Blog / Toddlers using their senses to make meaning

October 24 2022,

Toddlers using their senses to make meaning


Have you ever witnessed children having a ‘ball’ with their food during meal times whether it’s squeezing the pasta or poking holes in their mashed potato? We understand it might not be pleasant to watch but believe it or not, learning happens right there! So it is worth the cleaning up!

Children are hands-on learners and they learn by exploring and manipulating objects in their environment. As young children make sense of their world by hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling, it is crucial we provide opportunities for children to become familiar with their senses and this does not always have to be through intentional teaching.

When you hand a baby a new toy, what’s the first thing they do? Correct, they put it in their mouth straight away! This means children as young as infants already show some understanding of using their senses to make meaning, it is up to us now to teach them about the relationship between the 5 senses as they are all connected in some way. 

Below are some sensory play ideas to get you started and most of all you can find all these things around your house! (Ideas gathered from Good start newsletter 2016). 


Creating sensory boxes using everyday household items such as cooked and uncooked rice or spaghetti. The objective is to also bring language into their play as they try to describe the texture of the item. For example, does the spaghetti feel wet and sticky on your hands? Language is the ‘glue’ that helps the child make sense of all the different sensory information. (Wortman, 1988). 


Use afternoon tea as an opportunity to expose children to taste different food. No pressure if the child does not actually eat the food, the objective here is for the child to learn the different tastes such as sour, sweet, bitter and etc…. It also allows children to build on their understanding that there are different cultural food and they all have very unique flavours! 


Bring your child to the park or garden and invite them to smell the different plants, herbs and flowers. You could cover your child’s eyes and ask them to guess what it is just by the smell as this builds more suspense and fun to the game. 


Playing spotlight games with the torch at night time and encouraging your child to spot different objects around the room. During a sunny day, the shadows outside created by the natural sunlight is also a great way to play ‘I spy’ as children use their observation skills and try to guess what the shadow is. 


Your voice itself is the perfect instrument for children to experiment with their hearing. Alter your voice during story reading such as whispering to build suspense and gradually increasing the volume to build excitement. This allows the children to pay attention to the details and really listen to what you are saying which helps them develop their listening skills as well as articulation of words. 

Children are using their senses everyday without realising the effect it actually has on the way they make sense of the world. Through hands-on and creative experiences, children will start to build on an understanding of the relationship between their senses and also allow them to appreciate more what they are able to do with their senses. 

Happy sensing from the team at Turtletot Childcare in Bexley

Special thanks again to Miss Kitty for authoring this amazing Blog !

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