Discovering Nature Using the 5 Senses

The outside world shapes children’s development through experiences that they have, which include using their five senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch.  Drawing a child’s attention to the five senses and discussing them increases understanding of and communication about the world around us. What a beautiful world it is!

“In his early years the child is all eyes; he observes, or, more truly, he perceives, calling sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to his aid, that he may learn all that is discoverable by him about every new thing that comes under his notice.” -Charlotte Mason


Children use their ears to take in information about things around them.  Like other skills that children learn, listening takes practice.  Developing good listening habits helps children get important information from family members, teachers, friends, and coaches, among others.

  • Use objects and everyday events to encourage your child to listen carefully: How many sounds can you distinguish in a sudden silence out of doors? Let your children name them in order from less to the more acute. Let the notes of birds be distinguished, the notes in a nearby brook, and the differences in foot patterns and voices.



When children play games that involve sight, they’re practicing early literacy skills!  Sight games help children recognize words, patterns, objects…and help them develop their memory!

  • Nature Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of items that the child can hunt for out of doors. Pine cones, smooth stones, etc.
  • Play “I Spy”: Play this fun game while taking a nature walk!



Over time, children will recognize certain smells as comforting, yummy, scary, exciting, etc.  Experiment with the scents and smells that the child recognizes and those that are more unfamiliar.

  • Blindfolded Smell Test: Blindfold the child and place some familiar scents under his/her nose, such as chocolate, cinnamon, paint, etc.  Ask him/her questions such as the following: What do you smell?  Do you recognize it?  Does it remind you of something else?
  • Scratch and Sniff: Collect some flowers, spices, or herbs that have a strong smell.  Glue some of these items on cardboard or index cards.  Have the child guess what the smell is, or use these cards for matching or memory games.


  • Taste

Children develop taste preferences based on what they are fed when they’re in the early years of their lives.  Helping children think about which tastes they do and do not prefer, however, will encourage them to try new foods and/or new combinations of foods.

  • Make a Salad:  As you add different vegetables or other ingredients, ask the child what he/she sees in the bowl.  Pick out different ingredients and allow the child to take a bite of each one.  Ask the child questions about the creation: What do each of the ingredients taste like?  Have you had that ingredient before?  Do you like the way it tastes?  Does it remind you of something else you’ve eaten?
  • Identify Foods: Gather up different foods (preferably that the child enjoys!) and have each child taste each food and guess what it is as he/she is blindfolded or has his/her eyes covered.  While the child is tasting, discuss certain words such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, fruity, etc. that will help him/her understand the meaning of the words.



Children learn about their bodies and how to communicate with others through touch.  Most of the feeling that we do happens through our feet and our hands.  Taking part in activities where children feel with their feet and hands help them to learn how to write, button their shirts, tie their shoes, among others.

  • Feeling With Your Feet: Have the child, barefooted, feel things with his/her feet and think about the way it feels.  Some things that you may wish to the have child feel include paint, playdough, grass, carpet, etc.  Ask the child questions about what he/she is feeling: What does it feel like?  Do you like the way it feels?  Is it rough or smooth?  Cold or hot?  Does it tickle your feet?   Do the same activity with your hands!
  • Make a Mess: Let the child play with materials like clay, water, sand, rice, playdough, and gelatin.  Let the child explore the feel of these items and describe how they feel.  Make sure to find an outdoor area or an indoor area where it’s safe to get messy! 🙂


“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” -Helen Keller

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