaster ovens), windows, metal spoons, foil or water. Together find examples of reflections.
  • Finally, provide lots of art supplies including clay, paints, and paste-up materials, so that your child can unfold her deeper creative capacities.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,