Preschool Senses… Ah, the good old sense of smell!  I usually take it for granted until I have a cold and food doesn’t taste the same.  It’s just something I don’t often think about–but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.    Playing with your kids and their sense of smell allows them to become more aware of smell-related vocabulary, and helps them build observation and discrimination skills.  Plus, it’s fun 😉

kids with lemons, coffee and candycanes

The Simple Smelling Game

Give me simplicity every day.  I’ve written before about simple scented things here and here and oh, yeah, here!

But now, let’s play a game with smells.  All you need are a few scents–at least three, and no more than six or seven is good; the same number of cotton balls (or not–read on for details); printed pictures of your chosen scents; and small containers with holes poked in the lids.  Depending on how you’re playing, these can either be clear or not.

Let’s smell some smells!

So how do we play?  The prep work happens away from the kids for this game (and be sure to keep in mind food allergies and sensory sensitivities if you are planning this activity in a group setting.) First, choose your scents and gather them.  For the kids to have fun and be successful, use scents they are already familiar with.  Ideas that I’ve used in the past include coffee, hot chocolate, banana, ketchup, peppermint, lemon, and coconut, but you know your kids best so go with what they know!  Second, find images on the internet (or take photos) of all the scents you’ve decided on.  Print them and cut them out.  (I recommend real images, not cartoon/clipart, and printing on cardstock and/or laminating if you’re in a classroom setting.)  Third, get your containers and poke holes in the tops.  If you’re going to use scent extracts with cotton balls, your containers can be clear.  If you’re going to use the actual food item (like a slice of banana, coconut flakes, coffee grounds, etc), you’ll want containers that aren’t see-through, like the film canisters linked above.  (Alternately, you could wrap the clear containers in colored tape to prevent the kids from seeing inside.)

coconuts with text overlay
pin for later

Fourth, put your scents on your cotton balls and put each into a container–or put a small amount of each food item into your non-clear container–and pop the lids on.  And last, all you need to do is play!  Encourage the kids to take a sniff of a container, and see if they can name the smell.  Sometimes they might need to see the printed images to help figure it out, and sometimes they won’t.  Encourage them to describe the scent.  Is it sweet?  Spicy?  Does it remind them of something or someone or somewhere?  Of course, there are no wrong answers here, and “yucky” and “yummy” are perfectly acceptable descriptive words for young kids still building their knowledge of the world 😉

As the kids experience new foods, you can bring this game out again with brand new scents, so they can build on those experiences.  And you can bring a little early math into the game by asking them to sort the scents by category–sweet, spicy, floral, etc.  This game is perfect as a small group experience, or as an activity that’s available for kids to use independently.  I hope you try it and I hope the kids love it! 


Looking for some un-scented fun for kids?

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