I love teaching preschool STEM, especially about the five senses because children can immediately relate to the lessons. I wanted to up my game and set up five senses stations, or maybe you’d call them five senses learning centers in my classroom to support the circle time lessons and activities we are also doing on the topic. Here is how to make five senses learning centers and how we explored with them and incorporated these five senses printables into circle time lessons too. I hope that this will help you learn how to teach five senses to preschoolers in fun engaging ways because teaching preschool should be fun!
Five Senses Printables
I created these five senses printables for myself, to help me teach, which always means I know they will help other teachers too. I wanted clear photos of children using their senses to demarcate my five senses activities around my classroom, and also use them as anchors for group lessons. Not only do I have posters but also smell and taste sorting cards since those are harder to do at free choice in a classroom, especially if using food is prohibited.
I made a mini poster for each sense then have smell and taste sorting, with headers that fit perfectly into my small or full-size pocket charts. You’ll notice a wide variety of foods in the taste sorting cards, use what will work for your class. Some are interchangeable while others like roses, garbage, and hand sanitizer are just smell cards! See all these printables in action below.
Of course, you can take the time to make these – or just download the ones I made here for $4.99
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Five Senses Learning Centers
For the free choice activities, I made five senses learning centers using the printable signs and the sorting cards too. Let’s check out what activities we had for each learning center for each of the five senses.
Sense of Sight Learning Center
At this preschool learning center, we had all kinds of things ready for our students to explore with their eyes. We had viewmasters, kaleidoscopes, prism viewers, our letter hunt sensory bottle with a magnifying glass, and I-spy books both bought and homemade.
Sense of Touch Learning Center
This center had some rotating activities – we had our texture matching tray, some wiki stix, and some popits. This is how it looked a few days later.
We mixed our sense of touch and smell together the following week with chocolate playdough!
Sense of Hearing Learning Center
For this, we had some wonderful activities to explore. We had a sound-matching tray, whisper phones, a real stethoscope, and simple sound bottles I made. I was also going to include this musical instrument puzzle but ours is so old it stopped working! I promise it’s a great puzzle, just don’t keep it in your uninsulated garage for 14 years.
In addition to this sense of hearing learning center, try painting with sound. Just add jingle bells to brushes!
Also, a great outdoor activity to try when learning about the five senses or anytime is a listening walk!
Sense of Taste Learning Center
This learning center was all about sorting. We explored taste more with our group projects. Need these sorting cards? Buy them with all these posters here!
Sense of Smell Learning Center
Not only did we sort the big pocket chart with smell cards we also moved the learning center to a table the following day and made scented tissue paper flowers.This craft is super simple, just color tissue paper with scented markers, gather it, and wrap it with a pipe cleaner! My students LOVED this and I’ll do a more detailed post about it at a later date.
After the week where we were focusing heavily on the five senses, I put all the learning centers into bins and turned our main science center into one where my students could mix and match. It worked well to keep allowing children who are slower to warm up to learning centers a chance to check it all out, and others to revisit activities. It’s also going to be easy for me to pack it all up together! Get your printables for all these learning centers here!
Five Senses Activities for Circle Time
I had the learning centers out before I gave my introductory lesson about the five senses but only because of my class schedule, and this wasn’t my class’s first exposure to this theme or concept. This unit was just much more targeted at exploring all five. If you have never talked about it before I’d encourage you to read one of these two books the class before you set these learning centers up, then again the day of.
This was my opening question of the day for this unit. I try hard to fit a little math in wherever I can, tally marks are a great subitizing skill.
I loved that some of my PreK students knew that some people don’t have all five senses. After polling the class, we talked about how deaf people don’t hear or have a very hard time hearing, blind people can’t see, and then I got to share about my husband and how he can’t smell at all! Then we read this book:
My Five Senses by Aliki is hands down my absolute favorite five senses book for preschool and PreK. It is the right length, it breaks down the concept perfectly and is fun to read with a group. If you don’t have this book in your preschool library, click this link and grab it NOW. I love this whole Read and Find Out Science series and rave about it all the time, but seriously this is the BEST in the series!
Another great book is this one Me and My Senses by Joan Sweetnet, it’s out of print but like the book above does a wonderful job at explaining what our five senses are and why we have them.
Then on different days, we had different explorations with our senses.
Sense of Taste Circle Time Activity
Which tastes bitter the chocolate square or the chocolate chip? This came about because, in the book Me and My Senses mentioned above, they talk about how our taste buds can tell the difference between sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Let me tell you it’s hard to explain bitter to preschoolers, so we decided on a bitter chocolate vs. milk chocolate taste test. Cranberries would work too, you could get some unsweetened ones and sweetened ones to compare.
At snack this week we also tested out how foods tasted if we plugged our noses as we tasted them. We learned how important smell is for accurate taste! I have shared a lot of taste tests in the past so check them out too- an astronaut taste test, an apple taste test, and one of my favorites an oatmeal one!
Sense of Smell Circle Time Activity
We explored smell too! We voted on which we liked better, the smell of garlic or the smell of lime.
We started with me asking my students if they would like to share their favorite smells. This ended up being important because some are still learning to differentiate between smell and taste. So we had a little chat as that came up. Then followed with the smell test.
Sense of Sight and Touch Circle Time Activity
This lesson was all about using our sense of touch when we can’t see. I started it with a simple question. How do you read if you can’t see?
We read a book about Louis Braille which is wonderful but was WAY too long for PreK, I can’t recommend it for this age. I could have sworn I preread it at the bookstore and then popped it away for this lesson. Big mistake, I ended up abbreviating it and skipping many pages before offering it up on my buy nothing group. I hope to find a better book and update this lesson ASAP! I debated sharing that the book didn’t work but I want to be transparent with fellow teachers, sometimes no matter how long you have been teaching, your lessons have to be shifted on the go. Just don’t let it phase you.
Sense of Hearing Circle Time Activity
What Makes That Sound?
You will need small toys like animal figurines, matchbox cars, people figurines… anything that you can make an identifying sound with. Also, a bag to pull them from one at a time. I love playing this simple guess-the-sound game.
- Start by telling the children that you have a bunch of things that make sounds in the bag and you need their help to tell you what each item is.
- Invite the children to close their eyes if they are comfortable. You can explain that closing their eyes lets their ears work harder because when one sense is not working the others work harder.
- Choose an object, make the sound, and allow the children to call out the item. For PreK I require no yelling out, I know I am being tough but it’s February and I need these little poppets to be ready and confident when they get to kindergarten. Of course, I do not punish those who do, just praise those who resist.
- Pull it from the bag to see if any of the guesses were correct.
- I usually do this 7-10 times max with 2.5-3 year-olds, but with PreK, I usually try to get one for every student, but will stop early if they are fidgety!
I love this game! It works for any time like transitions or when we are learning about the five senses.
Now you know how to teach the five senses to preschoolers. You’ve got this!
Seriously after all this, if you are STILL looking for more five senses activities and lesson plan ideas. I have a few more on this list!