We have about 1,000 scent cell receptors that send messages to the brain, creating memory recollections and associations with trillions of smells we encounter during our lifetime. Each time we experience a new smell, we create a smell conditioned response as the brain forges a link with the event, person or moment. For example, the smell of chlorine is linked to a swimming pool, the smell of cut grass to the start of spring. Smell is strongly linked to emotion recollections too – I am sure you can think of smells that take you back to your childhood, places you have visited or events in your life.
An excellent activity with the children is to create some scent pots using fragrances they have been exposed to recently, this can be done with herbs, fruits or flowers for instance.
Taste the smell
Chandler Burr wrote in The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, ‘The human nose is also the main organ which accounts for 90% of taste, which is why we struggle to taste when we are congested.’
Our sense of smell is so remarkable that it is widely reported a newborn baby can identify its mother’s breast milk from that of another.
A recent tour of a chocolate factory included experimenting with how the taste of chocolate changes if you hold your nose whilst eating. The children used all of their other senses first – smelling the chocolate, hearing the chocolate snap, seeing the shine on the chocolate, feeling the chocolate in their mouths and finally tasting, although this wasn’t as exciting once they held their noses!
Try using a similar experiment with different food items by getting the children to describe the texture as well as the smell and taste. This is an excellent mindfulness technique too, as the child is concentrating on specific senses. Always get parental permission and check for food allergies.
Smell the mood
Smell can affect our mood and how we react, too. A study at the University of the Netherlands found that a hint of aroma wafting out of a hidden bucket of citrus-scented cleaner was enough to persuade students to clean, even though the majority hadn’t even registered the smell (Psychological Science).
Incorporating scent into play trays is an easy and effective way to create another element of play for the children. Freshly cut grass in the dinosaur tray, flowers in the fairy garden or herbs in the farmer’s yard – all can generate associations and memories for the future.
About the author
Lisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination. Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.