Learning new things while using your senses helps create a stronger connection to the concepts you are learning. By involving different senses during an educational experience we help our kids learn in a more engaging way. We also help deepen the knowledge they acquire through the experience. This multisensory learning activity aims to teach children about different materials through less-used senses such as hearing and touch. It is a great activity for parents and/or teachers to introduce or reinforce the topic of materials.
I remember when I was studying to be an engineer, any class related to materials was extremely boring. A lot of information about their properties and characteristics was thrown at us and we were just expected to memorize it. The problem with this type of learning is that you will not retain the information for long and it is a pity because materials are extremely important in STEM-related fields. One needs to be able to select the appropriate materials for a specific project that has specific requirements. Having said this, I believe that giving children the chance to explore the topic of materials in a more hands-on approach will give them a positive connection to the subject. And this always helps with motivation and learning!
Preparation and Guidance
This multisensory learning activity will help children explore materials and their properties by using their hands and ears! So the first thing you need to do is gather objects made out of different materials. Here are some suggestions:
- Textile (wool, cotton, silk)
- Metal (coins)
- Here is a page with different types of materials and properties: http://www.lovemyscience.com/facts-materials.html
Once you have collected the materials it is time to explore. For younger kids, select 3 different materials to start with. If they like the activity and are motivated you can start it all over again with 3 new materials. For older kids, you could start with 5. Begin by telling them that you are going to explore these objects just with your hands. Tell them to close their eyes and grab an object. Once they have it in their hands ask them some of the following questions (write down the answers):
- Does it feel hard or soft?
- Is it heavy or light?
- Is it flexible or stiff? Can it bend without breaking?
- Does it feel rough or smooth?
Now that you have explored some materials with your hands it is time to use your ears! For each material look at your answers and then try to make a sound with the object by hitting it, scratching it or any other way you can think of. Try to find a connection! Connections always make information stay longer in the brain 😉
- Is there any connection between the way a material sounds and its properties?
Finally, after you have explored and looked for connections it is time to play a game and have some fun with what you learned!
Multisensory Learning Activity: Guess the Material
The STEM game is a simple guessing game in which kids will need to use their hands and ears to identify the materials. Basically, you will ask your children to close their eyes and then either give them an object they have to explore with their hands or make a sound with one of the objects. See if they can guess the type of material! Depending on your children’s’ age they can either guess directly with their eyes closed or they can give the object back to you and you mix it in with the other objects. When they open their eyes they have to look at the objects and try to guess which one it was.
To make it a bit more educational they can also try to identify properties first before they say what type of material it is. For this, you would first ask the same questions you did at the beginning with slight variations depending on if they are touching or listening:
- Does it feel/sound hard or soft? Heavy or light? Flexible or stiff? Rough or smooth?
If children know the properties well you can ask in the following way:
- What do you think if feels/sounds like?
I challenge you to try it out with them and not just be the moderator! Play with your kids and see if you can also guess the materials! We rely so heavily on sight that even these simple activities might be a bit more complicated than we expect. You could even try your sense of smell for this activity! Who knows what you might discover. I hope you enjoyed this little activity and that you have fun giving your senses some time to explore something different.
Check out other fun sensory STEM activities to sneak in some STEM learning:
- Sensory STEM jello experiment
- STEM water play: 8 fun activities to try this summer
- 5 Brilliant Ways To Experiment With Oobleck
- Math For Toddlers: Easy Sensory Bath Time Activity
For more information about STEM and how to transform your STEM activities at home, check out these posts: