Unit Theme: Exploring the Arts through Our Senses

Introducing the new unit theme! Dat-da-da-dah!  “Exploring the Arts through Our Senses”! 

I know I may start every unit theme post this way, but I LOVE this theme!  Really, you could spend a whole year exploring the arts and the senses.  In my opinion, they are two key elements to any preschool program.  No matter what your theme is, it should rely heavily on exploration through as many senses as possible, and it should encourage expression through the arts.  So in this unit, I focus heavily on the interconnection of the two.  You could do a similar unit, or use some of these activities to bolster the arts/sensory components of another unit.

I start off, of course, by talking about the 5 senses.  Not so much with the purpose that the children can then recite the five senses, but so that they are aware of them as tools they can use to learn and explore.  We will use these senses (as well as other senses, such as the way we feel inside) as we explore the concept of art!

We also (probably a day or so after the 5 senses discussion) try to define the concept of “art”.  I ask the children what art is.  They typically start out their responses with “painting”, “drawing”, and “coloring”.  All great answers!  Then we expand the concept to include music, dance, writing, even clothing and food.  The definition of art is something that is constantly debated.  For preschool purposes, the basic, working definition I use (though you’re more than welcome to share your definitions here as well) is that art is anything we create using our own ideas.  It’s one way we share our ideas with others.  So when we have an idea about something we can build out of blocks, and we do it, that’s art!  When we have an idea for a new story and we tell it, or write it, that’s art!  When we hear beautiful music and we want to move our bodies and dance to show our ideas about what the music is about, that’s art too!  There are plenty of examples to give.  Use both famous art examples and examples that your children have experienced so that they can see that they are artists too!

Throughout the unit, we use our senses to really get into art!  We use paint we can see, but also feel and smell.  We make music we can hear, but also feel in our bodies and see as a vibration.  We even make art we can eat and art we can wear!  It’s so much fun!  So full of expression and experience, two ingredients that are vital to the preschool years!

Of course, with me, there are also objectives for this fun theme!  Here are just a few:

Concepts / Objectives

Subject Areas/Skills

  • Sensory Awareness & Development

Observation skills, Science Skills

  • Using Descriptive Words


  • Sound as a Vibration


  • Experimenting Creatively

Small Motor, Sensory, Divergent thinking

  • Exploring Music and Visual Art

Language, Sensory, Small & Large Motor, Creativity

  • Visual Perception

Observation skills, Prereading skills

  • Shapes, Colors, & Color-Mixing

Creative, Cognitive, Science, Math

Here is a list of the activities I’ll be posting on this topic.  As usual, they’ll all be linked back to this unit post.  (All unit themes to date, can be found by clicking the “Unit Themes” category heading.)

Large Group Activities:

Five Senses Song

Crayons in the Box

Examining Visual Art

Reality and Fantasy in Art

Art Table Activities:

Glitter Playdough

Scented Playdoughhere and here

Dot Art  – Check out these great tools from Discount School Supply!

Colored Salt and Paint Prints (combine these two activities here and here)

Stringing Jingle Jangle Bracelets – String beads and bells for a multi-sensory, wearable art project!

Shake Painting (You can use rocks as in the post, or bells, marbles, anything that will give a great sound!)

Wax Paper and Water Colors – Similar to white crayons and water colors.  Lay a piece of wax paper on the art paper and draw several designs (which will be imprinted in wax) before painting!

Easel Activities:

Salt Paint

Scented Paint

Markers and Water – Have the children draw with washable markers and then paint over with water for a water-color effect!

Sensory Table Activities:

Color Mixing

Pom Pom Grab

Colored Water, Tubes and Funnels

Colored Rice

Working Tables

Color Puzzles – Montessori Style

Magnetic Texture Collage

Geoshape pictures

Field Trips & Visitors 

Check out your local venues for museums, art shows, and concerts.  Some programs offer special viewings for classes.  Don’t overlook your parents either!  Many have great artistic talents they can share in a very kid-friendly way.  Bring in a painter, a musician, a seamstress, or a cake decorator!

Dramatic Play Ideas 

Create a museum with art pictures, magnifiers, clipboards, and of course a ticket booth.  Consider a stage set-up for some drama performers or a band!


Pretzels and Colored Cream Cheese

Fruit Art – Check out these fruity flowers, and come up with your own ideas too!

Cupcake Art-  Try this link for instructions on fondant-covered cupcakes.  Keep in mind you are working with young children here.  Just help them frost and cover the cupcakes and then set them loose with the edible playdough known as fondant.  Try this marshmallow fondant recipe for a cheaper, better-tasting alternative to those found in stores.  You can make it in the primary colors and then knead secondary colors!  Use cookie-cutters or mold and shape a sculpture topping.  Art and the sense of taste combined!

Book Activities:

Look! Look! Look! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Paper cutting art)

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds (Dot Art)

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Wearable Art!)

My Crayons Talk by Patricia Hubbard (Story Art)

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora or Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss (Kazoo Making)

Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney (Rhythm Sticks)

 I may add to this list as time goes on, so check back!  And be sure to express yourselves and comment with your great ideas as well!

Top photo by flaivoloka.



Filed under Create, Unit Themes

6 responses to “Unit Theme: Exploring the Arts through Our Senses

  1. That is an awesome list for your senses unit! I hope you will be sharing the outcome along the way:)

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