Cooking is overflowing with sensory learning experiences involving all 5 senses!

I bet you haven’t given it too much thought, but when you’re cooking you are using all of your 5 senses the whole time!

Here are some ways you are using each of the senses every time you cook:


When you’re cooking or baking you can hear so many things!!!

The boiling water, the sizzling of the pan, the chopping on the cutting board, the popping of popcorn, the ring of the timers going off, the banging and clanging of pots and pans… all noises you hear while cooking.

Lots of the time, the kids and I like to have the radio on so we can sing and dance while we cook. But sometimes I make sure to shut it off and give them the opportunity to listen to the sounds of cooking too.

Though it doesn’t happen very often, I do believe it’s important to be able to recognize cooking sounds that indicate something isn’t quite right. Like the sound of water boiling over for example.


There are endless ways the sense of sight is incorporated into the world of cooking!

Killians eyes to represent sight

-Seeing the bright and dull colours of all of the ingredients and how those colours sometimes change after being cooked.

-Noticing all of the different shapes the foods have in the beginning of the cooking journey, and watching to see how those shapes have transformed after being diced, baked, boiled…

-Observing the cooking ingredients and describing whether the items are big or small, long or short, fat or skinny…

When the kids and I are cooking together, we always have conversations about what we see. Here are a few example observations we often make based on the vision sense while cooking:

  • look and name the colours of the ingredients.
  • discuss the changes we see when something is melting (how it goes from big to small; or solid to liquid).
  • when we’re baking, we watch how the batter grows and changes from a liquid to a solid.
  • talk about how sometimes colours or shapes change as ingredients are mixed together.
  • if we are using food colouring, there is always a little colour mixing lesson involved. I explain to him the primary and secondary colours, and as we are mixing, we make predictions as to what colours we will create.

Of course this is just a short list of many observations that the kids and I make with the sense of sight while cooking


The smells, oh the smells!

Killians nose to represent smell

The smell of fresh ingredients, the smell of spices, the smell of cooking on the stove or in the oven that seeps through the house and makes you excited to eat!!! Smell is an integral part of cooking!

Smell is also BY FAR my son Killian’s absolute FAVOURITE cooking sense to use!!!

Since the very beginning; one of the ways I have always included both kids in the cooking experience has been to give them the opportunity to smell the spices before adding them to the mixture.

First I tell them what it is they are about to smell, then I hold the spice or mixture up to each of their noses to smell and they take a huge sniff. Afterwards I usually ask them if they likes the smell of that particular item or not.

I always tell the kids what it is they are smelling before they smell it. Sometimes I go on to explain how I think that the combinations of these smells work well together for this particular recipe and how other smells would not make a good fit.


Touching to know if something is sticky, slimy, hard, soft, rough, squishy, hot, cold, etc. is sensory education at its finest!

Children are always eager to touch things. They enjoy touching objects to see what it feels like; and often they try to describe the sensation they are feeling. When doing so they create the chance to learn a vast new vocabulary of descriptive words.

Cooking is a VERY hands on activity! Full of opportunities to feel and describe an assortment of textures.

Let’s look at some raw ingredients for example:

You can tell how cauliflower is hard and bumpy where mushrooms are squishier just by simply touching each of them.

It’s also interesting to feel how the outside of a pineapple is very rough and bumpy but the inside part you eat is juicy and slippery.

I could go on and on with just examples of exploring uncooked ingredients…

When learning through touch you might also notice all the ways that cooking ingredients can change their textures

Like how a potato is hard before you boil it but mushy afterwards


How a spaghetti noodle is straight and hard before boiling but floppy and soft after.

More great ways that cooking allows you to dig in and explore your sense of touch are: kneading bread, patting down pizza dough, smushing bananas, rolling cookie dough, etc.

My kids are always exploring with their hands while we are cooking. Smushing frozen bananas when making banana bread is one of their favourite sensory activities; they both always shiver and say “cold, brrr”. They also love poking and squishing dough too.


The most obvious sense involved in cooking is taste. Tasting vegetables before and after cooking, tasting sauces… And of course, tasting the finished product. Mmmmmm!!!

Killians lips to represent taste

-Discussing and trying to identify whether something is sweet, sour, bitter or salty is a great way to turn tasting food into a fun learning experience. Having the ability to taste, identify and describe these different tastes is a lifetime skill that increases vocabulary and also helps when cooking nice meals.

-Being able to label what your tasting as well as being able to recognize what might be missing in flavour is important when cooking. It is also great way to explore and improve problem solving skills.

-Tasting and learning what flavours go well together and what flavours do not is another fundamental to cooking a delicious dish. (Though experimenting with this can be TONS of fun and lead to unexpected surprises)

-Discovering how all of the ingredients you’ve put together while cooking have blended together to create an amazing meal is so satisfying and is a great confidence booster too!

-Let’s not forget about observing how the taste of some ingredients transform after they have been cooked.

All of these are great learning experiences related to taste!

Tasting is my daugher Aoife’s favourite part of cooking. While we’re busy chopping and dicing, she is busy tasting. She loves tasting sauces, spices, mixtures, everything!

Are you ready to start exploring your 5 senses while you cook with your little one? Here are 2 free Picturized Recipes to try to get you started ?

lasagne mockup

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