In the Exploring the Five Senses for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers Series we have covered the Sense of Touch, Sense of Taste, and Sense of Smell. This month I’m excited to help you teach your children all about their Sense of Sight.
Our vision is so important to everyday life. You can learn so much from people just by looking at their face. You can learn about your environment by looking around a room. It is one of the senses we rely on most heavily in our daily lives.
Ever since I started using computers heavily and regularly in engineering school my vision has started to decline over years. Luckily, my vision isn’t too bad and it is easily corrected with contact lenses or glasses, but I still get anxiety every time I go to the eye doctor. I am scared of my vision getting worse, and also just having to read those letters and not being able to see them clearly frightens me.
Fortunately, many people who are vision-impaired or blind live full and thriving lives without their vision due to relying on their other four senses. There are many new advancements in vision correction that are helping people see more clearly and one day may be able to restore vision to people who are blind.
Let’s talk about the Sense of Sight
Our sense of sight allows us to perceive shapes, distance, movement, color, heat, and depth. Humans have two eyes that allow us to see the world around us.
Our eyes are pretty complicated, but in basic terms we have a lens in the front of our eyes and a retina in the back of our eyes. The retina is made up of rods and cones. Rods help us see things in the dark and help our peripheral vision and cones help us see things in the light and color.
Light comes though the eye’s pupil and into the lens. The lens focuses the object turns it upside-down and directs it to the retina. The rods and cones in the retina interpret the light and send the information to your brain’s visual cortex using the optic nerve. The brain flips the image right-side up, and translates the information into the 3-D vision we see.
Our vision is a very complex process involving the eye and brain. All of our senses have similar complex connections to the brain for interpreting what is sensed through various body parts and organs. The brain always plays the important role of interpreter.
I’m sharing three experiments below to help your children get to know a little more about their eyes and sense of sight. In Learning about our Eyes, your child will do just that – look in the mirror and learn all about their eyes! In Find and See, your child will play an I Spy like game to use their eyes (and sense of sight) to find objects that you will describe to them. In Magnify It, your child will use a magnifying glass to closely observe everyday objects.
Learning about our Eyes
This is a simple, fun, and silly experiment to learn all about our eyes for everyone from babies to adults!
- You and your kids
You and your children may be touching your eyes with your fingers in this experiment. Make sure your hands are washed and clean before beginning the experiment and also wash them again after finishing the experiment to prevent the spread of infection and germs.
- Wash hands
2. Sit or Stand in front of a mirror
3. Touch or point to your eyes and tell your child these are your eyes. We have two eyes.
4. Help your child learn about their eyes with these questions:
4A. What color are your eyes?
4B. Can you gently touch your eye lashes?
5. Teach your child the names of the cornea (outer membrane over the whole eye), iris (colored area), and pupil (black center).
6. Ask your child to try these things to learn about their eyes:
6A. Can you blink?
6B. Can you wink with just your left eye? And just your right eye?
6C. Can you move your eyes left, right, up, and down?
6D. Can you roll your eyes?
7. Ask your child to cover their eyes with their hands. Then ask them can they see?
8. Ask your child to look at their pupils before covering their eyes for a few seconds. Then cover their eyes and look at the pupils again after covering their eyes. Did the pupils change size?
Your child learned all about their amazing eyes. We use our eyes to see, and evaluate our surroundings. When your child covered his or her eyes they could no longer see the world around them. We learned about your child’s eye color and how our pupils dilate in low light and shrink in bright light. You can also explain to your child how blinking keeps the eyes moist and our eye lashes help keep dust and small particles out our of our eyes.
Find and see
This is a simple game to help your kids understand that they are using their sense of sight and their eyes when the look for and recognize common objects. This is a great activity that can be catered to all ages from baby to preschooler.
- 3-5 household objects that are easily described to children (such as a red ball, a green book, a banana, a pillow, etc…). Below is a picture fo the items we used.
Be aware of your surroundings while playing the game. Ensure there are no tripping hazards because the child’s eyes will be focused on finding the object rather than where they are stepping. Hide objects that are child safe that do not pose a choking or other hazard.
- Place the 3-5 objects you selected all around an open room in your home.
2. Tell your child they are going to find the objects after you describe it (without naming what it is).
3. Describe the first object, and have your child look around the room until they find the object and tell you what it is. For example: describing a football – “I see a brown oval shaped ball that has pointed ends and is fun to throw.”
3A. For preschoolers: Try this game using just one eye. Ask your child to cover the other eye with an eye patch or their hand.
4. Repeat steps 3-4 with all the objects.
Your child learned that they can find objects using their eyes and sense of sight. Our eyes can interpret shapes, colors, distance, and more. Using only one eye at a time affects the depth perception and also limits the vision. Your child leaned how their eyes work together to help them see their surroundings clearly.
This is a fun activity that teaches kids how to use a magnifying glass, and how they work to enlarge objects we see. This experiment is best for toddlers and preschoolers. Babies may enjoy touching, chewing on, or holding the magnifying glass up to their face. 😉
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- Magnifying glass
- Textured household objects such as: feather, rock, leaf, flower, cloth, etc. See the picture of the items we used below.
Ensure your child can safely and comfortably hold the magnifying glass before they are allowed to handle it on their own to prevent potential dropping and/or breaking magnifying glass. Please consider using a magnifying glass designed for children. They are all plastic and are much less likely to break.
Chose objects that are safe and comfortable for the children to touch.
- Sit your child in a chair at your table.
2. Hand them the magnifying glass and show them how to safely hold it in their hand.
3. Place the first object in front of your child.
4. Ask them what they see and to describe it.
5. Now instruct your child to look at the same object through the magnifying glass.
6. Ask your child to vary the distance: look very closely, and also from further away
7. Ask your child if the distance from an object make a difference?
8. Ask your child how the magnifying glass changes or affects what they see versus without the magnifying glass.
9. Repeat steps 3-8 with all the objects.
Your child learned that sometimes we can’t see all the fine details of objects with just our bare eyes. Magnifying glasses are a tool designed to help us magnify – or make objects visually larger – so we can see details more clearly. If anyone your child knows wears glasses, you can explain this is similar to how glasses help correct vision when people can’t see up close on their own.
My kids had so much fun with the magnifying glasses they insisted on bringing them to the playground when we went out to play later that day. It was so fun watching them investigate their playground more closely with the magnifying glasses. They are having fun, learning about the world around them, and using STEAM concepts – I call that a mom win!
These three activities were a fun and interactive way for my kids and I to learn about our sense of sight. My kids always are asking me to play with them, so I love incorporating STEAM concepts into our play time. Today my kids thought we were just playing with the Find and See game, but really they were learning to about their sense of sight and also about how to recognize objects based on a description.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Five Senses Series on my blog. We only have one sense left. I hope you’ll join me next month as we explore the Sense of Hearing!