Activity Roundup · Sensory Play · Tot Play

Exploring our 5 Senses

5 senses toddler activities

Before I get started writing about our 5 senses activities, I want to take a sec to clarify what I mean when I say “Tot School.” The name “Tot School” was coined by homeschool mom and blogger, Carisa, from the website 1+1+1=1.

Here’s Carisa’s quick definition of Tot School:

“Tot School isn’t really school at all, it is simply a name given to the idea of learning through play at home during the younger years.”

I use the term Tot School as a name for the play activities that I set up for the boys, particularly for Calvin since he is not in preschool at the moment, with the intention of inviting them to learn through play. When we do “Tot School” I have a learning objective in mind, which is how I feel it’s different from when we are just playing.

We do a lot of sensory play around here. Calvin has some sensory aversions that I’m trying to help him work through, and Henry is a super active sensory seeker who benefits from a lot of sensory input. So I decided to start off the year with a 5 senses tot school theme to give us lots of opportunities for different kinds of sensory play! Other learning goals I had in mind were: for Calvin to learn about what the 5 senses are, how our different body parts give us different information about the world, and relate that to how animals use their 5 senses; and for Henry to work on learning the names of different body parts.

From the past few weeks, I’ve put together some activities to share! Some of them are activities that I’ve already written posts about, so they may look familiar. If you click on the image, it will take you to the original post for those activities.

Several of the activities were just for Calvin, but I included Henry as much as I could.


warm sensory play

We started out our tactile sensory play by exploring temperatures. It was a very cold day and our heater was broken, so I microwaved some uncooked rice to make this warm rice sensory bin!

textured play dough

We had fun creating textures with play dough by pressing toys into the dough! Our dinosaur scales and sea shell prints looked like fossils!


To really get Calvin to rely on his sense of touch, I set him up with this blindfolded sensory bin activity! Without looking, he used his hands to feel for the puzzle pieces in the rice bin. Then we took off the blind fold so he could complete his name puzzle.


textured finger paint

We had some messy fun by adding textures to homemade finger paint! I kept it all edible so it would be safe for Henry. Our textures were: rice cereal, chia seeds, and rainbow sprinkles!



It was a sensory snack time with this scent guessing game! I poked holes in small paper cups to cover the foods that we were smelling. Then Calvin tried to guess what was under each cup just by sniffing. He got 3/3!


I pulled out our cooking spices to let the boys explore the smells! If you do this with your littles, PLEASE BE CAREFUL! You don’t want any pepper or paprika going up little nostrils. Calvin actually managed to get paprika in his eye because our paprika jar didn’t have the little plastic thing with the holes, and he blew out his nose instead of sniffing in, which sent paprika flying – right into his eye. Ouch. So yeah… be careful!


We used the same paper cups from our Guess the Scent game for a scent matching game. This time, instead of foods, I used bathroom items with distinct scents: sweet honey-scented lotion, fruity smelling hair gel, and minty toothpaste. I set out two of each, all covered so that Calvin could smell them, but not see them. Together, we tried to match up the cups with the same scents and to identify what was inside!




Our sound activities were super fun with Henry because he LOVES things that make noise! We sorted our collection of musical instruments two ways: by what kid of sound they make, and by how loud or quiet they were. We used very sophisticated musical terminology like: clack-y and jingle-y to describe the different kinds of sounds.  


My mom inherited this sound matching game from a teacher she worked with for a long time. It was perfect for our 5 senses theme! The cubes make different kinds of rattle-y sounds, and there are two of each. They are color-coded with dots on the bottom so you can check if you matched them correctly. Since Calvin kept cheating and just matching the colors (hey, at least he can color match!), I put tape over the dots so that we really had to rely on our ears to match the sounds! There’s a great DIY version of this game that uses Easter eggs over at the website Gift of Curiosity.



I got these colored architectural samples from a great scrap art supply store and we used them to explore color gradients!


For this visual memory game, I set out a tray of objects and asked Calvin to remember them. Then I had him close his eyes while I removed one item from the tray and put it into the bag. Next I had him look again at the tray and try to tell me what item was missing.


Calvin’s great-grandma sent us this awesome search and find Valentine card! Calvin and I had fun spying for the different toys and treats in the picture. Here’s a cool DIY I Spy game from Kids Activities Blog!



This sensory snack time evolved a little from my original idea. My original plan was to put all the snacks on to one plate, with two empty plates: one for sweet, and one for salty. Then we were going to taste the foods and sort them into sweet or salty. But then I was like, wait, does Calvin even know the difference between sweet and salty? I mean, I was pretty sure he kind of knew the difference, but I still decided to switch it up and serve the snacks on their separate plates so that we could just explore different sweet tastes and different salty tastes instead 🙂


For this tasty snack, we started with plain yogurt. We all tasted it, and the boys didn’t like it (I like the sourness of plain yogurt myself!). Then we added three different sweeteners and I let Calvin help me stir them in: jelly, honey, and maple syrup (real 100% maple!). Then we tasted the yogurts again and talked about which we liked best. Calvin liked the honey best, but I think he was swayed by the green spoon ;). My favorite was the strawberry jelly. Henry wasn’t at all particular. He loved them all!


Yes, I let Calvin eat Skittles for this one. And sorry, James, we didn’t save any for you! First I let him taste each color and I told him what fruit it was supposed to taste like. Then we played the game where you close your eyes and eat one and then guess what color it was. It works better with Jelly Belly beans, I think… but we had fun!


Whew! That list of activities was several weeks in the making! Ok, what 5 senses activities would you add? We do so much tactile sensory play, I really had to push myself to come up with other kinds of sensory activities. And I keep thinking I should have made scented play dough… but I always chicken out of making homemade play dough because I do not like cooking and it feels like cooking! Though I did pull it together and make homemade finger paint… so… gold star?? Just kidding 😉


3 thoughts on “Exploring our 5 Senses

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