In this lesson, children use their five senses to identify mystery objects. The lesson begins with children talking about the five senses, using examples from their own experience. Then they watch a video in which Curious George and his friend Bill use their five senses to search for a way to keep deer from eating the garden flowers. Next, children work in pairs to try to identify items at five “mystery tables” using their five senses. They conclude by sharing their observations on a chart and talking about the results. As children go through the activities, they will be using the following science skills: asking questions, testing and retesting, recording and sharing results, identifying and describing sensory observations, and investigating and identifying using senses.
- Understand that animals (including humans) interact with the environment through five senses.
- Understand that people use their five senses to gather and record information about the world.
Prep for Teachers
Important Safety Tips
Please exercise caution in selecting the items for this lesson. Any known allergens or other items of sensitivity and/or dietary restriction should be avoided. Be sure to obtain permission beforehand from parents or guardians.
Before the Lesson
1. Set up three separate tables or areas in the room where children can explore the different senses.
Mystery Table #1 (Smell)
- Set out fragrant materials (such as orange slices, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, banana, onion, and bubble gum), markers, masking tape, plastic containers and lids, and scissors.
- Cut a small hole in the lid of each container.
- Place one item in each container. Tape down the lid so it won’t come off.
- Cover the hole with a piece of masking tape.
Mystery Table #2 (Taste)
- Materials: bowls (3 large), markers, popcorn.
- Place one-third of the popcorn in each of the three bowls.
- Make one bowl of popcorn salty, one sweet, and one plain.
- Taste the popcorn to be sure the flavors are obvious.
Mystery Table #3 (Sight, Touch, Hearing)
- Materials: markers, ribbon, socks (at least a dozen), items to explore by sight (e.g., wooden block, doll, ball); items to explore by touch (e.g., plastic bottle, spoon, paper clip); items to explore with hearing (e.g., crumpled paper, pennies, bell)
- Push one item down into each sock.
- Tie the open end of each sock with a ribbon. Line up the socks.
2. Print copies of the “Curious George Senses Chart” (one for each pair of children).
3. If possible, have helpers (family members or older students) supervise each of the mystery tables so you can have different pairs of children working on different senses at the same time.
4. Brief helpers on how to carry out the activities and instruct them on how to help children talk about the sense they are using to identify the items.
- 3 large bowls of popcorn (1 with salt, 1 with sugar, 1 plain)
- Curious George Senses Chart
- Fragrant items (e.g., orange slices, vanilla bean, cocoa, banana, onion, bubble gum)
- Masking tape
- Mystery items (e.g., a wooden block, crumpled paper, ball, marbles, paper clips, spoons, plastic bottle, pennies, doll)
- Plastic containers with lids (e.g., yogurt containers)
- Socks (at least a dozen)
1. Introduce the five senses.
Help children understand that our five senses—taste, hearing, touch, sight, and smell—are like our own personal toolbox that we use to help us learn information about the world. Introduce children to the five senses.
- Taste: Have children name a food they eat at school and describe how it tastes. You may need to introduce unfamiliar vocabulary such as sweet like a strawberry or muffin; salty like a cracker or pretzel; bitter (strong and sharp) like dark chocolate or arugula; sour (tart) like lemon or vinegar.
- Talk about how we taste flavors with our tongue and mouth—along with help from our nose (smell). Ask, Can you name something that tastes sweet, sour, salty, or bitter?
- Hearing: Have children listen quietly for 30 seconds. Ask, Did you hear anything? What?
- Talk about how we use our ears to hear—loud and soft voices, fire alarms, animal sounds, and so on. Ask, Can you describe a sound you heard while we were quiet? Do you know what made the sound?
- Touch: Have children touch the table and then touch a towel. Ask, Can you describe how the table feels? The towel? Do they feel the same or different? How?
- Talk about how we use the surface of our skin to feel things—smooth/rough; hot/cold; sticky/wet.
- Sight: Have children look around. Ask, Can you describe what you see as you look around?
- Talk about how we use our eyes to see things—animal’s movements, words on a page, facial expressions, colors in nature, etc.
- Smell: Have children name a familiar smell. Ask, Can you describe the smell? What does the smell make you think about?
- Talk about how our nose smells things that can bring back memories, keep us from eating spoiled food, and even alert us to danger.;
2. Watch the video.
- Before watching the video, explain to children that Curious George is taking care of a garden he planted with his friend, Allie. One day he notices that deer are eating the flowers. He asks his friend, Bill to help him find a way to keep the deer away from the garden. They use each of the five senses to think of a way to keep the deer out, but most of their ideas don’t work. Finally, George finds the solution to his problem when he remembers how deer didn’t like the taste of his oatmeal.
- Play the video Curious George: Five Senses. Ask children to think about why some of George’s ideas don’t work as they watch.
- At the point when George sprinkle cinnamon around the garden, pause the video and ask, What sense, besides taste, do you think the deer could use to realize there is cinnamon on the flowers? Why do you think that? Later, pause the video again as George and Bill celebrate solving the deer problem and ask, Do you think the deer will stay out of the garden? Why or why not?
- Wrap up by asking children to share a time when they used one of their senses to get information about something. (i.e., hear a dog bark; smell rotten food; see a branch fall, etc.)
3. Introduce the activity.
- Draw attention to the three Mystery Tables. Pair children with a partner and give each pair a Curious George Senses Chart.
- Review the chart and have children identify what sense George is using in each picture.
- Explain to children that they will use a different sense at each table to determine what the mystery items are. And that they will use the chart to record their experiences.;
4. Introduce each Mystery Table.
- At Mystery Table #1, tell children they will use one of their senses to identify what’s in each container.
- Demonstrate feeling the container. Then pull up the piece of masking tape and sniff through the hole. Tape up the hole again.
- Point out how you couldn’t touch the object but could smell it.
- Explain to children that they will sniff each container, describe the smell, and mark the column on their chart.
- At Mystery Table #2, tell children they will use another sense to identify the flavor of popcorn in each bowl.
- Spoon a few pieces of popcorn into your hand. Tell children that you (or a helper) will spoon popcorn for them. Look at the popcorn and describe how it is difficult to determine the flavor with your eyes.
- Taste the popcorn and eat it slowly.
- Explain to children that they will get to sample each bowl of popcorn, describe the taste of each, and then mark the appropriate column on their chart.
- At Mystery Table #3, tell children they will use their sense of sight, touch, and/or sound to figure out what item is in each sock.
- Pick up a sock and model thinking aloud as you look, listen, and touch to try to identify the object. Encourage pairs to think aloud as they are exploring.
- Explain to children that they will handle each sock, describe the sight, touch, or sound of the object inside, and then mark the corresponding column on their chart.
5. Begin the activity.
If you have others assisting you, send multiple pairs of children to different tables. If you are directing each table, have two or three pairs work at the same time. While the remaining children are waiting a turn, you may want to:
- Have nonfiction books on the five senses available for children to look through.
- Have partners talk about and draw a picture of their favorite/least favorite smell, texture, sound, etc.
6. Ask questions.
As children explore, ask questions (or instruct your helpers to do so) to reinforce concepts and help children talk about what they are observing. For example,
- Can you see the shape/size/color of the object? Can you feel the shape? How can you identify the object?
- What other foods have a salty taste like the popcorn? What other foods taste sweet?
- What does the smell of cocoa remind you of?
7. Wrap up and reflect.
Have pairs share their observations aloud. Post activity charts on the wall and discuss the results. Encourage children to share something they learned by using one (or more) of their senses. Could you identify a mystery object using more than one sense? What object? What senses did you use? What sense did you use most often? Least often?
Extend with Games
Children may enjoy playing these games to reinforce their learning about the five senses.
Children use their sense of sight as they look for and match color patterns while George and Hundley the dog roll by on different colored roller skates.
This game is full of crazy noises—cows that quack and dogs that chirp. Children listen to the sounds and straighten them out by connecting the sound with its rightful owner!
Extend with Books
Read these books with children, or encourage them to read themselves, as they continue to learn about the five sense.
- My Five Senses by Aliki (HarperCollins, 1989). Appealing illustrations and simple text offer an engaging introduction to the senses for preschool children.
- Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, and Smell: Learning About Your Five Senses by Pamela Hill Nettleton (Picture Window Books, 2006). For ages 5 and up, this science book will help children learn about the amazing ways our senses help us understand the world.
- The Listening Walk by Paul Showers (HarperCollins, 1993). A little girl and her father take a quiet walk together and listen to the sounds around them.
- Curious George at the Zoo (A Touch and Feel Book) by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2007). Enticing textures to feel and illustrations to see will make this visit to the zoo with Curious George a fun and interactive ‘trip.’
- Curious George What Do You See? (A Book of Mirrors) by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2009). What part of your body do you use to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste? Look in the mirror and find out as you read about the senses with George and his friends.
You may want to distribute additional copies of the Curious George Senses Chart handout for children to take home and continue the exploration at home with their families.