Senses

Eye experiment

This is always such a fun topic to do with kids (and adults) and it’s very hands-on but with little prep. There’s also loads of activities in here that I bet your kids will want to do over and over! Happy learning!

Senses Facts

  • Infants blink only once or twice a minute, whereas adults blink around 10 times
  • Information zooms along nerves at about 400kmph
  • Your nose can recognise a trillion different scents
  • Your ears and nose never stop growing
  • Around 80% of what we think is taste is actually smell
  • Snakes hear from their jawbones
  • Your hearing deteriorates with age – use this video to see how your ears are doing (hilarious to do with kids!)
  • Touch is so effective that it releases endorphins (happy hormones – hence why cuddles make us happy!)
  • By age 20 half of your taste receptors are gone! (So perhaps your toddler isn’t lying when they say something is disgusting – perhaps you just can’t taste it :-))
  • You produce around 1 litre of saliva per day
  • Your eye is made up of over 2 million parts
  • Grizzly bears can smell food from 18 miles away
  • Your eyes can process 36,000 pieces of information per hour
  • You eyes can recognise candlelight from 14 miles away
  • Your sense of smell is closely linked to your memory
  • You can’t taste what your saliva can’t dissolve (try drying your tongue with a paper towel and eating a dry food)

Here are some great videos all about your senses:

Activity 1

The Eye

The eye is a VERY useful sense to have – but it doesn’t just see things like a camera does – it also reacts to the environment around it.

You will need:

  • Mirror
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pen/pencil
Scissors reflected in the mirror

Instructions

Sitting in front of a mirror – get up close and look closely at the size of your pupils (the black part of your eye). What size and shape is it?

Now cover one eye and keep it tightly shut for 1 minute (count to 60 to practise counting whilst you wait).

Staring in the mirror, uncover your eye and notice how the pupil starts and what happens to it.

We made a poster to show what we’d learned – that our pupils get larger when it’s dark in order to let more light in and help us to see as much as we can in the dark, whereas when it is bright your pupils get very small so that less light enters your eye. This is called accommodation.

As always, if your kids are showing great interest in this learning then by all means take it forward – can you identify the other parts of the eye? How does the eye transfer information to the brain? How do eyes get their colour? If this is an area that’s interesting to you then please let me know and I’ll make a whole theme on The Eye!

Activity 2

The Ear

Children love making noise – and in this fun activity we’re going to explore how sound waves travel to the eardrum.

You will need:

  • Small bowl/glass
  • Clingfilm
  • Elastic band
  • Rice/lentils/beads
  • Drum/pot & wooden spoon

Instructions

Securely place the clingfilm over the top of your bowl/glass and keep it in place with the elastic band.

Sprinkle rice (or other small parts) onto the top.

Now bang something loudly beside the rice and watch it dance about – the rice is simply there to let you see how much your homemade eardrum is moving about and reacting to the sound waves caused by the drum. This is what your eardrum does in order to catch sound-waves and transfer them to your brain.

Activity 3

Scents

Your sense of smell is incredible – and the brain is hard-wired to be drawn to nice smells. This activity allows children to free-play and get creative.

You will need:

  • Bowls
  • Nature (flowers, stems, sticks, mud, leaves etc)
  • Water
  • Mud-kitchen tools (eg spoon,spatula,sieve, jars etc)

Instructions

Creating a potion/perfume is something that we all did as children – it’s almost a rite of passage. For this simple task on scents allow your kids to experiment and explore creating different scents – can they make a sweet scent? A bitter one? A strong one? A clear one? A colourful one? What process did they use to create the scent? If they leave it in the sunshine/overnight/in a bottle does the scent change? If your kids are older perhaps they can keep an experiment log to record their findings.

Activity 4

Balance

Despite the fact that it’s your ears that help with balance, if you take away your sight you can find it incredibly difficult to balance.

You will need:

  • Space (and perhaps an observer to catch you!)
  • Record sheet (optional – see below)
  • Pen

Instructions

In a large space, do a CONTROL experiment (this is something all scientists do – to check if there’s even a change from base levels). Time how long you can balance on your left leg and then your right leg with your eyes open.

Now close both eyes and balance on one leg. Can you last longer on the other leg? How about with just 1 eye open? How about the other eye?

You could record your times for each of the variables above. Now repeat with a different member of the family. Are there any conclusions you can draw from your results?

Activity 5

Loss of a sense

How good are you at using your senses to identify objects?

You will need:

  • Bags or boxes (or just a large one of either)
  • Random objects from around the house and garden

Instructions

Either place a different object in a different bag/box or all the objects into one large bag/box without the participants seeing them.

Without looking (blindfold those tempted to look!) see if everyone can identify each object using any sense other than sight. Participants could write their answers down in order to get writing practise.

Activity 6

Mystery Tubes

How good are your ears? Creating these fun sensory tubes will put your ears to the test!

You will need:

  • Toilet-roll centres
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape/elastic bands
  • A range of small objects (eg mini-marshmallows, coins, cheerios, lentils, pasta, rice)

Instructions

Placing a few (of the same) small objects into a tube, cover each end with paper and secure it with tape/elastic band.

Participants shake the tube and guess what objects are inside. Younger scientists might simply like the different sounds and sensations each tube creates.

Activity 7

Senses Scavenger Hunt

A fun activity incorporating language skills with STEM.

You will need:

  • Adjectives list (see Download below)
  • Basket/bag/basin
  • Indoor/outdoor access

Instructions

Using the adjectives list as inspiration (create or add your own if you wish) go on a senses scavenger hunt and see how many objects you can find to fit each description. To add challenge you could compare the objects you find inside versus outside – which one is smoother/lighter etc?

Family STEM Learning

Taste Test

In this strange time I’m aware that regular foods are often difficult to come by – so perhaps this could be the perfect opportunity to try this activity! I have a friend who received Swiss chard as a substitute item – would you know what that tasted like? It could be fun to peruse the Reduced Items section for unusual foods to test on your family (as well as some family favourites).

You will need:

  • Plates
  • Knifes, forks, spoons
  • A variety of food (the stranger the better!)
Taste test to learn about the senses through STEM experiments

Instructions

Cut up a variety of food (apples, bread, cooked rice, onions, kale, raspberries, crackers, popcorn, ice etc) and create a plate for each participant (do not let them know what foods there are before this activity!). Blindfolded get each participant to smell, feel and taste each food – can they guess what it is correctly? You could get participants to write down their answers and the most correct answers wins. Kids will love playing this game over and over again – so it’s a great way to introduce some unusual and new flavours!

Don’t forget to also dip in and out of the STEM Bingo sheet when you need something quick, fun and different to do with your kids.

STEM Bingo

Happy learning guys! Can’t wait to hear how you get on – remember to share your photos on the Facebook page xx

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