Family: Taste & Smell

During the summer my preschool storytimes become family storytimes, including not just the 3-5 year olds, but also the 6 & 7 year olds. I do this by incorporating lots of STEAM elements and multiple activity stations so there is something for most, if not all. Here’s what I did this week during the first EXPLORE Family Storytime of the Summer.

This week we explored the senses of taste and smell. To get the ball rolling, we talked about all of the senses and what we use them for. To do that, I brought along a beautiful book which helped us talk about parts of our body and what we use for each sense.

Book: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful (Millbrook Press, 2014)
We “bookwalked” our way through Jan Brocket’s latest title in her Clever Concept series. The books in this series introduce concepts exemplified by real-life objects or activities well-known to many preschoolers. This title demonstrates how we use five senses to interpret the world around us and is a good starting point for talking about how friends might compensate for hearing impairment or blindness. The book uses clear, eye-catching photographs and simple text to encourage kids to observe the world around them.

Book: Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri teamed up to offer kids a silly story about dragons and their love for tacos, but not tacos with spicy salsa. This book is a crowd pleaser, even for those who have read it before, not because it is a mesmerizing story, but most likely because of its ridiculous premise (dragons eat tacos? No way!), the presence of the beloved dragons, and the whimsical illustrations. We had fun exploring this book as a group, even discussing the senses of taste and smell in regards to tacos and dragons, and kids had lots to say.
Movement:  Making a Purple Stew
I sang the first verse of this old favorite using the color purple and then had kids call out colors for additional verses. By the third verse everyone was making stew.
Making a purple stew, whip, whip
Whip Whip Whip (pretend to stir a huge bowl, circular motion with arms)
Making a purple stoobie-doobie-oobie-doobie
Purple potatoes, and purple tomatoes and (pretend to throw things in from over your shoulder) 
And even a purple you! (point to a child)
Credit: Scout Songs (This link includes one version, but I sing a modified version I learned somewhere else)
Book: Bear Wants More (M.K. McElderry Books, 2003)
We have quite a few fans of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s rhyming bear books! The lovable critters are fantastical, especially to Alaskan kids, but offer opportunities to talk about hunger, taste, hibernation, and of course what bears eat (and don’t eat in this book). While many of these animals would not be found together as friends in the wild, the large format graphics envelope the reader, drawing us into the sweet world of unlikely companions, even if just for a few minutes.
Movement:  Pop Corn by Mr Kim Webster (2004)
We pretended to make and be popcorn during this song. It repeats so the first time I demonstrated the actions and the second time, kids (and adults) joined in. Here are the actions: pretend to pour oiling the pan, move imaginary pan back and forth over stove, pretend to pour in popcorn, use fingers to outline grin and smile, squat on floor and shake hands at sides, move slowly up to standing as Kim sings the word “sizzle,” dance to pop by pushing hands into air, then out to sides, and turn in circles, jump, or free dance. I played this song on my iPhone with portable speakers.

After making imaginary popcorn, it was time to make real popcorn! I brought my friend’s air popper to show kids how it worked and to talk about what happens to turn kernels of corn into popcorn. Want to know more about popcorn science? Visit the popcorn website! (It’s all about the water.) Just plugging in the popper was interesting, but once the corn started to pop kids actually started to jump! I popped enough for each child to have a small cup at the tasting station (see below).

Smelling Station
I got the idea for this station off of Science Friday. (I try to listen to the show as much as possible for general interest sake and for good program ideas.) During the Scientists Test What the Nose Knows (3/21/14) episode, Andreas Keller tested Ira Flatow’s sense of smell by asking to him to smell three different samples and to then identify which two are the same. While Ira was given samples with multiple elements, I gave kids simpler smells. I left the experiment the same otherwise.

I put several drops of an extract on a cotton ball and placed it in a dixie cup. It was obvious which cup held which scent, but I marked the cup underneath just to be sure. Each child had three cups in front of them. Two of them were the same and one was different. The child smelled each of the three and then selected the two that smelled the same. We had multiple scents so a child could test their sense of smell multiple times if they wanted to.
dixie cups
cotton balls
extracts (vanilla, banana, almond, peppermint, orange)

Tasting Station #1: Popcorn
I took the large bowl of popcorn we popped over tot he tasting station where kids could season it with salt, nutritional yeast, or cinnamon/sugar. The original idea was to have the kids take the popcorn home and eat outside the library, but that didn’t really work out. I ended up doing a little vacuuming afterwards.
small plastic bags
nutritional yeast
cinnamon/sugar mix (1:1)

Tasting Station #2: Apples vs. Potatoes
I thought I would need a fourth station so I added this one, but it was not very popular and I would exclude it next time. The idea is to have kids use their sense of taste (minus sight and smell) to determine if the white food in front of them is apple or potato. To do this, kids take a bite sized piece of apple/potato and eat it while plugging their nose and closing their eyes. It is designed to show kids how much we rely on multiple senses to taste the food we eat.
1 apple, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 plates
something to put the chewed bits of potato into (kids will want to spot out the potato!)
Credit: Science Kids

Food Stamping Station
As always, I included an art station. I’ve stamped with food at home with my kids and as a volunteer in classrooms. It was time to paint with fruits and veggies at the library. It’s obviously not a new idea and lots of examples can be found online. For more ideas for a food storytime and food stamping visit Sturdy for Common Things.

Fruits and Veggies for Painting

At the stamping station, kids found cut fruits and veggies, paint, and paper. I showed them what I created, but they needed no encouragement and quickly got started testing out the different painting tools. Many kids also used their fingers to add more depth to their paintings.
paper plates (for paint)
washable paint in various colors (I used 3 per table)
cut veggies and fruits (I used a green pepper, an orange, a scallion, a mushroom, and an apple)

Here are some of the results:





Our Five Senses

What can you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste?

We spent this storytime hour exploring the five senses. We began by talking about the senses which gave late arriving families a chance to get settled before I started reading the first book. We looked out the windows at the cars going by, we heard the male pheasant that lingers outside the kids library in the Springtime, and we felt the fabric of our pants and the roughness of the carpet under our sit mats. No tasting this morning, but many kids told of their favorite flavors!

To help cement the names of the newly identified senses, we sang, of course! During the song we pointed to the body part we used for each sense. Most kids new the tune but not the words, so we repeated this one a couple of times.

Song: Five Senses (Tune: Where is Thumbkin)
Five senses, five senses
We have them. We have them.
Seeing, hearing, touching,
Tasting and smelling.
There are five, there are five.

Credit: Miss Sarah’s Storytimes

baby bear sees blueOur first book was Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books, 2012) which features all of the senses, color recognition, and the chance for kids to do some great animal spotting.  Baby Bear emerges from the den to find amazing colors as it explores the changing landscape with Mama Bear. The text is simple, but the illustrations, created using linoleum block printing and watercolor, are brilliant with lots of detail including a picture of the baby bear fishing that shows the scene above and below the waterline (my favorite). The final scene includes a rainbow to bring all of the colors together.

With the whole group assembled, we stood and stretched in preparation for this action song and more books. As with all new songs, we repeated it so kids could feel comfortable enough with the rhythm and the actions to join in.

Action Rhyme: Touch Your Nose
Touch your nose
Touch your chin
That’s the way this game begins.
Touch your eyes
Touch your knees
Now pretend your going to sneeze.
Touch your hair
Touch one ear
Touch your two red lips right here.
Touch your elbows where they bend
That’s the way this touch game ends.

Credit: Sturgis Kids

seven blind miceThe next book I shared was the Caldecott Honor Book, Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young (Philomel Books, 1992).  Several kids had read the book before and were excited to chime in or read along.  This book also reinforces color recognition, let’s us do some basic counting, and offers us an opportunity to talk about blindness. The kids all came up with suggestions on how people might use their other senses to compensate for blindness as they navigate the world. This book also provides good opportunities to get kids predicting what will happen next.

Time for a game! I found this on the internet somewhere (Pinterest, I think?), but lost 20130410-173129.jpgthe source. It reminds me of several of the activities I used when I homeschooled my son using the Montessori method.  The storytime kids loved it. I showed them the card with the texture on it and let them all have a feel. We came up with words to describe the texture and then I showed them the labeled card next to the original and read the text while pointing to the letters with my finger.  For the dry sponge I added a question mark instead of a word, introducing them to the symbol, and let them decide on a good description for it. During the craft/activity portion of the storytime, I left the game out for kids to play with their parents.


Black card stock
black-eyed peas (bumpy)
sandpaper (rough)
fleece fabric (soft)
aluminum foil (shiny)
sponge (?)

Note: I used hot glue to attach everything to the cardstock. It worked well except for the beans. They were easily picked off by determined little fingers. Also, for smooth, I didn’t add anything to the card and left it blank. The kids easily identified this texture.

toottootDepending on the group, I ended with either Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle (Big book) or Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia (Boxer Books, 2008).  Both have simple text with nice illustrations. Toot Toot Beep Beep certainly draws in the transportation hounds.

The story portion of the morning went longer than usual so the craft I planned was perfect. We made binoculars out of toilet rolls. We often make these in the Spring in 20130410-173544.jpganticipation of the annual stopover of migrating shorebirds on their way North.  The kids quickly got to work customizing the binoculars and then explored the library and outside through the new discovery tool. What’s great about these binoculars is that they help kids focus on one thing or a small area, often seeing more detail than if they looked without.


2 toilet rolls for each child
ribbon or string for the strap
hole punch
stapler (to attach rolls to each other)
stickers, markers, crayons, etc. to decorate