This week we are sharing activities that help improve our powers of observation and our awareness of the world around us. We do A LOT of sensory activities in our programs. We have found them to be a great way to focus energy, tune in to our surroundings, and have lots of fun. Engaging in activities that feed our senses has many benefits for both children and adults, including improving our attention, emotional regulation, and organizational abilities, and much more. Kathleen Lockyer shares her insights into the role nature plays in a child’s developing senses in this article: NATURE SENSE: Tuning into Nature’s Operating Manual.
The activities we offer this week will activate all your child’s senses in different ways. Check out our website, social media, and Youtube channels for more activities and ideas.
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Taking a moment to express appreciation for the natural world deepens our connection to it. We encourage you to share thoughts of gratitude and thanks for the gifts nature provides.
We are grateful for:
The sound of spring rain
The warmth of spring sunshine
The smell of spring flowers
The taste of tender spring greens
The sound of singing birds
For all of you who allow us to share our love of nature with you and your children.
Expanding our Senses Activities:
Video: visit our Youtube channel for education videos and stories.
Nature Collections: gather things from your walks around your home and neighborhood. Keep them in a special spot in your house where you can see, smell, touch, and play with them regularly. Loose parts such as these can spark creativity in your child’s play and can be used throughout the week for crafts. ***Be respectful when collecting and follow the collection rule: If it’s a living being (plant or animal) leave it be, watch it for a while, take a picture or draw it, but do not remove it from its home.
- This week try to find items that represent each sense: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Here are some ideas: colorful flower petals, smelly plant leaves, something with a rough texture, a smooth texture, things that make sound when moved or touched.
- Make some noise: Fill containers small stones, beads, beans, popcorn kernels, rice or other things, cover with a lid. What sounds can you make? Try different materials and different containers. Do they make different sounds?
- Use a paper towel tube or toilet paper tube as your container. Cut out two circles from construction paper or a paper bag. Wrap one circle around one end of your tube and secure it with string or a rubber band. Fill the tube with your material of choice or try a combination. Secure the other end of the tube with the other circle of paper. How does it sound?
Nature Journal Ideas and Printable Pages
- Scavenger Hunt for the Senses: take this fun scavenger hunt as a guide for finding things to see, hear, touch, and smell. Can you find other things that aren’t on this list? When you’re finished, put this page in your Nature Journal.
- Sound Map: (Materials: a piece of paper or index card, writing utensil, spot to sit quietly).
- Mark a spot in the middle of your paper, this represents you. Listen for sounds around you and make a note on your paper of where the sounds are in relation to where you are sitting. For example if you hear a bird behind you draw a little bird or write the letter b or some other symbol on the paper.
Game and Challenges
- Guessing box/bag: Put various items into a box or bag or something else the other person can’t see into. Have the other person feel around in the box (no peeking) and guess what the items are. Some items you might consider include a fir cone, some moss, a rock with interesting textures, a snail shell (without the snail). You can also play with things from around the house, including grapes or orange wedges (though they might get sticky), a cooked noodle, a piece of cloth, a toothbrush, a small picture frame, a familiar piece of costume jewelry. Consider including something with a strong but pleasant scent, like a stick of cinnamon bark or a sprig of an herb from your yard. Very important: Don’t put anything in the box that you wouldn’t want to touch yourself, and don’t include living animals (including worms and insects) because the animal might get hurt.
- Camera, Camera: (Played with a minimum of two people) One person is the camera the other the photographer. The camera sits or stands in front of the photographer with eyes closed. The photographer gently moves the camera’s head to point in the direction of something they want to take a picture of and gently pulls on the camera’s ear to activate the shutter. The camera’s eyes open to reveal the scene the photographer wanted to capture. Extension ideas: 1. Draw a picture of the scene in your nature journal. 2. The camera tries to guess what the photographer is trying to capture, i.e. a tree, a flower, an insect, etc.
- Animal charades: Use your sense of imagination to become an animal. Can others guess who you are? When imitating your animal think about how they use their senses. Do they listen carefully? Do they use their sense of touch to walk quietly or get into tight spaces? Can they smell their way home? Can they see or are they blind?
- Blindfold Challenges: when we dampen our sense of site our other senses are heightened. Here are some fun challenges we do during camp:
- Meet a…(tree, chair, fence post): carefully guide a blindfolded player to an item or spot in your yard or house. Allow them a few moments to explore the area or item using there sense of touch, smell, and hearing. Carefully guide them away from the spot while trying to disorient them with a gentle spin. Remove the blindfold. Can they find the spot or item?
- Caterpillar Walk: lead a blindfold walk through your yard or neighborhood. A sighted person will lead a blindfolded person around having them SAFELY touch and smell things. Note: this is a trust activity, it can be unsettling to be blindfolded and led around. If you are the leader be respectful and careful to lead your partner is a safe manner.
- Rope Blindfold Walk: this is an extension of the Caterpillar Walk. Rather than leading a blindfolded person you lay a rope out around your yard or your house. Lead a blindfolded person to the start of the rope and allow them to follow the rope either by crawling or walking barefoot along the rope. Be sure the rope does not guide the blindfolded person into an area where they may get hurt or run into something.
- Sound Trail: a leader makes sounds while a blindfolded players follows the sound.
- The Power of Suggestion: (Played with atleast two people: the Chef and the Guest; You will need: some strongly flavored condiments (ketchup, mustard, jam – make sure it’s nothing the Guest hates or is too spicy), a strongly scented flavoring extract (like peppermint or anise), a cotton ball, a small dish, a plate, toothpicks or small spoons, and a blindfold.) The Guest waits patiently in another room while the Chef sets up the tasting table. Chef puts pea-sized dabs of the condiments on the plate so they’re not touching; keep the plate on the Chef’s side of the table. Put some extract on the cotton ball and place it in the small dish in front of the Guest’s chair. Now, go to your Guest and blindfold them. Carefully guide them to the table and have them sit down in front of the scented cotton ball. Ask them to breathe in deeply through their nose. The Chef will then feed the Guest small tastes of any random condiment. Can the Guest tell what they are tasting? What if the Chef tells them the condiment is a different one than what they’re actually tasting (the Chef puts ketchup on the Guest’s tongue, but tells the Guest it’s jam); what does the Guest think of it?