The senses from 3 to 5 years old

Little one is busy using their senses to take in and sort through information as they expand their vocabulary and knowledge of the world.

Actively using their senses as they explore their world helps little one to build connections in the thinking brain.


Little one uses touch to explore and learn as the connections grow stronger in the thinking parts of the brain.

Keep bonding with them though touch because:

  • holding hands and giving hugs helps little one feel safe and loved
  • they learn about their body and how to communicate with others
  • this helps them feel comfortable in their own skin.

Let little one use their hands to play, like finger painting, clay and using other sensory materials because this helps them:

  • make sense of touch information
  • keep calm
  • develop fine motor skills like doing up buttons.


Little one learns more about their world through the different smells around them.

They are learning to tell good and bad smells, and comfortable and uncomfortable smells.

The thinking brain takes in smell and uses this information to help little one learn and remember new ideas. Smells are still helping them feel good about trying new foods.

Talk to little one about what different smells are because:

  • the thinking brain learns to tell many kinds of good and bad smells
  • this helps train their brain to pay attention and understand what information is coming from the senses.

Point out to little one how great healthy food smells because this:

  • links positive feelings with healthy food in their brain
  • helps them learn to like tastes other than just sweet and salty.


Little one’s vision is better and they are now fine-tuning all the visual skills they learnt as a bub.

They can now see all the colours and in proper three-dimensions.

There are more connections in the visual part of the thinking brain so it can respond better to what the eyes see, making vision much more sharp.

The eyes and hands are also working together better and so little one can do more, such as draw a circle and put pegs in holes.

Let little one have fun stacking blocks, rolling balls back and forth, drawing, cutting with scissors, using playdough and putting together puzzles because:

  • their eyes and hands get practise working together
  • these can improve little one’s fine motor skills
  • the brain gets even better at making sense of what the eyes see
  • this helps little one later with learning to read and write.


Information from this sense can help little one be more alert and pay attention which helps them to learn.

This sense is still giving their brain information about gravity, movement and balance so they can jump, skip, hop, run, kick and climb.

Let little one move their body in safe and fun ways by spinning, rocking, swinging, rolling, riding bikes and bouncing because:

  • these make the back muscles stronger, which helps them have better posture
  • the movements can wake up the brain so they are more alert
  • the motion, for example swinging, can calm the brain.


Little one’s hearing has improved and now they can tell when someone calls from another room.

They can also hear the TV or radio at the same level as adults. Hearing is still the main path for little one to learn language. Little one’s hearing is still plastic, meaning the connections in the brain will keep improving with practise.

This is important so little one can develop listening, communication and social skills.

Read and share stories with little one to:

  • help their brain pick up on the features of sound like pitch and emotion
  • help them understand and learn to say more words and phrases.

Play different sounds and talk about what little one can hear because:

  • their brain can learn to take in and respond to sounds better
  • this can help them get used to different sounds and not be scared by them.


This is an important time to lay the foundations for healthy eating.

Little one begins to understand how food can be used as bribes, rewards, and treats. They also learns they can refuse to eat.

At this age little one will also eat more outside the home, like at childcare and kindy.

It is an important time to encourage, support and model healthy eating.

Little one still needs to try lots of different foods to complete taste pathways in the brain.

Cook with little one, letting them be involved in preparing food in safe ways because:

  • they learn about new foods through all their senses – smelling, touching, hearing, watching, and tasting
  • this helps link good feelings with healthy food
  • they are more likely to accept different foods.

Keep offering little one the same food many times because:

  • they can gain trust and understanding of the texture and taste
  • it helps build positive pathways in the brain to say it is safe to eat this food.
Published — 25 June 2019 Last updated — 25 June 2019

Want personalised tips and activities?

Complete these short questions to get personalised tips and activities to see how simple and easy it can be.

Get started
01 / 05

What is your relationship with the child?


What best describes your location?


If you had a spare moment, what would you most likely do with the child?


And finally…

Do you speak another language at home apart from English?
Are you of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander descent?
Does the child need additional support with their development or learning?
Now we know a little more about the content that might interest you we’ve compiled it into a handy page for you.