What are the senses and what is their importance?
Everyone knows them, the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. However, few are aware that there are actually seven senses that we rely on every day. Or at least the other two senses are regularly forgotten: the sense of balance and movement and the sense of temperature. Yet these two senses are just as important to young children’s development as the other five. But what are these seven senses actually for? Even before birth, almost all of our senses develop during pregnancy. A baby only learns to see when it is born. The senses continue to develop and become better educated throughout life. The more we train them, the better the senses become. This can still be trained in adulthood. However, it is even better if the sensory perception of U3 children is already promoted.
Why is sensory perception so important for children? With each sense, we perceive stimuli that come at us from outside. After birth, a baby suddenly feels the cold on its skin, hears different voices and sounds, perceives different smells, tastes the mother’s milk, etc.
Already now it can clearly recognize the mother by her voice and also perceives her smell. Even the sense of balance can already be detected in babies. It cringes when you suddenly turn it on its side. If children’s sensory perception is disturbed, it is difficult for them to find their way in life. Impaired vision or blindness would be such a sensory perception disorder. Fortunately, however, it is very easy to encourage children’s sensory perception.
The sense of sight
The sense of sight develops in the first years of life. At birth, it is initially only slightly mature. In kindergarten age, the eyes are usually better than many adults. We absorb most of the stimuli in our environment through our sense of sight. Therefore, it is important to promote this sense at an early age and to find out whether the child can see well. Since most children like to look at picture books, it is quite easy to promote the sensory perception of the eyes. But games like “I see something you don’t” are also a good way to train the eyes.
The sense of hearing
The sense of hearing is already well developed at birth. Through various listening experiences, this sense gets better and better. To promote this sense, it is enough to use music, instruments or a story, told in a whisper. Although we perceive more through our eyes than through our ears, the sense of hearing is still very important. In road traffic, for example. We have to make way when we hear a siren, become alert when we hear a horn, look around when someone shouts.
The sense of smell
The sense of smell seems less important to many people. Nevertheless, it fulfills equally important tasks. If it smells like fire, for example, we know that danger is imminent. We often neglect the sense of smell. But it should also be promoted. Showing children what nature or different foods smell like can be a very special experience. Did you know that children can detect strong odors through the amniotic fluid while they are still in their mother’s womb and can recognize them even after birth?
The sense of taste
Even small children have a sense of taste. They all like “sweet” and contort their faces at sour or bitter tastes. When cooking and baking with children in the nursery, children can gain great experiences about different tastes.
The sense of touch
When it comes to the sense of touch, most people only think of their hands. However, we have the possibility to feel something on the whole body. We feel a touch on the shoulder just as we feel a stone in our shoe. To give children a variety of ways to engage with tactile perception, you can make a touch trail or a touch memory. By touching different surfaces, new connections are created and stored in the brain. Painting with finger paints or kneading are also among the simple means for tactile experiences.
The sense of balance
Children usually train their sense of balance all by themselves. They learn to turn, crawl and begin to walk. In doing so, they absolutely need their sense of balance. Otherwise, they would not be able to hold on at all. This sense is additionally trained by small parcours, balancing over a tree trunk or swinging. Later, children need this, for example, to learn to ride a wheel or bicycle.
The sense of motion
Every child has a natural drive to move. Too much time with media causes this drive to dissipate. That’s why it’s especially important to encourage children’s sense of movement in the nursery. Through walks, gymnastics, roughhousing, climbing, dancing or playing soccer, the imagination knows no bounds.
Why promote sensory perception in children?
Unfortunately, the thing about senses is that if you don’t use them, you can unlearn them. Similar to a sport that you can only be good at if you keep practicing. If you stop doing it for a while, your muscles weaken, you forget to maintain proper posture, and you have less stamina. It is the same with sensory perception in children. However, if you encourage the senses on a daily basis, they link together. They form new strands in the brain and promote overall development. The support situations do not always have to consist of prepared offers. The sense of taste, for example, can be trained wonderfully while eating: “But the food tastes good today. What is it? Does it taste sweet or is it spicy?” The same goes for the sense of smell: “What smells so good here? I think it comes from the meadow over there. I wonder what flower smells so good? I wonder if we can find it?”
With the other senses, too, promotion usually works out quite incidentally in everyday life. All it takes is a little practice and time. The more time children are given to search for a smell, taste, or sound, the more likely they are to learn something valuable from it. If sensory perception is already trained in the U3 area, this has far-reaching, positive effects. These children can usually concentrate better in school and can process information better and faster. It also has positive effects on social behavior.
Promotion of sensory perception of U3 children
In order to promote the children’s sensory perception, there is also the possibility of planning this in advance, in addition to everyday situations. Various games and books are suitable for this, as well as natural materials. Depending on which sense is to be promoted. Below are a few examples of implementation with daycare children. The examples are roughly assigned to the different senses. However, all ideas are overarching offers and usually promote several senses at the same time. For example, baking cookies together promotes a lot of the senses. The ingredients are perceived visually with the sense of sight. The dough is kneaded and rolled out with the sense of touch. Tasting the ingredients and the finished cookies will appeal to the sense of taste. By waiting for the alarm clock to ring when the cookies are ready, children practice using their sense of hearing. Through the kneading and cutting out the sense of movement is needed. As with baking cookies, it is the same with many tasks in everyday life and also with most of the targeted offers in the nursery area.
Sensory perception consists of many small actions that play together. Only rarely is only one sense used by us. This happens rather purposefully, for example, when we blindfold ourselves and concentrate on hearing a certain sound.
Sensory games for crèche children
Sense of sight
- Looking at picture books (e.g. hidden object books)
- “I see what you don’t see”
- Search games
- Shoe salad
- Stringing beads
- Finger games
- Sound Stories
- experiment with instruments
- Play pot banging
- Walk in the forest, listen for animals
Sense of smell
- Walk in the forest, pay attention to smells
- Sow flowers, smell the earth, pay attention to the different smells
- Cooking together, pointing out smells
- make a herb memory to smell
Sense of taste
- Taste different herbs
- cook together
- eat together
- Prepare fruit plate
- blindfolded try
Sense of touch
- Fill chestnuts into a paddling pool and let the children take a bath
- Bake cookies
- Finger paints paint
- Barefoot path
- paint with shaving cream
- Test Memory
- Massages with hedgehog balls, brushes, hands, etc.
- Paddling pool
Sense of balance and movement
- Build exercise course
- Make rollerboard driving license
- Swing cloth games
- Movement songs
Special support needs for U3 children
Every now and then, it happens in the daycare center that you notice that one child is not as fit as the others in some areas. For example, there are children who have only little muscle tension and therefore find it very difficult to perform movements. Some children may even have a physical deficit and therefore do not get behind the other children as quickly. In the daycare center, it therefore makes sense to promote the children’s perceptions in small groups. In groups of only two or three children, individual children get more frequent attention and assistance. Perhaps the staffing ratio even allows the children to be supported individually.
If you observe closely, you will quickly notice which child might need such small group or individual support. There are also children who are quickly overwhelmed by too many stimuli. For them, less equals more. It is best to let them decide freely whether they want to participate in the situation or not. It is always better to include the support in everyday life than to overburden the children with a planned offer.
Materials for the promotion of sensory perception
The following list shows the most important materials for promoting the senses in everyday life at the daycare center. Of course, the list is not complete and can be extended at will. Many materials do not need to be purchased, but can be collected directly with the children. Again, a way to promote sensory awareness.
- Chestnuts for crafts or bath
- Tree bark to feel, build or tinker with
- Leaves for bathing, crafts, painting, etc.
- Moss to feel and tinker with
- Beads for threading, feeling and filling
- Finger paints for painting and mudding
- Mirror to mud, look at and discover
- Sand to experiment, paint, mud, build, etc.
- Swing cloth to romp and enjoy
- Swing to move and relax
- Musical instruments for experimenting, singing, getting to know and relaxing
- Brushes for massages and painting
- Hedgehog balls for massage and play
- Ball pool for relaxing and romping
- and many more
Götz, S. (2021). Encouraging the senses in young children. Children explore our world with their senses. ISSN: 2748-2979. Accessed 05.03.2021. Available at: https://krippenzeit.de/sinne-foerdern-bei-kleinkindern/