Exploring objects with different senses
Key experiences for babies and toddlers-Object exploration
As you know, we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Babies and toddlers use their senses daily to discover the world.
A few examples:
- A young baby looks at his hands for the first time. He puts them in his mouth to discover them and smells the soap on his hands after bath time. Once he has acquired cause and effect, he will discover that his hands can produce a sound when he claps or shakes a rattle.
- A baby explores blocks. He looks at them, he touches them, and he puts them in his mouth. He examines their texture, but he also measures them. He attempts to fully understand their shape. Providing textures or scented blocks will make it possible to stimulate his senses even more.
- A toddler explores food with his hands. He spreads yogurt on a surface as if it is paint. He mashes peas to see what is hiding inside, and puts food in his mouth to discover its texture, shape, and taste. He is extremely interested in the smell of various foods.
Senses are very important for babies and toddlers. If one sense is less developed, another sense will take over. For this reason, introducing activities involving a wide range of objects that will call upon all senses is important. The objects must be diversified, safe, and attractive for children.
An object is any element that can be found in a child's environment. Anything and everything can interest babies and toddlers. Toys are far from being the only objects that little ones will find interesting to manipulate. For example, the flower growing in your garden or in a flower pot is just as important as the plastic spinning top in your toy chest. In the same way, cardboard boxes from your recycling bin can be just as attractive for young children as colourful store-bought blocks.
Here are a few activities related to the discovery of objects using senses. Always verify that your weekly activities involve all five senses.
Activities for exploring objects-Sense of touch
Cut holes out of each side of a large cardboard box that has a lid. The holes must be large enough so children can insert their hands through the holes. Deposit various objects with different textures (soft, rough, smooth) in the box. Put the lid on the box. Babies and toddlers will enjoy plunging their hands inside the box to discover the different textures and grab hold of the objects.
Different types of fabric represent another great way to give babies and toddlers the opportunity to discover a wide range of textures. Simply cut many different types of fabric into small squares and set them in a box. Young children will enjoy exploring the contents of the box (supervision required). If you know a seamstress, she may have several different fabric scraps she can give you for this activity. The following types of fabric are especially interesting: velvet, fake fur, denim, silk, burlap, peach skin, etc. Variation: After having let children manipulate the fabric for a while, add plastic containers they can fill and empty with pieces of fabric. Variation 2: Let babies and toddlers stick the pieces of fabric on a large piece of cardboard or adhesive paper.
Use fake fur (or any other interesting fabric) to make simple mittens without thumbholes. The fur should be on the inside of the mittens. Slide children's hands or feet inside the mittens so they will discover the fabric's texture.
Nature through the seasons
During summer months, exploring water is very interesting for little ones. Children can use water to feel different sensations all over their body. During winter months, fill a large container with snow and set it on your daycare floor so children can manipulate its contents. During fall, children love crumpling dry (and not so dry) leaves. During spring, provide children with the opportunity to feel raindrops fall on their hands or face.
Prepare a series of texture bins. Each bin should contain a single element (texture). For example, you may offer a flour bin (give children their pacifier and have them wear a hat), a feather bin, a puffed cereal bin, a "goops" bin, a water bin, and a bin with a thin layer of paint on the bottom and hidden objects to discover.
Use wide adhesive tape to secure a large fake fur blanket on the floor and encourage babies and toddlers to sit and play on it.
Activities for exploring objects-Sense of smell
Purchase a few cardboard books containing scents to discover. Children especially enjoy "scratch & sniff" books.
Soaps and hand creams offer a wide range of scents to explore. Purchase several different products to introduce children to a variety of scents. Use them to wash their hands and apply a dab of lotion afterwards. Invite children to smell their hands.
Children love to lay with scarves. Wearing them or dancing with the scarves will be even more fun if you add a drop of vanilla, lavender, or almond oil to them. If you wish, you may also ask each child's mother to bring you a scarf to which she applied a few drops of her favorite perfume.
Deposit scented candles inside tiny plastic containers. Punch holes in the lids of the containers and let children manipulate, stack, and smell them.
Visit your local flower shop or outdoor vendor. Purchase a bouquet of flowers or cut flowers in your flowerbed. Even dandelions are perfect for this activity! Invite children to smell and manipulate the flowers. Use them to decorate your daycare. You can also use the flowers to create collages.
This activity can be presented directly in your kitchen. Show children your spice rack. Sit with your group and open each spice jar and let children smell them to give them the opportunity to discover new scents.
Activities for exploring objects-Sense of sight
Mirrors are great for putting children's sense of sight to work. Young babies will not recognize their reflection. However, they will recognize you! Here are a few simple activities that will help them recognize themselves.
- Provide a hat bin. Children can use the contents of the bin to dress up and admire their reflection (and yours).
- Use a makeup pencil to draw a dot on the tip of each child's nose and invite them to look at their reflection in the mirror.
- With toddlers, provide a small mirror and let them paint the tip of their nose.
- Feathers can be used to tickle children's toes in front of the mirror.
- Window markers can be used to draw directly on a mirror.
Peek-a-boo games (where you become the object)
Peek-a-boo games are always interesting for young children, especially children 10 months old or older who are in the process of acquiring object permanence. Here are a few ways to make them even more fun.
- Hide behind a blanket and say "peek-a-boo" every time you remove it. You can use tulle (transparent) with very young children (under 10 months old) so they can always see you.
- Hide your face in your hands. Say "peek-a-boo" every time you remove your hands and smile.
- Stand behind a window (outside) and play peek-a-boo with children who are on the other side of the window (inside).
- Create a simple hide and seek game by hiding behind a furniture item or a half-opened door. Call out to children to encourage them to look for you.
Lights are also very attractive for children and great for playing with their sense of sight. Here are a few ways you can play with them:
- Fill a container with small flashlights. Turn the lights down and let babies and toddlers manipulate them.
- Hang a string of Christmas lights from your daycare ceiling. Turn them on at the end of the day.
- Use one or two battery-operated candle(s) to create a special atmosphere at lunch time.
Storybooks and picture books
Storybooks, pictures books, and photo albums all represent great examples of ways to exploit children's sense of sight. Here are a few ideas.
- Stick various pictures or illustrations next to your changing table. Have fun naming the items and encouraging older toddlers to identify them during diaper changes.
- Recycle damaged books by sticking their illustrations in a row on a wall within your daycare. Explore the story, moving from one picture to the next.
- Recycle very large gift bags by cutting the illustrations on either side of each one (keeping the handles intact). Use the strings to hang the illustrations on your daycare walls.
Activities for exploring objects-Sense of hearing
Throughout your daycare, deposit several different gift bags. Insert a rattle or musical instrument in each one. Let babies and toddlers go from one bag to the next to manipulate the items. This activity can also represent a great outdoor activity.
Purchase or recycle musical greeting cards. Glue different illustrations or pictures on each side of the cards. Laminate them and let babies and toddlers open and close them repeatedly so they may discover the sounds.
Wind chimes are great for exploring gentle sounds and melodies. Here are a few ways you may use them.
- Hang a wind chime from your swings. As you push children on the swings, the wind chimes will produce soft sounds children will enjoy.
- Hang several wind chimes within your daycare. Hold children in your arms and go from one wind chime to the next to explore the different sounds.
- Hang a wind chime from the ceiling over your changing table. Attach a string children can pull on to hear its melody (supervision required).
Sounds of nature
Sounds that are present in nature are always fun to explore with little ones. Here are a few ideas.
- Encourage children to listen to different outdoor sounds. When you are out and about, listen to the barking dog, the chirping birds, and the wind in the tree branches.
- Purchase CDs containing sounds of nature. Listen to them with your group.
- Use your mouth to imitate the sounds associated with different animals children are familiar with. Accompany each sound with a picture or figurine representing the corresponding animal.
Activities for exploring objects-Sense of taste
Babies and toddlers are given the opportunity to explore a variety of new foods. This exploration can become an interesting game or activity. Verify that children have already been introduced to the foods below before presenting these activities.
Watermelon, due to its texture, is very interesting for young children. Use a melon baller to prepare several melon balls and serve them to babies and toddlers who have already eaten this fruit. If the melon balls are too big, cut them in half. Simply set them on the table and encourage children to explore and eat them.
Children love squishing green peas before eating them. Encourage them to do so.
Depending on the ages of the children in your group, serve a variety of easily digested cold foods: frozen yogurt, ice cream, frozen fruit, etc.
Select three types of juice. On each glass, stick a picture of the corresponding fruit (for example an apple, an orange, and a grape). Pour a small quantity of juice in each glass and invite children to taste each type of juice.
Deposit a small quantity of pudding or applesauce on the table for each child. Let babies and toddlers explore and eat the preparation with their fingers.
Early childhood educator