We use our 5 senses every day! Discover how to set up a wonderful and simple discovery table or sensory station for early childhood learning and play that uses all 5 senses. These 5 senses activities are delightful for introducing preschoolers to the simple practice of observing the world around them. They will discover their senses and learn how their bodies work. Easy science activities for preschoolers using everyday items!
What are the 5 Senses?
If you are going to explore the 5 senses, you need to know what they are first! The 5 senses include touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. These concepts are super easy to explore with junior scientists because we use our 5 senses every day in many ways.
The senses are how we explore and learn about the world around us. Textures and colors ignite our senses of touch and sight.
New foods and tasty goodies explore our sense of taste, even if they aren’t so tasty. Smells like peppermint or cinnamon bring back memories or make us feel more in tune with the season or holiday.
The wind rustling the leaves, the waves breaking on the shore, our footsteps walking along a wooded path, or the call of a bird overhead are fantastic opportunities for listening to our senses!
Take a look at our sensory science list to read more about combining science and sensory play as well engaging the 5 senses.
Observation and the 5 Senses
Observation in science begins with using our senses to gather information about the world around us. It involves using science process skills, paying close attention to details, making careful notes or drawings, and using tools to help us make better observations.
Making observations is an essential skill in science because it leads to collecting data and gathering evidence to support or refute hypotheses. Learn more about using the scientific method with kids.
Observing is also a good way to explore and learn about the natural world. Young children learn when they make observations in new situations, especially with science sensory experiences.
Let’s take a closer look at how kids can practice making observations using their 5 senses:
Observing through hearing involves listening to sounds around them and identifying their source. Kids can listen to bird songs, the rustling of leaves, or the sound of raindrops. For example, try a water xylophone!
Observe through touch to explore objects’ texture, temperature, and hardness. Kids can touch different types of materials, such as sand, water, feathers, or bark.
Observing through smell involves detecting and describing odors. Kids can explore different environmental scents, such as flowers, fruits, or spices. For example, paint with spice paint!
List of Favorite 5 Senses Books
This 5 senses science table activity was sparked by a simple 5 Senses book I found at a local thrift store. I adore Read-And-Find-Out science books.
Read a book together and talk about the 5 senses. We talked about what we could and could not touch. We also talked about how you can see something and not hear it. We thought of times we used more than one sense.
Here are some books about the 5 senses for you to enjoy. You can find even more 5 Senses book suggestions in our printable 5 Senses preschool pack at the end.
- You Can’t Taste a Pickle with Your Ear by Harriet Ziefert
- This Beach is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill
- Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
- Magic School Bus Five Senses by Joanna
- I Hear a Pickle by Rachel Isadora
- Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup
- Look, Listen, Taste, Touch and Smell by Pamela Hill Nettleton
- The Listening Walk by Paul Showers
What Is A Sensory Station?
Sensory stations are simple low tables with a theme for kids to explore. Usually, the materials laid out are meant for as much independent discovery and sensory exploration as possible.
A sensory station for young kids is an excellent way for them to investigate, observe, and explore their interests at their own pace through their senses. These kinds of centers or tables are usually filled with kid-friendly materials that don’t need constant adult supervision.
While a sensory station may also be considered a sensory bin, it does not have to be one at all!
The materials used in a sensory station can vary widely, but they often include items such as:
- Textured Materials: These can include sand, water beads, rice, pasta, cotton balls, or other materials with distinct textures.
- Visual Stimuli: This can involve adding various colors, shapes, and objects that catch a child’s eye.
- Aromas: Introducing scents through herbs, flowers, or scented playdough.
- Auditory Elements: Incorporating materials that produce sounds, such as bells, shakers, or soft music.
- Tactile Objects: Offering objects that can be manipulated and touched, like small toys, scoops, brushes, and containers.
- Educational Themes: Designing sensory stations around specific themes (e.g., ocean, farm, outer space) to encourage learning through play.
- Nature Items: Using natural materials like leaves, pinecones, and stones for a more organic sensory experience.
How To Use A Sensory Station
Help your child to explore and wonder by asking simple open-ended questions. If your child is struggling with the materials below, model a way to use, feel, or smell it. Offer a turn, allow some time for your child to become familiar with the ideas and items, and then ask a few questions to get them thinking.
- Tell me, what are you doing?
- How does that feel?
- What does it sound like?
- How does it taste?
- Where did you think it came from?
Observations made with your 5 senses form the foundation of the scientific method for kids.
More Sensory Station Tips and Tricks
Using a sensory station with young kids can be a fun and educational experience. Here are some tips to help you make the most of sensory play:
Choose Appropriate Materials: Select materials that are safe, age-appropriate, and encourage exploration. Consider the sensory experiences you want to provide, such as textures, colors, and scents.
Rotate Materials: Change the materials in the sensory station regularly to keep children engaged and curious. Different textures and themes can spark new interests.
Incorporate Learning: Use the sensory station to introduce educational concepts. You can count objects, sort by color, or discuss the properties of the materials (soft, rough, smooth, etc.).
Plan for Mess: Sensory play can get messy, so be prepared with aprons, smocks, or old clothes. You can also set up the sensory station in an easily washable or outdoor area.
Respect Your Child’s Preferences
Introduce Slowly: If it’s a child’s first time with a sensory station, introduce them to the materials slowly. Let them touch and explore at their own pace.
Allow Open-ended Play: Let children take the lead in their play. Avoid giving specific instructions; instead, let them discover and create on their own.
Respect Preferences: Some children might be sensitive to certain textures or smells. If a child is hesitant, don’t force them to engage – allow them to observe from a distance if they prefer.
Promote Social Interaction: If possible, set up the sensory station for group play. Children can learn to share, take turns, and collaborate while exploring together.
Encourage Communication: Ask open-ended questions to spark conversation. “How does that feel?” “What does it remind you of?” This promotes language development.
Clean Up Together: Teach responsibility by involving children in cleaning up after playtime. This can also be part of the sensory experience.
Flexibility and adaptability are key, as each kid’s reactions and interests may vary.
How To Set Up A Sensory Station
Use a divider tray or small baskets and bowls to hold your 5 senses items below. Choose a few or many items to explore each sense. Here are some items you could include in your sensory station…
Place your items on a low table that your kids can gather around. Some kids may find it more comfortable to stand and explore!
- Mini Flashlight
- Postcards of artwork, places, and animals
- Photographs of family and friends or people from around the world
- DIY Kaleidoscope
- Glitter Bottles
- Homemade Lava Lamp
- whole cloves
- cinnamon sticks
- Lemon Scented Rice
- Scented Cloud Dough
- Cinnamon Ornaments
- Spice Paint
- a lollipop
- pieces of fruit
- Pop rocks
- shaker eggs
- a whistle
- container with rice
- rain stick
- water xylophone
- silk scarf
- rough/smooth conch shell
- large pine cone
- tree pods
- rainbow spaghetti
- kinetic sand
- homemade slime
Check out more awesome sensory recipes for tactile activities.
More Fun Preschool 5 Senses Activities
Check out our complete list of 5 Senses activities or choose from one below…
Printable Preschool 5 Senses Pack
There are 4 fun preschool themes to get you started. This is an ” I can explore” series!
Each unit contains approximately 15 activities, with instructions and templates as needed. Hands-on activities are provided to keep it fun and exciting. This includes sensory bins, experiments, games, and more! Easy supplies keep it low cost and book suggestions add the learning time.