Level 1: Five Senses Unit

Our senses add so much variety and enjoyment to life! This week, we’ll learn about the five powerful senses our body possesses through discovery and experience. We will also learn about some of the strongest senses in the animal kingdom—and how these animals sometimes exercise their senses in funny, unexpected ways! Click here to print our tracker worksheet to keep a record of the activities you do and skills your child learns all week long.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Optional for upgrade:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Letter of the week: Y

New to the letter of the week? Start here! This week, we’ll highlight the letter Y for yum! (Or yuck, depending on your preference. 😉) Print your letter Y coloring sheet and Letter Guide. Let your child color the coloring sheet as you work through the next part of the lesson.

The letter Y makes 4 sounds. They are /y/ (as in “yellow”), /ĭ/ (as in “gym”), /ī/ (as in “cry”), and /ē/ (as in “baby”). Reinforce the sounds with our Letter of the Week Song.

Remember, the guide isn’t a worksheet! The first page is for you, the grown-up. Use it to introduce the letter name, the sounds it makes, and to demonstrate how to draw each letter. Display the Letter Guide in your school area along with the completed coloring sheet to reinforce the lesson throughout the week.

Next, use the second sheet to create a page for your child’s phonics book. Review the book a few times each week until your child has mastered these phonics.

Lesson 1:

Introduce this week’s topic by reading the book The Five Senses or Look, Listen, Taste, Touch and Smell. These books provide a basic understanding of each of our five senses, so choose the book that best meets your child’s attention span and learning level. And read the sections of the book that discuss each sense on the day we explore it.

Activity 1: Next, let’s incorporate all five senses as we prepare a snack: popcorn. Use an “old fashioned” air popper to make the popcorn.  If you can’t find one, the microwave is ok, but the popper will provide the best experience – and it’s less likely to burn! Teach your child how we can see, smell, feel, hear, and taste popcorn from its first pop to our final bite. As we read in our book, we see with our eyes, smell with our noses, feel with our skin (mostly our hands), hear with our ears, and taste with our tongues.

Activity 2: Now, let’s focus on the sense of hearing. Start by taking a “Sound Walk.” Take a walk in your neighborhood and listen for as many sounds as you can hear, checking off the ones you see on this printable scavenger hunt.

Activity 3: Animals sometimes hear very differently than humans. Let’s learn about the bottlenose dolphin and how it hears. Do this craft while you share more about the dolphin’s unique sense of hearing from the notes below. (We suggest you print and cut out the craft parts beforehand for younger children.)

Dolphins have much better hearing than humans—seven times better, in fact. They can hear a wider range of frequencies, and they hear ultrasounds (high frequency sounds) exceptionally well. Dolphins do have ear openings behind their eyes, but they use other body parts to enhance their hearing. For example, dolphins use their foreheads, or melon, for sound recognition. Their teeth also assist in hearing! Dolphin’s teeth are arranged to function similarly to an antenna, and they help receive incoming sound. They also feel sound vibrations in their jaw. Dolphins use echolocation to locate objects and identify their shape, size, orientation, direction, and speed. Dolphins also use sound to communicate underwater. They produce two kinds of sounds: a high-pitch whistling and a clicking sound. The whistling is used to communicate with other dolphins, as each dolphin has its own unique sound. The clicking acts as a sonar function, which dolphins use for echolocation.
(+) Want to learn more about dolphins? This fun video shares more dolphin facts. 🐬

Activity 4: Now, let’s highlight our own sense of hearing by making some instruments while we listen to this classical piece by Brahms.  As you listen, point out the contrasts in the music. Is it loud or quiet? Is it fast or slow? Does that change? Learn a few facts about this composer here. Next, make your own instrument with this simple craft. You can also work on the craft while you listen to help your child stay engaged. (Pro tip: Once your rain stick is constructed, it can be incredibly helpful for calming anxious children or helping them wind down from a tantrum!)

Lesson 2:

Today is all about the sense of touch. We use our skin to feel the world around us. It can protect us from danger and also helps us learn and understand our environment. You may want to review the touch pages of your senses book before beginning today’s activities.

Activity 1: What’s in the bag? 
(+) Add a language arts component to this lesson by discussing adjectives. The way we describe the objects (which are nouns) is by using words that are called adjectives. Once your child identifies the object, have them come up with as many adjectives as they can to describe the items. Want to add a writing component? Describe the adjectives for them or have them write them in list form if they are ready for that challenge.

Activity 2: Take a sensory walk. This Montessori-inspired activity will help your child experience their sense of touch through their feet.

Activity 3: Let’s learn about touch in the animal world! The manatee has an amazing sense of touch that gets a boost from the tiny hairs all over its body. These hairs can detect a change of current, temperature, and even the tidal force of the water the manatee swims in! Make this craft while you tell your child more about them. Here are a few more details to share:

  • A manatee’s entire face is about as sensitive as your fingertip!
  • They like to touch things in their environment using their face and their fins.
  • Watch this short video to learn more about the manatee’s unique sense of touch.
Lesson 3:

Do you smell something? (Answer: Almost all the time!) Today, we’ll take a whiff of all things smell. Watch this video to learn more about this sense.

Activity 1: Test your sense of smell with a fun game: guess that smell.

  1. Cut six little paper cups in half and put a small amount of food in each.  Double up the cups to make sure the food doesn’t soak through. Food suggestions include: banana, apples, pickles, cinnamon, peanut butter, and onion. But anything from your kitchen will work.
  2. Take six more paper cups and punch holes in the bottoms with a pointed edge (a pencil works best). Place the cup with holes over each little cup with food so that the child can smell the foods, but not see them.

    (-) Younger children with limited vocabulary can explore the scents and their sense of smell using clear bottles or open cups (you can use old seasoning jars) that allow them to see the contents as well. This blog has more tips.

Activity 2: Some animals smell better than we do. This link shows pictures of different animals with very powerful smell. Let’s focus on two of them.

Elephants: The African elephant has the strongest sense of smell in the animal kingdom. Its nostrils can smell water up to 12 miles away! You can read more about elephants and their senses here. Next, watch this video while you create this cute craft.

Snakes: Snakes have a strong sense of smell, too. (It helps them because they don’t have very good eyesight and they have limited hearing.) So what’s unique about the snake’s sense of smell? They do have nostrils to breathe, but they use their tongues to pick up scents. Their forked tongues pick up odor molecules from the air. Read more about snakes here, then do this craft.
(+) Is your child a snake lover? This video explains more about the importance of a snake’s forked tongue.

Activity 3: While you’ve got your paint supplies out, let’s make some art with some beautifully scented homemade “paint”—made from fragrant seasonings and spices!

Lesson 4:

Do you have good taste? (We think so!) Today’s lessons are all about the sense of taste, starting with the organ that does the majority of it in humans—the tongue! Start by watching this video to learn more.

Activity 1: What’s taste without a snack or two? Create this tasting plate (tweak it to suit your child’s favorite flavors) to give those taste buds a workout. As you nibble, ask your child to describe the flavors they’re tasting in as much detail as they can.
(+) Eating actually incorporates virtually all of your senses! Go beyond just taste by asking your child how they’re using their sense of sight, smell, touch, and even hearing with each snack.

Activity 2: Did you know that our sense of smell helps us taste? Let’s experiment with how your sense of smell can “fool” your tongue with this activity.

Activity 3: What animal has the best sense of taste? The catfish! (Who knew, right??) One reason for this is that it tastes not only with its mouth but with its whole body. They have long whiskers (called barbells) on their face that have taste buds, too. They can use their barbells to not only taste their food but also to locate it when it is nearby. Here are some more details about the catfish you can share with your child. As you teach, let your child color this catfish print-out.
(+) Want more? This video shows you the catfish’s amazing sense of taste in action.

Lesson 5:

Let’s take a look at the sense of sight! We see with our eyes. This video explains how the eyeball works. If your child is in preschool, it might be a lot of information, but use this video as a starting point and discuss it at their level. We should never underestimate their ability to learn, even complicated concepts!

Activity 1: I Spy games are a great way to hone in on your child’s sight skills. Try these two for some fun! Try the first one for a simpler start, or print page two for more of a challenge.
(+) Ready for some sight word practice? Try this I Spy word search activity.

Activity 2: The cones in our retina allow us to see the wonderful colors around us. This video explains how it works. After you watch it with your child, try this color mixing activity to teach how primary colors mix together to become other colors. Before starting this project, ask your child to predict what color they think they will make when they mix the two primary colors. By engaging your child in this type of conversation, you are developing critical thinking skills!

Activity 3: The eagle is known for its incredible vision. Below are some facts you can share with your child while they do this eagle craft. (We recommend pre-cutting these pieces in advance for younger children.)

  • The eagle’s eyes are very large when compared to the size of their heads, and their pupils are extremely large. Eagles see five main colors, whereas humans see only three. They have keen eyesight due to the design of their eyes, which contains many more light-sensitive cells than the human eye.
  • Eagles are a bird of prey which makes their keen eyesight a necessity. They are large in size and have a sturdier head, beak and overall build. Many eagles are actually bigger than other types of birds of prey (also known as raptors).(source)

Watch this short video about the harpy eagle to learn more.

Bonus Activity:

If you are ready for a new board game in your home, Pictureka is an excellent game to exercise your child’s I Spy skills and their eye coordination. It can be a little pricey brand new, but there are several websites and thrift stores that offer discounted and previously used versions. We have adapted this game for our own younger children by only using the picture cards and eliminating the timer. We played this game for years—it even served as eye therapy for one of our kids who had vision issues!

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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