Using the Senses

Using our senses gives us a chance to be both relaxed and aware, which helps keep the neurotransmitters in our brain balanced. It also trains the prefrontal cortex to pay attention, absorb details, and think clearly.

Watching Your Glitter Settle

FocusedKids for SchoolsTime: 1-2 mintues

  1. Fill jar (6oz) with water
  2. Add one tablespoon of glitter glue. Add one tablespoon of glitter
  3. Shake it up! Ask children if they can see through the water to the other side. Compare busy, over-excited, or upset minds (amygdala) with water clouded by glitter. Hands on bellies, breathing slowly, while glitter settles.
  4. Once glitter settles, compare clear water to a quiet mind. Talk about times the mind has been over-busy and times when it has been calm.

Listening to the Chime

Listening to the ChimeTime: 1 minute (up to 3 mins with practice)

Materials: A Chime

Why We Do It:

We use the chime to get our brain focused and calm so we are ready to do the next task.

Why It Works:

Listening to the chime while taking deep breaths slows everything down! Using the chime regularly trains the child’s brain that when it hear’s the tone it is time to breath and pay attention.


Children will practice listening to the chime several times a day, and master the ability to sit quietly for up to three minutes.

Chime ExerciseWhat to Say:

Tell the kids we are going to practice breathing while listening to the chime. This will calm our brain and help it get ready to learn.

  1. Sit up tall in the Mountain Pose.
  2. Breathe with hands on your belly, using belly breathing while you listen.
  3. Close your eyes, or look at an object in front of you.
  4. Listen to the sound of the tone.
  5. Raise your hand when you can’t hear the tone anymore.
  6. With practice you will be able to listen to the chime, belly breathing and focusing on your breath for up to 3 minutes.


“Peeking” may be part of getting comfortable with this exercise. We need to see what others are doing, and especially when we can’t hear the tone anymore. Just bring kids back to their breathing and listening. Each person breathes and hears differently.

Smelling Popcorn in a Bag

  1. Sitting in a circle, pass a small bag of popcorn around having each child take a deep breath in to smell the contents. (You can add the puppets to the group as well.)
  2. Ask the group to check in with Ms Elephante to remember something associated with this smell? (often the movies or a party)
  3. Then ask the group to check in with Guard Dog to see how this smell makes them feel. (often happy!)
  4. Ask the group to think of other smells that make them feel happy.
  5. Ask the group to notice how they feel after doing this exercise. (often good, or happy)
  6. Remind them that when they are feeling upset or unhappy just remembering or sensing a happy time can help them feel calmer. Check in with the puppet about the experience.

Colorful Water

  1. Colorful Water ExercisePlace a large jar of water in the middle of the group, or in front of a child.
  2. Ask them to choose the first color, and you (the adult) add a few drops of color to the water.
  3. Have the children quietly watch what happens as the color drops and spreads in the water.
  4. Point out to the children how quiet and focused they are.
  5. If the puppets are present, have all three together and watching your experiment.
  6. Point out to the kids that the puppets are quietly together observing. This is how your brain is when you are calm and focused and learning something new.

Listening to Music

FocusedKids PartnersA music break is a wonderful reset for the brain. After an active period or just when you see the need to regroup, have the kids puts their heads on their desks or table, or have them lie down in circle.

  1. Start with a deep breath and the chime, and then explain we are going take a brain break and listen to a song. (Recommended songs in the resource section.)
  2. Play the song asking the children to listen closely to the words.
  3. Remind them to breathe deeply, and to relax their body, letting their muscles “melt.”
  4. After the song is over have everyone stand and take a big stretch, like a tree blowing in the wind.

Eating a Raisin

Ask children to imagine that they are scientists examining their food for the first time.

  1. Give each child a raisin.
  2. Start by looking at your raisin. What do you see?
  3. Now, smell your raisin carefully. What do you notice?
  4. Try holding it close to your ear as you squeeze it gently. Do you hear anything?
  5. What do you feel with your fingers? Is it smooth, rough, or sticky? Is the raisin warm or cold?
  6. Now, put the raisin on your tongue, but don’t chew it yet. Just leave it on your tongue and notice how it feels in your mouth. Do you taste anything yet? Roll it around with your tongue. What is happening in your mouth?
  7. Now bite down on your raisin, slowly, very slowly. Notice if the taste changes as you chew.
  8. Try to notice when you swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.
  9. Process with the kids what they liked or didn’t like about this exercise.

Rainbow Meditation

MeditationThis visualization uses nature, where you see rainbows and colors to help children feel relaxed and confident. Colors often have particular feelings associated with them. For example, Blue is calming, Yellow is energizing, and Red is often power and strength. In this visualization, children relax in their rainbow and different colors that represent different mind states. Afterward, children feel both relaxed and energized.

  1. Lay in a comfortable position on the floor, using a pillow under the head, and a blanket to cover you if desired.
  2. Allow the body to relax, feet falling apart, arms at rest by your body. Close your eyes, or gaze towards your feet, and take a deep breath all the way into your tummy.
  3. Now take another breath, this time slower. (Do this with the children.)
  4. Imagine there is a rainbow right in front of you. Because we are imagining, you can walk over to the rainbow, and walk up to the top of it. Is it easy to walk on? Slippery? 
  5. Notice all the colors in the rainbow. Is there Red? Powerful, Strong Orange? Joyful Yellow? Sure of yourself Green? Kind, loving Blue? Calm, Honest Purple? 
  6. Now lay down in your favorite color. What does this color remind you of? How does it feel when you touch it? What does it smell like? Is it saying anything? Can you taste it?
  7. Now, just relax in your color. (30 seconds)
  8. When you are ready, imagine standing up, and sliding down one end of the rainbow.
  9. What was it like being in the rainbow?
  10. Would you like to draw your rainbow?

Paint a Feeling

  1. Use paints and brushes, or finger paints, this is a completely free art choice. Ask them to paint whatever they feel like.
  2. When they are done, ask them to name their picture with a feeling.
    "Let's name our pictures with a feeling. When you were painting today, how were you feeling, happy, sad, angry, scared, etc. and why"
  3. Hang paintings with their descriptions.
  4. Optional: Add these senses to the descriptions.
    • How does “mad” smell?
    • How does scared look?
    • Describe how sad tastes.
      Can you hear happy? How does it sound?

Color the Feelings in Your Body

A good book to use with this exercise is The Color Monster, by Anna Llenas.

  1. Help children identify what color each feeling might be (ex: red for mad). It can be different for each child.
  2. Then talk about where they experience the feeling is in their body (ex: sad is tears in their eyes).
  3. Allow each child to decide color and location for each emotion (it is different for each of us).
  4. Write each feeling in the corresponding color on the paper with the body.
  5. Finally, color the feelings on the body. (can be any shape, in the location they identified for each emotion, using the colors they assigned.)

Story: I once worked with a five-year-old boy whose parents were divorcing. He was quite stressed and needed a way to identify how he was feeling. We did the above exercise. However, we traced his body on a large piece of paper, and that is where he colored his feelings. It was quite an elaborate expression, and when he finished, he asked to cut it out. He then requested I tape it onto the front of him. I did that. Heaving a big sigh, he left the office wearing his feelings!

Guess the Sound

  1. Guess the SoundPlace a few marbles in a glass jar. (Or any other objects like rice, or rocks, etc.)
  2. Today we are going to practice listening carefully.
  3. First I will ask you to close your eyes or look downward, and then we will listen to the chime to get our brain ready to pay attention.
  4. Now I am going to make a noise. I want you to pay close attention and see if you can guess what the sound is.
  5. Have each child make a guess without seeing the jar.
  6. Explain that it is not really important to make the right guess, but that by listening to the sound carefully, we are training our brain to pay attention. That’s important if you want to do well in school!

Knowing an Orange

  1. Give each child in a group an orange.
  2. With eyes closed or lowered, slowly investigate every aspect of the orange —looking at it, smelling it, weighing it, feeling its temperature and texture, and licking it. Marvel at the shiny, protective layer over the orange, noting that it has no taste.
  3. Peel off the skin and examine it very carefully, biting and tasting the skin. Peel the fibrous layer and examine this.
  4. Divide each orange into segments, take a segment and very carefully go through the examination procedure. Then trade segments with everyone in the group. Notice that each segment is different in taste and texture.

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