Sunday, March 3, 2019

Activities for Exploring the Five Senses

updated February 24, 2020


Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels 



by Catharine Hannay



"We must make ourselves sensitive and present to all... the ordinary, everyday things, that have stopped attracting our attention.. an apple, a shoe, a blade of grass, a telephone... This is easy to do; it requires just three things: 
  • wanting it (wanting to exist in the real world rather than a virtual world that is impoverished by our narrowed attention);  
  • allowing it (having decluttered our mind and expanded our awareness); and  
  • doing it (raising our head, opening our eyes and really looking)." 
from Looking at Mindfulness by Christophe AndrĂ©


There are a lot of different reasons why you might be interested in five-senses activities.


As always, I've tried to provide as wide a range of activities as possible. Use your own best judgment about what's most appropriate for your particular context.


Activities here at MindfulTeachers.org

Blue-Red-Yellow: What Do You See? What you see depends on what you're looking for.
Counting Sounds: A Mindful Walking Practice: This activity combines mindful listening with gentle movement. 
A Dozen Ways to Explore the Five Senses, including 10 Ways to Look at a Tree, as well as three activities for mindful tasting and sniffing.
Four More Ways to Focus on the Five Senses: Baby Touch, The Sense of Scents, and two mindful eating practices.
Five Contemplative Art Practices: Looking at and creating art can help us to focus on our surroundings and appreciate what we see. 

Five Senses Snack: A Mindful Eating Chart: Rather than mindlessly munching your favorite snack, you can focus on what you see, feel, taste, smell, and even hear. 
Mindful Listening in a Noisy World: practicing awareness of sounds and silence, from Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking. 
Mindful Moments in Nature: This lesson by Bianca Browne of Mindful Minis includes tactile awareness, breath awareness, mindful listening, and a mindful art project. 

Noticing the Five Senses: A Daily Mindfulness Log: This chart helps us focus on what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch throughout the week. 

Rainbow Walk: A Mindfulness Activity to Move the Body and Rest the Mind: This is the most popular activity here at Mindful Teachers, for self-care and for teaching mindfulness to all ages. 

Red, Orange, Yellow: A Mindful Driving Practice: This is how I focus on my surroundings and keep my mind from wandering while I'm driving.


Even More Activities

Mindfulness and the Art of Chocolate Eating from MindSpace/Meditation in Schools: Who could resist? Just make sure nobody in your group is allergic to chocolate!
Listening Deeply to Music: Music therapist Maya Benattar explains how to listen to music mindfully, to "really hear it and experience it on a deep level... really hear and notice all of its complexities, layers, and subtleties."
Sensory Awareness Practice from the Stanford University Mindfulness Programs, with a downloadable handout. 
15 Five Senses Activities from Play to Learn Preschool


Recommended Books

The following books have many five senses activities, as well as a variety of other approaches to practicing mindfulness.

For personal practice, or if you teach adults: 

For those of you who teach kids: 




About the Author



Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance. (Chapter 2 focuses on Savoring Pleasant Moments by focusing on the five senses.)