Sensory Summer

By: Mary Forde 

Distance learning is beginning to mean that I am learning how distant I am getting from reality. While my world seems to have shrunk to a 18 by 24 screen the rest of me is expanding to fit in whatever chair I can find. How about we all try to step away from the screen and get back to using our other senses or at least using them differently.

Looking differently

Begin by refocusing everyone on the sights around you. Start a sunset journal. Go out every evening, observe the sunset, take a picture and give it a name. “Firecracker” sunset because there are all different colors all over the sky. “Tutu sunset” because it is a pale shade of pink the color of the dance recital tutu you had to buy for a three-minute performance (never to be used again). Start building a journal of your sunsets. If you feel some perverse need to be educational (after your indentured servitude as a home teacher) you could also keep track of what the weather is the next day and see if you can use you sunset descriptions to predict the weather. Al Roker could use some competition.

Sounding different

There is nothing like good sound effects to make you start to really listen. You can begin with sound effects apps but then spend a morning and have kids create their own sound effects and see if people can guess what they are.

Pick a particular instrument and listen to it alone then listen to different kinds of music to see if you can pick out the songs that have the instrument in it.

Have the kiddos find a particularly interesting or funny paragraph and then have them email all your and their friends and ask them to read the paragraph and send the recording. See if you can pick out who is the reader.


Go to the supermarket and buy a couple of little packages of spices. Have everyone smell them and then blindfolded see if you can pick them out again. Try to incorporate one or two spices in meals throughout the week and see if anyone can pick out which spices are in the food.

Send the troops out into the yard with plastic sandwich bags and ask them to put samples of different things in each bag – grass, flowers, sticks, mulch. Someone will probably pick up something that was better left on the ground but just think of this as science. Smell what is in the bags and then get out the trusty blindfold, smell, and see if you can indentify them again.


Get a couple of bottles of different juice drink (mango orange, pomegranate), put on a blindfolds and see if you figure out what are the flavors in the drink.

Back in the day, there was a cottage industry of “product testers.” My mother seem to think that we has some innate skill to determine quality food items. Interesting but incorrect. Every so often she would receive a shipment of 10 different unmarked products – chocolate cake mixes, tuna fish, muffin mixes. For a nominal compensation, she was supposed to make/serve the products and fill out tasting sheets. Needless to say we weren’t scrupulous in following the directions or filling out the ‘tasting notes’ but we had a great time making five chocolate cakes and eating them and then pretending we could discern the bittersweet undertones (which could also have been due to the slightly expired milk). When you shop, instead of buying your usual brand or buying two packages of the same item buy a different brand. Conduct your own test kitchen. If you get really ambitious, or if it has been raining for two days, you can write to the company and let them know that you liked their chocolate cookies better because they were chewy and had more chips than the rival brand. They may just respond.

Bottom line, step away from the screen and take the time to literally stop and smell the roses. Everything about quarantine was designed to keep us from using our senses (masks, gloves, distancing, disinfectant). Use the summer to get back in touch and smell and taste.