Our sense of smell is a way for our brains to receive information about the world around us. The sensory receptors in the nose pick up information about the smells around us and pass this information along a channel of nerves where it eventually reaches the brain. Our sense of smell can discriminate between thousands of odours and help us determine whether they are strong, faint, pleasurable, foul or dangerous. It is also associated with the sense of taste helping to create the flavours that we taste in food. This is why nothing seems to taste quite right when you have a bad cold.
Fun fact- Our sense of smell is closely related to a part of our nervous system which is responsible for emotions and memories. This is why certain smells can bring back memories.
- Smell jars
- This can be done either blind folded so your child is solely relying on their sense of smell or without so they are also using their sense of sight.
- If blind folded- place various food items in jars/cups/on plates. Then ask children- What do you smell? Does the smell remind you of something? Remove the blind fold and see if they still have the same answers. You might, for example, use a mint leaf so your child may think it is like toothpaste but once they can see they will know it is something different.
- If not blind folded- same idea as above but try using foods that look similar such as a mint leaf and a basil leaf or coffee and grated chocolate. This way you child can guess first by looking then use their sense of smell to confirm or change their answer.
- For each of these activities I would not expect children of this age to know the name of all herbs/spices etc. but they may be able to compare them to items they are familiar with e.g. basil is like pesto pasta. The main point is to understand how we use our senses separately and in conjunction with each other and to use a variety of language to describe the smells.
- Scented paints
- Make your own paint by mixing a 1/2 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of salt together then add a 1/2 cup of water until you get a smooth paste (you may need a little more water if too thick). Divide the mixture into three zip lock bags and add different scented food flavourings such as peppermint, lemon etc. You could also add colours e.g. yellow food colouring to the lemon scented bag etc. Then mix the scents and colour through the paint. Once thoroughly mixed, cut the corner of the ziplock bag and you have a ready made piping bag to squeeze the paint onto the paper.
- Use herbal tea bags to create a colourful scented picture. This works best if you can hang the paper on an easel or stick on to a wall (in the garden I would think!) Stick the tea bags onto a sheet of paper using tape or safety pins then use a spray bottle to get them wet. Squish the tea bags and watch the colours dripping down the page. The more you squish, the more scent will be released!
- Scented playdough
- Basic playdough is made by mixing two cups flour, one cup salt, one cup water and a little oil together. To make scented playdough add flavour to the water before mixing to allow the scent to spread evenly through the playdough. Alternatively try using different flavoured oils such as garlic or rosemary.
- Water play
- Add rosemary/lavender/oranges to the water tray and enjoy the lovely scent while splashing around.