Spring to your senses!

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

As you read this, do you have one child trying to pull you out of your chair to play, while another remains immersed in an imaginary tea party with her stuffed animals? Do you remain mystified by the completely different sleep habits, fashion statements, or favorite foods your children choose?

According to child development and parenting expert Priscilla Dunstan, these preferences have very little to do with parental, or even peer influence. They are tied into your child's senses and are determined at birth.

In her new book, Child Sense: From Birth Through Age 5, How to Use the 5 Senses to Make Sleeping, Eating, Dressing, and Other Everyday Activities Easier While Strengthening Your Bond With Your Child, Dunstan contends that just as we have a dominant hand and eye, we also have a dominant sense, be it touch, sight, hearing or taste/ smell. She believes the dominant sense lasts a lifetime.

According to Dunstan, "This dominant sense mode affects everything in our lives: how we take in information and process it, learn, interact with others, experience and respond to our needs, and communicate those needs to those around us."

Dunstan details cues parents can look for to determine their child's dominant sense as well as their own. She promises that once parents have a better understanding of how a child's behavior is tied into his or her dominant sense, and how the parents' reaction to that behavior is tied into their own dominant senses, communication will drastically improve.

Dunstan explains why a visual mother who likes to see everything in order may cringe when her tactile toddler, who experiences the world through physical contact, throws toys all over the room. It may give a parent a better understanding why their young auditory daughter hates to go to parties. It's not because she's shy; she just detests all the noise. A taste/smell toddler's fit over visiting Grandma may be tied into how Grandma's house or perfume smells.

Dunstan takes readers through each of the four sense groups and identifies typical behavior at newborn, baby, toddler, and pre-school ages. She helps explain food, clothing, play, and even potty preferences. She also shows how a child's dominant sense will determine how he or she reacts to periods of stress like moving, divorce, or the death of a loved one.

Readers will likely find the theories thought-provoking and at the very least be left trying to figure out what dominant sense everyone in their family has.

Theory aside, spring is a wonderful time to get outside with young children and stimulate all of the senses! Here are some suggestions from Columbus Parks and Recreation, COSI, and Nationwide Children's Hospital for play that makes sense!

Kristen Maetzold is a freelance writer and producer for Living & Learning TV with 18 years' experience as a television news producer. She lives in Worthington with her husband David and three step children, Will (22), Anna (18), and Andrew (16), and is a new-ish mom to Ellie, (2).

More information

Little Acorns Club: Bugs Galore

Tuesday, April 13, 20 and 27

10-11:30 a.m.

Ages 3 to 5 years and parents

Don't let them bug you! You and your child will discover bugs by becoming junior entomologists (bug scientists) as we read about, make, hike and discover all things buggy! The cost for this three-week session is $20 per child for residents of Columbus and $25 per child for non-residents.

Little Acorns Club: Spring is Here!

Tuesday, May 4, 11 and 18

10-11:30 a.m.

Ages 3 to 5 years and parents

Discover the many changes of spring with your child. We'll explore butterflies, wildflowers and much more. The cost for this three-week session is $20 per child for residents of Columbus and $25 per child for non-residents. Reservations are required.

Reservations are required for both programs. Call (614) 645-3380, or e-mail outdooreducation@columbus.gov.


(18 months-3 years)

Meet a tree Every tree feels different. Have your child feel the bark and leaves or needles. Say hello and shake hands with the tree (using a branch). Even give the tree a hug.Just watch out for poison ivy! (A hairy vine is a scary vine!)

Outdoor finger painting

Tape paper on a sidewalk or other flat surface. Begin with primary colors like red, blue and yellow. While your child creates, talk about how the paint feels on the paper and fingers. Then have him or her mix paints to create new colors. Add extracts to the paint so the yellow smells like lemon, red like cinnamon and green like peppermint.

All ears

Some animals have large ears that help direct sound into the ear canal. Have your children cup their hands behind their ears and close their eyes to find out how many sounds they can identify - a car horn, an airplane, a train, a dog barking, or a bird singing.


(3-5 years)

Matching colors

Stop by the local hardware store and pick up several paint chips. Select a variety of colors. Then take a hike with your child and try to match the colors to items found in nature.

Eye spy

Staple two toilet paper rolls together side by side and add a neck strap. Take a hike with your child and have him or her use the "binoculars" to look at things far away and up close. Even without magnification, the "binoculars" focus the child's attention on a small area. You'll be surprised how much he or she sees!

Bark rubbings

Place paper on a tree and have your child take a large crayon and create a rubbing of the bark on the paper. Try this on several different types of trees. Leaves work too!

Dig in the dirt

Find a creek bed or exposed hillside and go on a fossil hunt. Fossils in central Ohio are around 400 million years old - far older than the oldest dinosaur! It's just a good excuse to dig in the dirt!

It makes sense

Whether or not you believe your child has a dominant sense, experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital maintain that sensory activities are an essential part of kids' development and will not only help them to have a more meaningful learning experience, but help them commit the experience to memory.