A GIANT List of Playful Activities for Exploring the Five Senses (2024)

Looking for fresh ideas for five senses activities to explore with your class? Then this list is the #1 place to start! Below you will find over 50 playful five senses learning ideas, sorted into categories for each of the senses – smell, touch, sight, sound and taste!

Suitable for preschool through to the early years of elementary, these five senses activities are also perfect as learning invitations or sensory play ideas for learning home or school!

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But first, what is so important about learning about the five senses anyway?

From the moment a baby is born (and even before birth), they are absorbing information about world through the five senses – what they see, hear, touch, smell and taste. What adults often don’t realise is how important this sensory learning continues to be – through toddlerhood and the early years of school. It has to do with brain development!

Put simply – babies are born with a brain full of neurons and learning about the world through the five senses develops pathways between these neurons. The more of one type of activity stimulating the senses that the baby (and child) experiences, the stronger the pathway becomes. The stronger the pathway, the easier it is for a child to learn more about that part of the world, not just for now but for life. Pathways which are not used often, will eventually disappear.

Let me give you an example. A baby is born into a bilingual home, one parent speaks English and the other French, and the child grows up learning both of these languages . This child has developed brain pathways which a child who only speaks English has not. Once both of these children have grown to adulthood, which will find it easier to learn a new language? The first one. For the second child, these pathways have not been reinforced so by around the age of 10 years of age, the pathway disappears. It does not mean the second child cannot learn a new language as an adult, it may just be more challenging for him to do so.

By providing babies, toddlers and young children with a wide range of experiences which involve their five senses, you develop these strong brain pathways. Pathways which will help them to learn at preschool, through formal schooling and onto adulthood, and this giant list of five senses activities is a great place to get started.

A GIANT List of 50+ Five Senses Activities

Learning About the Sense of Smell Activities

1. Scented Playdough: Scent a batch of homemade playdough. You can add vanilla, peppermint or other cooking essences, spices such as cinnamon, or even a little dissolved, instant coffee. Try our Best Ever Scented Playdough Recipe or our . Or make one batch of playdough, separate it into four or five pieces and scent each with a different smell and make a game of guessing which scent has been used for each.

2. Which Smell is Which?: Play a simple smelling game by stretching the leg of a pair of opaque tights over the top of a plastic cup in which you have hidden a smelly surprise. Cut onion, peanut butter, coffee, vinegar, lemon and peppermint are all great smells to explore.

3. Nature’s Scents: Head outdoors to collect flowers, interesting leaves, nuts and seed pods to use to create your very own colorful, nature collage. Be sure to smell and describe the scent of each item first.

4. Make Magical Potions: While you are having fun outside, why not make magical potions too!

5. Soap Crayons: Follow our instructions for making simple soap crayons.

6. Scented Rice Play: Have fun scooping and pouring with scented rice play – try our Rosemary Rice play or our festive Gingerbread Scented Rice.

7. Grow Your Own Scents: Grow a garden or small world together. Growing herbs is a great place to start as they offer a fabulous range of scents. You will also find more great suggestions in our list of playful plants for children’s garden spaces.

8. Chains and Crowns: Make daisy chains or floral crowns.

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9. Get Out and About: Visit a fish market or a flower market or florist. A farm or zoo will also offer a smelly sensory overload too.

Learning About the Sense of Sight Activities

10. Rainbow Room: Cover the windows of a sunny room in sheets of colored cellophane. As the sun shines through, have fun watching your room (and everything within it) change color.

11. Bubble Blower Painting: Try bubble blower painting. There is something quite magical about watching the bubbles burst into color!

12. Treasure Hunt in a Bottle: Create a treasure hunt in a bottle using rice, popcorn kernels, lentils or coffee beans to hide small objects from around your home. Fill a clear plastic water bottle with your preferred filling until it is about 3/4 full. Small objects you might add include a clothes peg, a key, dice, craft foam shapes or letters, a small coin, interesting buttons and tiny toys or figurines. Challenge your child to find all ten (or more!) hidden items.

For older children, make the treasure hunt trickier by using small items of one color and rice of the same color.

13. What’s Missing?: Play ‘What’s missing?’ with a preschooler.

14. Can You Make a Square Bubble?: Set your child the challenge of making a square bubble with our fun What Can You Use to Make Bubbles? Challenge.

15. Color Mixing: Try plastic bag color mixing for a low mess exploration of color change.

16. Folded Paint Monsters: Make folded paint monsters or folded paint butterflies. A simply magical activity for preschoolers.

17. Nature Scavenger Hunt: Head outdoors for a nature walk. Add this simple Five Senses Nature Scavenger Hunt for natural elements to really get kids using their senses.

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18. Scratch Art: Create your own scratch art drawing sheets for a colorful drawing activity.

19. Explore Emotions: Use our printable feelings and emotions cards and a mirror to explore the ways in which our faces convery different emotions. With the cards comes eight different suggestions for how to explore emotions with children. Or if you are working with toddlers or preschoolers, check out our suggestions in .

20. Calm Down Sensory Bottle: Our slow motion calm down sensory bottle is simply magical to make and watch.

21. Make Paper Pinwheel: Spinning pinwheels are truly captivating and we can show you how with our tutorial to DIY a paper pinwheel.

22. Get a Closer Look with a DIY Microscope: Have students take a closer look with their very own DIY microscope made with just four commonly found household supplies.

23. Play Detective with Fingerprint Forensics: The science of fingerprints is pretty cool and with our fingerprint forensics experiment you need to look very closely to solve the crime! A great five senses activity for elementary students.

Learning About the Sense of Touch Activities

24. Tabletop Monoprinting: Monoprinting is a fun way to create a super simple – all you need is kid friendly acrylic paint, a table or bench top and your finger!

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25. Get Silly with Putty: Make your own silly putty and try one of these great play ideas – they’re great for finger strengthening and co-ordination.

26. Bubble Wrap Fingerpainting: Fingerpainting on bubble wrap is lumps and bumps of fun!

27. Shredded Paper: Fill a child’s paddle pool with shredded paper to dive into. Hide animal figurines or alphabet puzzle pieces amongst the paper for treasure hunt fun.

28. Treasure Basket: Make a sensory treasure basket, choosing household items representing a range of textures. Check out the suggestions in our article, .

29. Games With Touch: Have fun with these five touch games.

30. Ice Painting: Brrrr! Ice painting is super cool!

31. Funfetti Playdough: Have fun exploring funfetti playdough with colored rice.

32. Rainbow Snake Pots: Make rainbow snake pots from plasticine.

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33. Water Play: Water play has to be the ultimate in sensory play for kids! Check out these 10 cool water play ideas.

34. Get Muddy!: Mud play is next level when it comes to five senses activities! Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with fifteen mud play ideas.

35. Make and Play with Slime: Feeling brave? Try making slime with elementary aged children. You can try our recipes for Fluffy Slime or Floam Slime or frosty Snow Slime.

Learning About the Sense of Hearing Activities

36. Obstacle Course: This ‘Don’t Ring the Bells’ obstacle course is oodles of fun and adds an extra cool movement challenge for kids.

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37. Play a Listening Guessing Game: Pop a box between you and your child and hiding the objects, make a sound with a household item for them to guess what it is. Try crinkling a plastic cup, shaking a container of rice, scrunching up a piece of paper or playing a percussion instrument. Then check out this collection of 5 more fun listening games.

38. Play Percussion: Play simple percussion instruments together. Play fast and slow, loud and soft, make a long sound and then a short sound. Find more ideas for playing with sound in this post.

39. Dance It Out: Put on some high energy music and dance with these ideas for creative movement with preschoolers.

40. Try the Plate Dance: This super fun dance is fabulous for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners. Even the adults will love it!

41. Musical Hide & Seek: Play hide and seek and gently shake a bell or shaker as a clue to where you are hiding.

RELATED: For more music inspired games, check out our collection of fifteen music games.

42. Phone a Friend: Make tin can telephones and have fun phoning a friend the old fashioned way!

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43. Wind Chime Craft: Search your home or classroom for threading treasures and follow these instructions for making your own wind chimes.

Learning About the Sense of Taste Activities

44. Blind taste test: Host a blind taste test and you might just encourage your children to try new foods!

45. If You Have Lemons…: Taste sour lemons and then make them sweet with this fabulous recipe for homemade lemonade.

46. Cooking: Cooking with a toddler or preschooler is a great way to introduce them to a range of taste sensations. Remember to cook both savoury and sweet recipes. Start with these 10 easy things to cook with kids or 10 things to cook with toddlers.

47. Make edible art: Combine learning about taste with learning about the artist, Matisse, with this fun edible art activity.

48. Fruity Flavors: Taste wedges of a range of citrus fruits – lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, mandarin/clementine – or melon – watermelon, honeydew melon, canteloupe. Older children can rate them according to sweetness or graph the class favorites.

49. Tasting Plate: Make a tasting plate of water crackers and dips – hommus, french onion dip, guacamole, tomato salsa, basil pesto and cream cheese are all easy and child friendly. Click through to see how we turned taste testing into a matching game!

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50. Head Out and About: Visit a local farmer’s market. Taste fruits and vegetables on offer, fresh juice, an organic bacon roll, fresh baguettes or other baked goods.

51. Jelly Bean Experiment: Does what you see in front of your effect your sense of taste? This Jelly Bean Taste Test Experiment will keep you guessing!

For more ideas for sensory exploration, check out these articles;


A GIANT List of Playful Activities for Exploring the Five Senses (2024)
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