A unit on the five senses introduces toddlers to methods of exploring the world around them and expanding their view of how things work. The five senses offer hands-on learning activities that are age-appropriate for toddlers, with activities that work at home or in a day-care setting.
Toddlers use their sense of sight all the time, but specific activities help them understand it better. Play "I Spy" to help them engage their sense of sight to find objects you describe. To show how much people rely on sight, try a blindfold activity. Because of the young age, you'll need a soft, safe area, such as a gym with padding on the floor. Let the kids feel around while wearing a blindfold. Another option is to hold the child's hand and lead her around the room, ensuring she doesn't hit anything. Talk about how it feels to not see your surroundings.
Strongly scented items help the kids engage their sense of smell during the unit. Put items like onion, vanilla, cinnamon, cheese and perfume-soaked cotton balls in small containers with lids. Poke a hole in each lid so the smell can escape. The kids smell the containers and guess what is inside.
Let the kids make sounds to explore the sense of hearing. Musical instruments work well for this part of the senses theme. Experiment with different instruments and how they sound. Incorporate words like loud, quiet, high and low to help the young children hear the differences in the sounds. A sound walk is another suitable activity for young children. Walk around inside or outside. Encourage the kids to stay as quiet as they can so they are able to hear other sounds. Stop occasionally to listen for specific sounds.
Tasting activities engage the toddlers' taste buds. For an introduction activity, talk about the different types of flavors, such as sweet, salty and bitter. Ask the kids to brainstorm different foods that go into each category. For a more hands-on approach, let the toddlers taste different foods and decide which type of flavor they have. A blind taste test is also an option. Choose foods that aren't likely to cause allergies. Nut products in particular are a high risk.
The sense of touch offers opportunities for hands-on activities for the toddlers. Offer items with lots of different textures for the kids to touch. A board of materials is one option. Attach items like corduroy, cotton balls, aluminum foil, corrugated cardboard, silk and sandpaper so they are able to feel the differences. A sensory table works well for the touch theme. Change the items in the sensory table throughout the theme to give the kids different touch sensations. Ideas include water, rice, sand, bubble liquid, straw, shaving cream, oatmeal or shredded paper. Another activity idea is a touch box. Make a hole in a box large enough for the toddlers to reach into. Place an object in the box. The kids reach in and feel the object to guess what's inside.