1. Jelly bean test
Ever wondered why food is so tasteless when you have a cold and your nose is blocked? Our sense of smell and taste are directly linked because they both use the same types of receptors. Without our sense of smell, a potato and an apple would taste exactly the same.
You could try this test with an apple and a potato, but jelly beans will be a more popular way for children to understand just how critical their sense of smell is to determining the flavour of food.
Simply buy a bag of assorted jelly beans and place them in small bowls, divided into various flavours, such as strawberry or vanilla.
Firstly, ask your children to smell each bowl of jelly beans.
Then, ask them to close their eyes. Hand them a jelly bean to chew – one at a time – and ask if they can guess the flavour.
Repeat the game – though this time, ask your children to hold their noses with two fingers before they chew. Can they still guess the flavour?
2. Lavender-scented play dough
Play dough is always a crowd-pleaser with kids, but why not stimulate their senses with beautifully scented, lilac coloured lavender play dough?
This concoction is super easy to make with finely chopped lavender and just a few drops of food colouring. Hint: use a mix of red and blue food colouring to make purple.
3. Scratch a lemon
Mandarin, lemon, tangerine – uplifting citrus aromas tend to be popular with children. Use your fingernail to scratch the skin of a lemon, grapefruit or orange and pass it to them to inhale for an incredibly simple yet fun sensory experience.
4. Go for a “smell walk”
Children’s scent memories are usually associated with the way their home or neighbourhood smelled. The particular aroma of trees or flowers, the smell of the ocean, rain on a tarmac road, or even the exotic aromas experienced while on holiday.
Make a point of identifying various aromas next time you go for a walk, such as the smell of baking bread at a bakery, flowers or pine needles at a park, freshly mowed grass or the distinctive aroma of a train station.
Talk about the various aromas as you walk and when you get back, see how many your child can remember.
5. The aromatic kitchen
A kitchen is filled with potential to sniff all kinds of wondrous natural smells. Next time you cook, let your child inhale the distinct aroma of various ingredients such as grated ginger, honey, a bay leaf or a banana peel.
Herbs can be particularly interesting for little ones. Teach them how to crush mint between their fingers or slap coriander with their hands to release the fragrant oil.
6. Sensory “sniffing” jars
This one takes a little more effort, but making your own Montessori-style smelling jars is a wonderful way to help develop their sense of smell.
If you have essential oils, place a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus onto cotton balls and place them inside old spice shakers or baby food jars.
Or, simply chop up pieces of fruit, some sprigs of lavender or basil, or use coffee, frangipani flowers, dried roses or star anise – whatever you can find. Label each jar on the bottom.
Then, let children start sniffing! Ask them to describe what they smell, and see if they can match the smell jar with printed-out photographs of each scent.