When we turn off sight, what other senses can we use? Offering chances to slow down and focus on individual senses is a super way to help kids fine-tune their senses, feel present in the moment and discover new things about themselves and their world. In this activity, inspired by the book What Color is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts, kids use their sense of touch to explore and guess hidden objects.
Get inspiration from literature: Read or watch and listen to the read-aloud of What Color is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts, a story about a child who seeks to explore and understand his multi-sensory world without sight. Wonder together, when we turn off sight, what other senses can we use?
Focus on each sense: Offer kids a nature treasure and invite them to focus in one one sense at a time and they explore it. What does the object look like? Then, invite kids to close their eyes and describe what it feels like. Is it bumpy? Lumpy? Rough? Smooth? Heavy? Hard or soft? What does it smell like? Does it make a sound? Go on a nature texture hunt and search for objects that feel soft, bumpy, rough, etc. Try out some of these ways to help kids focus on their sense of smell and discover the scents of nature. Or, try our Bird Song DIY to help kids tune in to their sense of hearing.
Mystery Box: Cut a hole or opening in one side of a cardboard box and hide an object from nature or two inside. Invite kids to place their hand inside and use their sense of touch to explore it. Older kids can describe how it feels, too. Can kids guess what the mystery object is using only their sense of touch? Add new hidden objects and repeat the guessing game! Want more sensory play ideas using the book What Color is the Wind? as a jumping off point? Try our Ribbon Kites DIY or make your own wind flags with our Catch the Wind DIY.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Slowing down and using each of our senses is a great way to help kids develop awareness of their senses and develop their ability to focus and stay present in the moment.
Curiosity means the ability and habit to apply a sense of wonder and a desire to learn more. Curious people try new things, ask questions, search for answers, relish new information, and make connections, all while actively experiencing and making sense of the world. To us, curiosity is a child’s ticket to engaging fully in learning and, ultimately, in life.
Why does it matter?
As a parent, this skill is, perhaps, the easiest to grasp and has the clearest connection to a young children’s learning. We all want my children to wonder, explore and drive their own learning and, better yet, to experience the world fully. Most teachers would agree that the curious children so often seem more attentive, involved and naturally get the most out of time in school. Even the research suggests that being curious is a driver of higher performance throughout one's life, as much if not more than IQ or test scores.
Focus & Self Control
What is Focus and Self Control?
We think of self control as a child’s ability to focus on something in such a way that maximizes learning. In order to do that, they first need to direct their attention and focus on a single thing. They also need to discern which information around them is most important and deserving of their attention. Thirdly, they need something called “inhibition.” Think of inhibition as the ability to control impulses, block out distractions and continue attending to the same thing. Focus, discerning and inhibition all require rather fancy brain work and are thought to be part of the “executive functions” or the set of cognitive processes involving the prefrontal cortex that help us manage ourselves and the environment to achieve a goal.
Why does it matter?
Our world is full of distractions, more today than ever. Kids who are in any learning situation need the ability to control their impulses, block out noise and attend to the person, objects, events, or discussions that are central to learning. As classroom teachers, we saw that kids who did this ruled the classroom. As outdoor educators and parents, we know the same holds true outside of school.
But don’t take our word for it; the research is impressive. It turns out that these executive function skills are closely tied to success in the classroom, higher level education and life beyond school. Experts like Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia have shown that, “If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions—working memory and inhibition—actually predict success better than IQ tests.” Although these skills are difficult for young children and don’t crystallize until adulthood, the more kids practice them, the better at them kids become.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?