Five Senses

Five Senses Detectives

Take a moment to consider your surroundings. What can you see? What sounds do you hear? How does where you are sitting feel? Is it lumpy or smooth? Hard or soft? Can you smell something cooking nearby? Does it smell sweet or spicy? Are you eating a snack? How does it taste? Is it salty? Sour? Bitter? You are now officially a Five Senses Detective, as you use your senses (and your BRAIN) to make sense of the world around you.

These activities include things that will help your child develop fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and engineering skills, and can help them engage in cooperative play, while fostering creativity and perseverance. Each theme also comes with recommended literature and viewing connections. Feel free to throw in your own activities that might relate, and don’t forget to post your results to social media and tag @discoverymuse to share with everyone else! 

Start your Five Senses Detective work by joining Handley Regional Librarian Katie Moss for a special story time read aloud of Five for a Little One by Chris Raschka.

Science Activities: Sense of Sight

 Fun Facts about the EYES:

The eye allows us to recognize light and color – as many as 10 million colors!

The eye and the brain work together to understand information! Sometimes the eye can be fooled and the brain fills in missing information or things that are not there.

When the brain is fooled or tricked by the information it is getting from the eye, we call that a visual illusion.

Try This! Make a Hole In Your Hand

In this activity, you will create a visual illusion using only a paper towel tube and your hand!

The idea behind this activity is to show you how each eye sees a slightly different view. When the brain puts the two views together to create one image, sometimes a visual illusion happens. 

  • Hold your paper towel tube in your right hand and place in it in front of your right eye.
  • Look through the tube like you are looking through a telescope, but (THIS PART IS IMPORTANT) keep both eyes open.
  • Choose an object to focus on across the room.
  • Hold your left hand in front of their left eye, with your palm facing you, about halfway down the paper towel tube. Your left hand should be next to or touching the tube.

What Just Happened? Did you see a hole in your hand? When you look through the tube and see a hole in your hand, you are seeing a visual illusion. The tube allows you to look across the room with your right eye and to see your hand with your left eye. Your brain takes what each eye saw and puts them together, making one image. That image makes it look like there’s a hole in your hand. To extend the activity, try this.

Try This! Make an I Spy Bottle

What You Need: a clean and empty water bottle with a lid; a funnel; rice; and small items to hide inside the bottle (e.g. beads, buttons, sequins, foam shapes, feathers, paperclips, etc.)

  • Drop 20 -30 small items into an empty  water bottle.
  • Count the small items together as you add them.
  • Use the funnel to pour rice into the bottle.
  • Be sure to leave space at the top.
  • Put the cap on the water bottle.
  • Shake the bottle so that the rice and small items mix.
  • Play I SPY together. “I Spy an orange bead.” “I Spy a blue feather.” “I Spy a pink eraser.”

More Visual Illusions!

At the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, we currently have an Ames Room on the first floor. The science behind the Ames Room is something we see in movie magic, when we want to make something appear smaller or larger than normal (think the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings). What makes the Ames Room illusion work is the vantage point. Viewed from a particular angle, the room looks square, even though the ceiling on one side is actually about twice the height as the other. Since we are used to looking at “square” rooms, the brain decides the Ames room IS square, which is what causes the people inside to appear to grow and shrink as they move from one side to the other.


You can make your own Ames Room!

Here are some more visual illusions you can try at home, as well as some visual illusion puzzles to try to solve.

Science Activities: Sense of Hearing/Sound

How Does Sound Work?

Sound is created by vibrations and travels in waves. It moves through the matter and pushes particles around. These vibrations rattle the thin membrane of our eardrum and that’s how we hear.

Try this: Sound Sorting Activity

Test the sensitivity of your ears to different pitches (the rate at which vibrations are produced).

Without peeking or using any other sense except your sense of hearing, shake the canisters and try to match them based on the sounds you hear.

Some pitches will be lower. Some will be higher. What do you think is causing the canisters to sound different from each other? How is your ear able to tell the difference between canisters? 

To do this activity, you will need: clean (empty) yogurt cups, paper cups, or small jars; aluminum foil to cover the top of the empty cups; objects to fill the cups and create sounds (e.g. erasers, buttons, beans, rice, beads, rocks, blocks, puzzle pieces, etc.)

  • Decide how many cups or matching pairs you want to have.
  • Work with two cups at a time. 
  • Fill each of the two cups with the exact same thing (e.g. two pink erasers, 4 beans, or even nothing at all).
  • Cover the cups securely with the foil so that you can’t see what is hiding inside the cup.
  • Repeat this process for as many pairs of sounds as you want for the game.
  • Mix up the cups.
  • Invite a family member to try to match the sounds by only using his or her sense of sound/hearing.
  • How quickly can you match the cups? Which ones had a higher pitch? Which ones had a lower pitch? How could you tell the difference without looking?

Explore Sound With More At Home Science Experiments

Science Activities: Sense of Smell


The nose has special cells, which help us smell.

The human nose can smell many different odors but is far less sensitive than other animals, such as dogs. 

Bats have developed a keen sense of smell in order to find their own families among all the other bats that may be living in the same cave or tree. Like many animals in the natural world, bats find their pups through their sense of smell, position, and even their hearing. Just like us, bat senses work together.

Try This!      Using only your sense of smell (no peeking with your eyes), try to match the “smelly cups” with their correct partner. 

To Do This Activity, You Will Need: clean empty paper cups, cotton balls, different scents from your kitchen (get your grown-up’s approval first) such as vanilla, lemon, peppermint, vinegar, cinnamon, coffee, etc.,

  • Pick out 4-5 different smells from your kitchen with your grown-up’s approval (we like things like vanilla, lemon, peppermint, vinegar, cinnamon, coffee, etc.)
  • Put 3-4 drops of a liquid scent on a cotton ball. Place the cotton ball in a small paper cup and cover it with another cotton ball.
  • Make two cups for every scent you are using.
  • If you are using a spice like cinnamon, sprinkle it in the bottom of the paper cup, then cover it with cotton balls so that it looks the same as the other cups.
  • Mix up the cups.
  • Take turns trying to create scent matches using only your nose to guide you!


Science Activities: Sense of Taste

How Does Taste Work?

Taste buds are sensory organs that are found on your tongue and allow you to experience tastes that are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The average person has about 10,000 taste buds, and they are replaced every 2 weeks or so.

Taste buds have very sensitive tiny hairs that send messages to the brain about how something tastes, so you know if it’s sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. Your nose also has special cells that help you smell. They send messages to the brain. About 80 percent of what we think we taste is actually smell. Flavor is a combination of taste and smell. Test this yourself by holding your nose closed the next time you eat something, can you taste it very well? Chances are you can’t. 

Try this: Taste sorting game

It’s time for a Healthy Snack party with the family. With your grown-up’s permission, raid the refrigerator and cupboards to find small samples of foods that fit the different things the tongue can taste (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami). Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), or savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness).

Practice healthy habits while you sample the foods and decide where they go (that means CLEAN HANDS and no sharing bites). You can write the food in on the graph below or draw a picture of it. There may be disagreement about whether a food is sweet or salty. That’s okay. Talk together about why we might have different reactions to food and taste.

Talking Tips and Further Investigation: How many foods were sweet? How many were salty? Bitter? Sour? Umami? Count the foods together. Talk about where in the world each food comes from. Have you tried food in each category? If not, are there other foods you’d like to try? Do some research and prepare a recipe together.


Science Activities: Sense of Touch

Fun Facts about the sense of touch:

The largest organ in the body is skin.

The skin has at least 5 types of nerve endings, which work with our brain to give us our sense of touch. The skin has millions of sensory nerve receptors that allow us to feel pressure, moisture, temperature (hot and cold), vibration, and pain.

Most of the time, the skin receptors send information about touch directly to the brain. Some of the time, however, the message goes right to the muscles to help protect the body. These receptors are called reflexes. After the muscles react, the data is sent to the brain.

Try This! 

For this activity, you will need a small pan or tub; rice or beans to fill the tub; the graph (see below) that you can adapt for the items you pick; and assorted items to place and hide in the tub (we used shape blocks, but you can use buttons, blocks, legos, toys trucks — just try to make sure you have different textures and shapes included).

  • Set up your sensory bin by pouring beans or rice into a shallow pan and burying the objects. Take turns asking each other to try to find all of the red cars or the blue squares.
  • Talk about the items you find. Are they soft? Are they rough? Are they bumpy? Are they smooth? Are they hard? Are they squishy? Are they prickly? How do they feel to your sense of touch?
  • Sort the items on the graph. How many of each do you have? Count them together.
  • Sort the shapes in the sensory bin. What shapes are there? How many of each do you have? Count them together.

How many of each are in the bin? Graph them together. 

¿Cuántos de cada uno están en la papelera? Graficarlos juntos

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Sense of Touch Art Activity/Fine Motor Activity

Making Slime is an ooey gooey tactile activity just right for experimenting with the sense of touch. For this activity, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 (4-ounce) bottles washable school glue, such as Elmer’s (see note for variations)
  • 1 to 2 drops liquid food coloring (optional)
  • 1/4 cup glitter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons saline solution (i.e., contact lens solution), divided

You can follow along with Megan and Alice as they test out the slime recipe for us or you can grab the recipe from 

Physical Activity

Now that you are a Five Senses Detective, it’s time to go outside and have your very own Five Senses Scavenger Hunt.

To get some ideas for your scavenger hunt, take a walk with MB. As you take your virtual nature walk, follow along with MB’s nature guide below and see how many things you can check off your list!

Now it’s time for YOU to take a walk. Make your own five senses scavenger hunt or be inspired by MB’s. What can you touch? What can you hear? What can you see? What can you smell? You shouldn’t taste things on your walk, but you can look for things that might be tasty to insects, birds, or small animals.

Get some of those wiggles out while showing that you have what it takes to be a Five Senses Detective!

Five Senses Detective Scavenger Hunt