As one of our first summer reading activities, we did a Sense-ational! event, with different experiments to explore the five senses.
For sight, we made thaumatropes. A thaumatrope is a kind of optical illusion that occurs when you rapidly spin a double sided disc and your brain combines the two images into one. Made by Joel has a free great bird/branch printable that is available in black and white or color. I printed out the black and white ones and let the kids color them, then we glued them onto plastic drinking straws (less expensive and lighter weight than dowels, but just as effective!)
For sound, we made a noisemaker from a straw like this one. This project is a little harder than it looks. It takes some patience and practice to make a sound with the end product, but when you finally make a sound it’s loud and very worth it! We talked about air causing the straw to vibrate, then our ears picking up those vibrations as sound.
For taste and smell, we did a simple experiment using assorted flavors of gummy bears. (I got the basic idea for it here, but I didn’t like the idea of eating raw potatoes, so I substituted gummy bears. You could use any candy that has homogenous size and shape but is available in different flavors, like jelly beans, Skittles, or Starburst.) Each child got a handful of assorted gummy bears in a Ziploc bag. First, they were instructed to eat a gummy bear as they normally would and try to identify the flavor. Many of them easily did this because they used their senses of sight, smell, and taste to determine the flavor. Next, they were asked to close their eyes while they pick up and eat a second gummy bear. This was a bit more of a challenge because they didn’t have the information of what color their bear was, but many of them were still able to do it. Finally, they were instructed to keep their eyes closed, pick up a gummy bear and eat it while holding their nose closed. It is typically really hard to identify the flavor while doing this because our senses of smell and taste are interrelated. When I did this experiment myself, I really could not taste it at all until I released my nose. So cool!
For touch, I had six boxes with a different item in each–cotton balls, feathers, rubber duckies, foam ball, blocks, and a doll shoe. The kids were instructed to put a glove on one hand and keep the other hand bare. They put the gloved hand in first and were asked to describe what they felt and guess at what the item might be. Then they put the bare hand in and were asked to answer the same questions. Of course, most of the time the objects were difficult to identify while wearing the glove because the glove interfered with the skin receiving all the information about that object. The idea for this guessing game, as well as the suggestion to use baby wipes containers, came from the amazing No Time for Flash Cards.