Five Senses Day at Preschool

This week at preschool we learned about our five senses.  It was a touchy, smelly, tasty, visual and auditory extravaganza.  When the kids arrived, they were given cheap white paper plates and were told they were going to make it into a pizza.  As we waited for the other classmates to arrive we began coloring the outer edge of our plates a golden brown.  This would be our crust.  Once all the kids were present and had completed coloring their crusts, we put a dollop of red finger paint “sauce” on the middle of their “crust” and they got the delightfully tactile experience of spreading it around the crust with their hands.  We felt the sauce was a little too red and so we added some yellow to smear in.  (We learned about red and yellow making orange last week.)  It helped just a little.  We should have done some hand print art while we were at it but instead we just wiped all the “sauce” off our hands with our ever-present box of baby wipes, then washed the “cleaned” hands in the sink.  In ignorance, we set our pizzas aside to dry.  Apparently finger paint doesn’t dry too quickly.    We’ll get back to the pizzas later … because they turned out GREAT!

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Blinking Eyes
While the pizza sauce “dried”, we started working on our “blinking eye” models.  My assistant did all the folding for us as this would have been too difficult for the little guys.  I gave the children a selection of skin tone colors and told them to choose any skin color they wanted to color the eyelids.  After they colored the skin, we added black eyelashes.  Then we unfolded the paper and I drew light pencil circles in the correct location.  The children were instructed to outline the iris in black and color in the pupil except for the shiny spot.  Next they were allowed to choose any color they wanted for the iris color with the only limitation being they had to find a lighter and darker shade of the same color.  I had them color the inner part of the circle with the lighter shade and the rest of the circle with the darker shade.  This gives the eyes a fairly realistic look which was quite pleasing.  As the final step, they were to add a few black lines radiating out from the pupil to the edge of the iris.  These lines got rather bold, but adorable.  Then we folded the paper back to its original form and showed the kids how to blink their eyes by pinching the corners in back and pushing together and forward to open the eye and pulling out and back to close it.  We also discussed how being able to blink is what keeps your eyes lubricated and safe from dirt getting into them.

Next we tested our sense of hearing by shaking old pill bottles (Thank you Mom.)  which I had covered with construction paper and filled in sets of two with various ingredients such as oatmeal, rice, salt,  a single chocolate kiss, buttons, pennies.  The kids had to shake a bottle and then try to find its partner by listening to the sounds of the other bottles as they shook them.  After that, we did the same thing with “Smelly bottles” — paper covered pill bottles again, but this time covered with tissue so we could smell but not see the ingredients.  These bottles contained such ingredients as dry oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, ground coffee and black pepper.  At first I tried just putting essential oils on cotton balls so I wouldn’t need to hide the ingredients, but in testing them myself, I was surprised at how difficult it was to tell the difference between rather distinct smelling oils.  I wasn’t too surprised to learn how quickly this put my olfactory system on overload though, so I decided to go more the food route with the kids.  I was too lazy to cover the bottoms of the bottles and it didn’t take the kids long to figure out how to self-check their guesses.

Our sense of touch was the next to be tested.  We had two activities.  We put 5 pennies on a dish for each child, then buried them in rice and had the kids close their eyes and find the pennies.  Next I brought out cloth sacks and put a familiar object in each child’s sack.  I used our reusable cloth Christmas sacks, but a large sock would work just as well.  They were to use their sense of touch to figure out what was in their bag.  Once they got the hang of it, I moved to more difficult items.   After they’d found quite a variety of objects, I put all the objects into one sack and we passed it around assigning each child a particular object to go fish out of the bag.  This proved to be a bit more difficult than identifying the single object, but it was not too difficult for them to accomplish.

Pizza Time!  

We brought our paper pizzas back out along with all the toppings.  Sadly, the sauce was still quite wet.  No matter, we just drizzed glue all over it and then sprinkled our pizza with “cheese” and then real Italian seasoning to make it smell like pizza.  Next the kids topped their pizzas any way they please.  Their inner pizza chefs sprang to life as they created their masterpieces.  I cut all the ingredients out of paper except for the sausage which was cut from felt and the onion bits which was a white raffia ribbon cut in bits. When the kids finished topping their pizzas, we drizzled them with more clear school glue just for an extra measure to make sure all the ingredients stay attached.  The results were stunning.

Snack Time! — finally a chance to play with the sense of taste!
We tasted salty, spicy, bitter, sour and sweet.  The kids were more adventurous in tasting things than I expected.  Most of them even tried nibbling the parsley.

108_2034 108_2038 - CopyFor salty I used a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.  The kids were offered a choice of a lemon slice or a dill pickle for sour.  Most tried and enjoyed both.  For bitter, they tried both parsley and my chocolate concoction.  I mixed straight cocoa powder with some coconut oil.  One of the girls tasted it and said, “This is Mom chocolate!”

108_2039We decided a little sprinkle of sugar vastly improved the taste for a kid’s palate.  No, I wasn’t teaching them that adding sugar to food made it taste better; I was demonstrating that a little sweetness can take away bitterness.  Speaking of sweetness, we used applesauce for this taste.  The kids cleaned me out on this one.  For spicy I wanted to use nacho flavored tortilla chips, which I did, but for the dairy-free kids I found some spicy crackers that were both gluten and dairy free.  The kids did not know that spicy play dough was waiting on the table for their playtime or I doubt they would have dawdled through snack time as leisurely as they did.

Active Group Play

After snack we usually try to do something active.  Today I tied in out theme of senses for this activity.  Lacking an old fashioned ticking timer, I downloaded a ticking “bomb” app on my tablet and hid it in various places.  The kids had 30 seconds to find it before it “exploded”.  We had to adjust the volume a few times to make it a little more difficult to find, but even still, it never took them the full 30 seconds to find it.

Play Time!
108_2053There were a few other choices, like some musical toys, a prism and our wave bottle (half colored water, half corn oil), but for the most part they wanted to play with the spice-scented play dough for the rest of the afternoon.  This was the first time I’d tried this recipe, and I love it!  It was a bit of a work out stirring six double batches (By the way, doubling the recipe worked 108_2043just fine.)  but it really only took about 5 minutes per batch. Don’t let the cooking part scare you — really.  It was a wonderful texture after I kneaded it for half a minute. I used a variety of spices to both color and scent the dough.  They smelled wonderful and I was delighted with the natural colors I got.  The center one is beet powder, then clockwise starting with the bright yellow, which is turmeric, followed by sage and thyme, cocoa powder, dill and cinnamon.

We brought out all our play dough tools and used our rhythm sticks as rolling pins.  The kids didn’t do much with the cookie cutters but when I brought out the little pie pans their eyes lit up and a little bakery sprang to life.

That brought us to the end of a very sensory day of preschool.  Thanks for stopping by to check us out.  Go here to read about some of our other preschool adventures.

Home School Co-op Ideas

As a follow-up to my home school co-ops post, here is a list of some of the group learning activities we’ve done over the years.  Some are not technically a co-op, but they still present excellent opportunities to learn together with other families.

HISTORY PARADE -Gather together a group of creative families with each family committing to creating an entry for the parade.  Each family’s entry displays what they are studying in history that year.  This could involve costumes, banners, wagon floats, perhaps even a musical piece from that period of history.  Set a date for your parade (I suggest February, to alleviate those mid-year blues.) and arrange to march through the halls of a local senior living complex  or assisted living facility(or several of them). Just parading through the halls will greatly bless the residents, but if you want to go further, have some families take responsibility for handing out notices ahead of time to the residents to guarantee a great audience.

A parade in the nursing home is a fun and unique experience which will delight the residents if you're not too noisy.

A parade in the nursing home is a fun and unique experience which will delight the residents if you’re not too noisy.

Other families can organize refreshments which you share with the residents while you visit with them or give presentations about what you are studying.

PRAIRIE PRIMER – In this wonderful year-long co-op we went through the Prairie Primer and decided what activities we wanted to do together as a group.  Each family read through the corresponding Little House book for the month and did whatever other activities out of the book they wanted to cover as a family. We met twice a month for group activities, with different families hosting each gathering and all 6 families contributing assigned duties for each meeting.  Some of the terrific things we did together included:

  • making cheese
  • non-electric night in which we had a night of entertaining activities by candle light and the punched tin lanterns the kids made at the previous activity.
  • doing a shadow theater which was really awesome
  • a prairie Christmas celebration
  • making silhouette portraits
  • making leather mocassins
  • a night with the grandparents which included square dancing and a “Farmer Boy”  banquet of recipes from the Little House Cookbook
  • a campout weekend at Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, Wisconsin

MIDDLE AGES – This one was a two-month commitment.  Families studied the Middle Ages in whatever way they wanted, but our group gatherings included the following activities:

  • designing a family crest and making it into a banner

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    Human Chess Players

  • playing human chess and learning what the different chess pieces represented
  • building a 3-room castle complete with drawbridge out of refrigerator boxes
  • visiting a Middle Ages re-enactment
  • taking a field trip to Medieval Times
  • hosting a banquet in which the children were assigned parts to play (minstrel, jester, server, cup-bearer, juggler, etc.); we ate cornish hens, multi-grain bread, venison and other fine fare off of (pita)bread trenchers; we decorated the hall with our family crest banners, and thoroughly entertained all the grandparents as we tried to prove that yes, their grandchildren were getting plenty of social exposure and were, indeed, learning a great deal.
    Family Crest Banner

    Family Crest Banner

    Castle Building

HEALTH and NUTRITION-  One field trip included a trip to the grocery store where we were given a guided tour through the produce department and got to taste some of the more exotic fruits.  After that, we were allowed to roam the aisles on a scavenger hunt where the kids were to read labels to find items with very specific nutritional content.  Another field trip included a tour of a dentist office and some education about good oral health habits.  An activity day focused on the five senses and included crawling around in a model ear, dissecting a cow’s eye and other sensory activities.  There were also fitness tests, keeping food diaries, and a day of learning about balancing fun with work in which the kids learned to do fun things such as face painting and juggling.

YOUNG PUBLIC SPEAKING – In order to ease the (elementary aged) kids into public speaking we met monthly with a group of families to recite memorized poems and to give short speeches within assigned parameters — for instance one month it might be “How to do something,” another month, “describing my favorite place,” or “our family tradition”.

BOOK DISCUSSION GROUPS – In addition to our literature discussion groups, especially at the high school level, we would tackle the tougher subjects by going through the same books together and creating presentations, quiz questions, and other challenges for each other or just generally discussing the matter together with other students and their moms.  In this manner, we covered such topics as American government, psychology, worldviews, logic, and science labs.

"Blood and Guts" group on "Nervous System" day

“Blood and Guts” group on “Nervous System” day

BLOOD and GUTS –  That’s the name of the book we used.  In this co-op group, one of the moms (a registered nurse) taught the lessons — each month focusing on a different body system; one mom set up arrangements with a local butcher to get a pig heart, lungs, digestive system, and whatever other body parts we were studying that month “strictly for educational purposes” — we had to sign a form each month promising proper handling and disposal; another mom organized snacks for co-op days (How could we eat?); and one amazing mom agreed to host our monthly meetings in her home.  Additionally, each mom contributed a variety of experiments and activities to further expand upon that month’s particular body system.

Our plastic tarp version of a tipi

 NATIVE AMERICANS – In this two-month co-op, each family chose a different region of the country and studied the tribes that lived there.  Our group activities included

  • learning Native American games, dances and crafts
  • making costumes
  • constructing a 12-foot tipi
  • studying the various types of houses in each region
  • visiting the Indian Summer Festival
  • culminating in a night where we gathered together to share foods from, model costumes of, and present reports about our chosen region’s tribes.

WORLD TOUR –  Each family takes a turn hosting the group and chooses  a country for their family to study.  On their host day, they provide food, crafts, activities and presentations about that country, teaching what they’ve learned to the other families.  Each child gets a passport and marks off the various countries as they learn about them.

Alternatively, this can be done as a one-time event.  Rent out a gym or other large hall at a church or school and host a World Tour night.  Each family chooses a country to study.  They put together a display about that country and stand at their table ready to talk to visitors about their chosen country.  Optionally, families might provide food from that country to give out in small samples.  They are also instructed to bring stickers, a rubber stamp or some other form of representation of their chosen country with which they can mark passports.  When visitors arrive  they receive a passport with all participating countries listed.  As they “tour the world” they get each county’s sticker placed in their passport at the appropriate spot as they gather information from the kids about the country they studied.

SCIENCE FAIR –  Whether you want to run this as a co-op or class in which the students learn how to do a science fair project, or otherwise leave it up to the families to study that themselves and just organize the event, a science fair is a great way to get kids excited about science and the scientific process.  Be sure to provide judges and awards.

WILD WEST – Work together with other families to recreate the Oregon Trail, the gold rush, the Pony Express.  We went to a nearby Wild West Museum and learned all kinds of things.  The Pony Express and the Oregon Trail were two of our favorite memories.  I will write more about them in another post.

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Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to give this co-op thing a try if you are a home schooling family.  If you are not a home schooling family, perhaps I’ve given you a window into our world that explains why we are so sold on educating our children in this manner.  This is why I try to explain that you can’t compare home schooling to public or private schooling as easily as some people like to believe.  It’s just a very different approach to educating.  It’s not for everybody, but I’m so grateful we chose this route for our family and feel very blessed to have been able to share the adventure with all of the wonderful families we’ve met along the way.

If you’ve participated in home school co-ops, I’d love for you to tell us what you did and how it went in the comments below.