Archive for the ‘ 5 Senses ’ Category

Digestive System — It All Starts in the Mouth!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

To start off our unit on the digestive system, I had the kids look at a diagram and write down all the parts of the digestive system. That was the first section of the pack I made (more about that below). Then we took a closer look at the mouth.

We did these activities over the course of several days:

I asked the kids what the mouth’s role is in the digestive system. They quickly guessed chewing, but couldn’t go into much more detail than that.

We looked at the role of our teeth… and learned about the different types of teeth we have.  We made “dental impressions” with Model Magic, modeling clay. We looked at the surface area created by our different types of teeth.

Did you know that everyone has a unique dental impression?  We compared impressions — and it was super easy to figure out DD’s impression (she lost her front tooth!!)


I asked them to bite into a carrot and asked them where they put the carrot (in their two front teeth of course except for DD who has no front teeth at the moment!! Yes, she lost the other one! LOL! She enjoyed using our teeth puppet instead! Boy, you should have heard the sound effects… it sounded like a bear going after that carrot. It still makes me chuckle thinking about it!)

  • Incisors: Cut or slice food

  • Canines – tear or rip food. Naturally, we had to look closely at Boomer’s impressive canines!
  • Premolars and Molars – grind the food.
We took a carrot and chewed it a pre-set number of times… 5 times, 10 times and 20 times. Then we spit it out onto a plate. We also chewed a carrot 10 and 20 times while smelling some sweet peppermint candy to see if there was extra saliva!
That ball of food is called a bolus.
We talked quite a bit about saliva.  Saliva has several functions. It is made mostly of water which coats and lubricates the food. It also has enzymes that start to break down the starches. Did you know your body creates 2 quarts of saliva each day!  Whoa!
The kids did this simple activity about the role of saliva — chewing a cracker for two minutes and trying to see if the cracker tasted by the end as the enzymes broke the starch down into sugar. They also smashed a cracker and added water to see the role of liquid in creating a nice gooey glob to swallow and compared it to the “unchewed” cracker. You could also compare a chewed and spit-out cracker to one just with added water, but we didn’t do that.
We read this great/gross book called Hawk and Drool.  The kids loved it! It had gross facts like — nearly 100,000 droplets of mucousy saliva comes spewing out when you sneeze!
Here is a shot of the packet I made about the Digestive System — Mouth. Click on the picture to download.
NOTE: We are moving to We will be moving all of our printables there.
By the way, if you’re studying the mouth you might want to do this cute activity we did last year about the importance of brushing your teeth. Click on the picture for more details:

And as always, if you found this helpful I’d love to hear from you either below or at my Homeschool Den Facebook Page.  I keep a running list of all our posts there at the Homeschool Den Facebook Page. It’s a good place to visit if you’ve missed some of our recent posts because it gives you a quick synopsis and the direct link to that post.
Related Posts That Might Interest You (We are moving to

  • Choking, An Important Lesson for the Kids - A lesson about swallowing, the epiglottis and performing abdominal thrusts. Make your own (moveable) epiglottis with the printout to show how food is prevented from entering the windpipe:

Check out our other science units and freebies:

  • Rocks and Minerals: Free 25 page packet, free pages on the 3-types of rocks, lots of hands on activities
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Nearsightedness Is on the Rise — Sending Kids Outside May Help Prevent This

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

We’ve all heard the experts tell us that time outside has huge benefits for kids.  It helps them concentrate and focus in school, boosts learning, helps fight obesity, and is even beneficial for social development. Research has proven that recess is good for kids: “A recent multicenter study of more than 11,000 eight- and nine-year-olds, led by pediatric researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, showed that kids who had at least 15 minutes of recess a day (even just 15 minutes!) behaved better in class.” (from

Today I read about another important reason to send the kids outside. It may save their eyesight!

I read a fascinating article in Science News that indicates that kids who spend more time outdoors doing physical activity were less likely to become nearsighted.  The article explains “too much time spent indoors may be behind a surge in nearsightedness.”  I went on to do a bit more reading on the subject.

Nearsightedness (myopia) has increased steadily in North America and Europe in the past few decades. A National Eye Institute (NEI) study found that between 1971-72 and 1999-2004 the prevalence of myopia, or nearsightedness, increased from 25 to 42% for people ages 12 to 54 here in the U.S. That’s an increase of almost 66%!   ( Similarly, there has been an explosion of nearsightedness in East Asia. The Science News article shared this startling fact… a recent study of young men in Seoul and college students in Shanghai find that more than 95% are nearsighted. Similar findings have been found in other urban areas in the Asia.  This rising rate of myopia have led to declarations of a “myopia epidemic.”

Look at this chart from the National Eye Institute about the increase in myopia from 2000 to 2010 here in the U.S.:

image from

Society has changed dramatically in the past couple of centuries with many of the changes coming in the past fifty years… kids spending large portions of their days in classrooms and doing “near work” indoors like reading, writing, working on computers, and watching TV. All these things place unnatural demands on the eyes.

A few years ago some studies showed a link between nearsightedness and limited outdoor time during childhood. Scientists aren’t yet sure how outdoor exposure can help prevent myopia but some speculate it could be the natural light, the relaxation of the eye as it focuses on things at a distance, the broad field of vision, the use of peripheral vision or a combination of all those things. Studies have show huge increases in nearsightedness in urban areas, but this hasn’t shown up in rural areas.

One scientist explained the importance of outdoor time this way: ”If you have two nearsighted parents and you engage in a low level of outdoor activity, your chances of becoming myopic by the eighth grade are about 60 percent,” he says. “If children engaged in over 14 hours per week of outdoor activity, their chances of becoming nearsighted were now only about 20 percent. So it was quite a dramatic reduction in the risk of becoming myopic.” ( Even playing sports inside doesn’t seem to have the same benefit as outdoor time, so it’s not necessarily even stopping your kids from doing ‘near work’ like reading or watching TV that would help prevent nearsightedness. It’s the wonders and benefits of being outdoors.

The epidemic of nearsightedness is projected by the National Institute of Health to increase, but at least there’s something we can do to help protect our kids.

image from

So, the lesson I learned from all this is send the kids outside to play!


Interested in learning more? Be sure to go read the Science News article, “Urban Eyes”

Read this NPR article (or listen) to the story: Medical Detectives Focus on Myopia

Another interesting article is Genetic vs. Environmental Risk in the Mediation of Myopia



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Night Lights May Not Be Good For You or Your Kids

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

This isn’t breaking news, but it was new to me.  I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading of a magazine we get called Science News, when an article caught my attention. It said that sleeping in a room with even very dim artificial light such as a night light, computer screen or TV may cause changes in the brain and depression. The results of a study from Ohio State University Medical Center were released back in July (2012) that found that hamsters with chronic exposure to dim light at night showed signs of depression within just a few weeks.  The good news is that all symptoms of depression disappeared within two weeks of the animals’ return to a normal light-dark cycle.

Curious I did a bit more reading.  Other studies said that exposure to light at night has been linked to weight gain.  A report by the American Medical Association (AMA) says that even dim light can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. And, when people don’t spend enough time in darkness, the body doesn’t release the hormone melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. This can affect how deeply you sleep and what time your body starts to wake up. Melatonin is also thought to fight tumor growth and cancers. If you want to read more about how lighting at night may interfering with our body’s ability to fight cancers like breast cancer you might read this transcript on Science NetLinks about Night Lights. Studies are limited at this point, but those studies so far support the hypothesis that nighttime lighting and/or repetitive disruption of circadian rhythms increases cancer risk.

In its report the AMA “Recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment. (New HOD Policy)”  The report calls for more research to assess the risk of cancer and effects on various chronic diseases. If you want to read the study for yourself here’s the link to the AMA’s report: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting.

From what I’ve read I think we’ll be trying to minimize the kids’ (and our own!) exposure to artificial light at night — the thought of sleep disorders, depression, weight gain, cancer risks — sounds like some good reasons to turn off the lights!


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5 Senses: Taste ( and Cute Tongue Craft)

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

All week the kids have been waiting impatiently for the taste activities!  LD remembered doing this three or four years ago and couldn’t wait!

We first talked about the tongue and where you sense different tastes.  We made a cute tongue model and labeled the different areas.

I’ll show you how we put it together with a quick picture collage:

Then I pulled out a tray with different items and the kids had to decide what it tasted like–bitter, sour, salty or sweet. We used salt, sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon, powdered sugar, baking powder, lemon juice and Italian salad dressing.

So there you have it! A quick 20-minute activity and the kids sure enjoyed it!

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5 Senses: Matching Scents Activity

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

On Friday we revisited an activity that we’ve done a number of times before, making pairs of scents and trying to find the match.

To set up for this activity, I taped a piece of paper with matching symbols on sets of 2 Q-tips. Then I dipped the Q-tips into various liquids (vinegar, vanilla, fish sauce, almond extract, and lemon juice).  You can also do this with a cotton ball placed in a small jar.

Each of us took turns being blind folded and trying to find the scents that matched.

All of us were able to find the match to the fish sauce. We had varying degrees of success with the other pairs. I did miserably getting everything else wrong! DD and LD did pretty well matching 3 or 4 scents. (They tried it more than once.) I think there was a bit of ‘cheating’ going on when ED turned the Q-tips round and wound up matching everything correctly!  Guess her sense of sight is working perfectly too! :)


See how this fits into ED’s preschool science by clicking here.

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