A few weeks ago, our preschool-age homeschool group came to our house for a little science of the senses. I introduced them to our five senses, or as I explained to Everett, what we use to experience the world. For our class I set up five stations for partnered experiments, one for each sense, so that the kids (or scientists!) could come and go to each experiment at their choosing.
For our sense of hearing there were two experiments. The first explored distance with sound. First, the scientist closes his eyes or is blindfolded while holding a tube up to his ear. Any tube with at least an inch diameter would work. His partner taps on the tube at different spots, asking each time if the tap was close to his ear or far away from his ear. This was tricky, even for me!
The second experiment worked well for multiple ages. For the original experiment, the partner selects a scrap from a group of various "papers" (aluminum foil, parchment paper, tissue, lined paper, etc). Then, the blindfolded scientist tried to identify what kind of "paper" it was as his partner rustled the scrap by his ear. This worked great for my 4-year-old son, Everett, and his 5-year-old friend, Hugo. One of the other moms created an alternative for her younger son by simply identifying, exploring and comparing the sounds of the "papers"
Experimenting with our sense of taste, the scientists were introduced to the five different tastes and our taste buds. I set out bowls with honey water, lemon juice, salt water, cocoa powder, and vegetable broth (umami taste) that were labeled with their coordinating taste, and a box of Q-tips. The scientist could dip a Q-tip into each bowl to taste, or with the help of a partner, he could look at a diagram of his tongue and compare the same taste on different parts of his tongue.
For the sense of sight, they simply explored how differently some brightly-colored pictures looked through colored cellophane. I set out two pictures and asked the scientist to talk with his partner about the colors in the picture. Then the scientist could hold a piece of cellophane (or two different colored pieces) to his eyes and note how the colors in the picture changed.
Everett's two favorites were the experiments for sense of smell and sense of touch.
The smell experiment was a simple blindfold test, as well. I set up several baby food jars with orange peel, cinnamon, dirt, coffee, peppermint toothpaste, and chocolate...
The scientist (Everett in this case) sniffs each jar as his partner opens them, and he takes a guess at it's contents. Everett, sneaky boy that he is, started guessing correctly right away and I was impressed until it donned on me that he was peaking from the bottom of the blindfold!
Lastly, for the sense of touch I gathered several random objects in a closed bag and gave that to the scientists's partner. The partner selects an object from the bag and holds it up to the blindfolded scientist who tries to identify the object as he touches it with different parts of his body.
First, he touches with his elbow...
Then with his feet...
And lastly, with his hands.
This one could also become more challenging if you selected similar objects, such as several types of balls, for the scientist to identify.
Overall, the experiments were a success. The activities were short and simple, they were created mostly by objects I had around the house, and they introduced the five senses in a fun hands-on learning experience appropriate for multiple ages.