To learn more about the senses check out our new book STEAM Powered Kids – Learning the Senses. A complete unit study into STEAM and the senses.
I love that moment in the spring when you can smell the grass for the first time in many, many long months. We call it the smell of green, and it is the most welcomed and amazing smell I encounter every year because it means the snow and dead of winter is over and all the vegetation is pushing it’s way back to life. It’s a sign of hope and new beginnings. To help my boys embrace the changing of the seasons as we approach the end of spring and beginning of summer, we came up with this fun activity and called it:
Nature Senses Detective
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This is a fantastic hands on activity that would be wonderful to do a few times a year as the seasons change and vegetation changes and matures. Perhaps for Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox?
To do this Nature Senses Detective activity you need:
Small plastic containers
Access to nature
Sounds pretty easy, right? That’s because it is. This activity is all about slowing down, getting into the moment and embracing mindfulness through our senses.
To start, go outside and collect items for the senses detective challenge. These can be flowers, leaves, clover, pine needles, pine cones, rocks, whatever the children want to collect. Just make sure the items will fit into the containers.
As you collect each item have the children take a moment to explore the item. Touch it, smell it, study it. The idea is to have them slow down and pay attention to things they likely race past every day.
We literally want them to stop and smell the roses!
Once you have all your items, bring them inside and have the organizer place one item in each container. Then place each container into a paper lunch bag. With live plants it’s best if this is all done in the same day so they don’t get too wilted.
For the challenge, have the children work in pairs, or you can do this with the children. You need one person to be the detective and one will be the assistant.
Have the assistant use a blindfold or close their eyes. Now the assistant’s job is to open one paper bag at a time, pull out the container inside, and take off the lid. Then they should hold it under the nose of the detective and the detective tries to guess what the item is strictly from the smell.
If they can’t guess from smell, it’s time to move onto another sense.
Perhaps shake the container to see if they can identify it based on sound.
Or, if it’s harvest season and you have edible plants, ask them to use their sense of taste to try and identify a fruit or vegetable.
They can also use their sense of touch to explore the item.
Finally, if they are still struggling to identify the item, you can have the detective take off the blindfold and use their sense of sight.
Obviously sight is the easiest sense to use for identification, so we want to leave that one to last.
Now before you start the next paper bag have the detective and assistant switch roles.
It’s very important that a responsible adult supervises this activity. Not everything is safe to explore through the sense of taste (we left taste out completely from ours, because none of our items were edible) and you also need to be careful with allergies or anything that might be considered dangerous. This of course will vary based on where you live and what grows in your area. Ensure you are using common sense and keeping everyone safe.
This sensory exploration activity is a wonderful way to get outside, get into nature and embrace a few moments of mindfulness. Enjoy being a Nature Senses Detective!
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