My nose has always been exceptional in picking out different scents. It’s a sense I rely on quite a bit since my vision isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…(sigh)
BABIES, too, have a pretty well-developed sense of smell. In fact they’ve been, right from the get-go (ie, in utero), exposed to smells. You’ve probably been impressed with the realization at just how quickly babies learn to differentiate, and prefer, certain smells too. It only takes a few short days for babies to distinguish between their own mother’s milk and someone else’s—by smell alone!
Learning Through the Senses
ALL children learn through their senses. They take in information via their
As mentioned above, your kiddo’s olfactory sense got its start in utero. After their birth, their sense of smell continues to develop. That sense of smell grows fastest their first six months of Life; peaking in early childhood.
Kiddos usually have a better sense of smell than adults. A word of caution is needed here though. Because they use their senses—and have an innate desire to learn—it is vital for the adults in a child’s world to put all dangerous materials out of reach. Young children will manipulate containers to find out what’s inside, especially if what’s inside looks at all like some kind of treat. A foul-smelling substance (by adult standards) isn’t guaranteed to dissuade them. One of the major ways babies and toddlers investigate new items is by putting them in their mouths. Obviously, this is very dangerous and can have tragic consequences.
The tongue has areas that taste sweet, sour, salty or bitter foods. But there’s more to tasting than what the tongue perceives. It turns out your tongue and nose work together. Your sense of smell and sense of taste are part of your chemosensory system.
Making Sense of Things…
Life isn’t a lot of discrete things but rather an interconnectedness of stuff—a couple examples:
1. In PLAY children can grow and learn in ALL developmental areas; they don’t learn in isolation.
2. Our bodies support and facilitate information gathering via our senses.
For example, we all get a vast amount of visual information via our eyes; our ears alert us to the auditory world; and when we smell our noses let us make sense of the scents going on in the world around us.
Besides being closely connected to the sense of taste, the sense of smell is linked to memory. Smells are handled by a structure in the front of the brain that sends olfactory information to other areas of the body’s central command to process. Aromas, fragrances or, more generically, odors go directly to the limbic system. This is a region related to emotion and memory.
Adding to Your Toolkit….
Because of the way odors are ‘mapped’ in your brain, smells have the ability to recall info seemingly immediately. Take advantage of that! Enhance your kiddos learning, and recalling, by adding a scent component.
1. Create smell tubes
At preschool, we’d use a pair of empty spice bottles with cotton balls drenched in a variety of different liquids* and spice bottles filled with dry goods**. The activity’s goal was for kiddos to match the bottles. In doing this activity they’d be expanding their connection to what the smell was and its name. Additionally their brains were automatically tying any emotional memories to those smells. Hopefully those memories will be of supported exploration, investigation, discovery and FUN in a loving, caring environment.
2. Visit a nursery!
Wander up and down the aisles of your local garden nursery with your kidlet. Encourage them to inhale deeply different blossoms. Again, doing so will help imprint the smell and the name of the flower in their brains as well as how they’re feeling about the experience. Extend the activity even more. ASK your kiddo to compare/contrast the different aromas. Which one was the most fragrant? Did some flowers smell citrusy? Was the most fragrant a citrus-smelling blossom?
The Nose Knows…
Our nose is central to our sense of smell, but it also is an important auxiliary player for our sense of taste. It’s required to differentiate beyond the basic sweet, sour, bitter, and salty tastes. Find out about the 10 smells your nose can detect.
Here’s another learning activity with a sense-theme for you to try with your toddler!
Yours in PLAY!