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Teach Your Child About the Five Senses

Every child comes into the world programmed to perceive. Perception happens as a result of the intricate interchange between brain and the five senses. No technology in the world can match this!

Your child naturally uses their senses to gain information and explore the world. One of the things that makes each of us unique is how we perceive through our senses, with resulting feelings, thoughts and responses to stimuli.

Your baby’s growing awareness of themselves as a separate person happens gradually as the input received from their senses- touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell- begins to be integrated and take on meaning.


Very young babies are a “bundle of nerves”. Although they have been using their senses before birth, coming into the world means entering a whole new arena. The sights, smells, textures, sounds and tastes have changed. New information streams in without much of a filter. That is probably why some babies often seem unsettled.

A soft song, gentle rocking, the sight and smell of Mom and Dad, are sources of reassurance and comfort. The interaction you have with your baby will shape the way they use their senses to perceive the world. Studies of babies who are not held and touched, sung to or rocked, point to the real need for stimulating the senses. Normal development cannot happen without the senses being engaged.

So sing a lullaby, read a story, show your child colors and shapes, let them experience various textures and sensations and hear and smell the sounds and smells of the kitchen and the outdoors. At this age, giving your young child a balance between receiving stimuli and rest will help the nervous system develop naturally and according to their own bent.

Main points to address:

  • We perceive the world through our senses.
  • Meaning is derived from the interchange of information gained from the senses.
  • Your manner and the way you handle your young child will affect the way they perceive the world.
  • Find a balance between stimulating and over stimulating. Kids need rest from the world. We do too!
  • Sing, rock, read to your child. Take them outdoors. Let them explore within a protected environment.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children are already becoming expert perceivers. They are actively exploring the physical world and the relationships within it.

Early school experiences provide opportunities each day to use the senses. Singing and clapping, watching paint flow on paper, listening to variations of tone in Teacher’s voice all exercise the senses and provide valuable information.

Movement to music engages sight, hearing, touch. Dance wakes up the senses. Cooking and cleaning engage sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste! Everyday life experience will teach your child to use their senses to make decisions. If it smells like its starting to burn, it’s time to turn the heat down. The baby is awake. He is crying. Dad came home. It’s time to play!

Playing outdoors is an important source of stimuli for this age child. The sounds, sights, smells and textures of nature especially appeal to this age.

In school, kids may start to formally learn about the senses. But they will already have an intuitive knowledge of how their senses operate. The library should have books appropriate for this age with drawings depicting the physical mechanisms of the senses. They will be fascinated to discover the complexity of the eye, the wonder of the nose, skin, tongue and ears and how magically they work together with the brain and central nervous system.

Main points to address:

  • School provides an important arena for exploring with the senses.
  • Dance, song, drawing and painting, and time in nature will utilize the senses in positive ways.
  • Kids this age can begin to understand the intricacy of the senses.

Grades 4-6th

Older school age children are fairly well established in taking in and using information gained from the senses. They may come to prefer or favor one or two senses over the others for enjoyment or self-expression. This is the time when natural talents emerge.

Helping your child to find and know their gifts means fostering their inclinations. If your daughter loves the sound and feel of tap shoes on a dance floor, she will want to do more of it. If your son loves the touch, smell and colors of clay and enjoys shaping it into a pleasing form, let him work with clay. Perhaps your child loves the sensation of the wind and the spray of snow on their face. Take them skiing! Observing the way your child experiences the world will show you how they are using their senses.

Having an anatomy and physiology book for children can fill in some of the blanks for your child regarding their senses. Explicit teaching can help them see how the senses operate and are connected. But the best teacher will be life itself and your child’s direct experience with the world around them.

Main points to address:

  • The senses will inform you and your child of their natural preferences and gifts.
  • Foster your child’s inclinations for one sense or another by providing opportunities for exploration and experience.
  • Explicit teaching takes a back seat to direct experience.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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