We have many senses (five being the most commonly known ones, but there are at least 7, and in the Waldorf system, I was told there are so much more) – and they all serve different purposes.

In Montessori education, refining of our senses is important because children shape their intelligence through their senses – visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, and olfactory impressions help a lot with brain development. Vestibular and proprioception, senses related to balance and knowing our location and position in space, are important for brain development, too.

Unlike us adults who mostly use our sight, children tend to use all their senses in different occasions and different ways. To help refine them more while they’re still at that sensitive period, activities may be presented to isolate a particular sense.

Today, we deal with the olfactory sense.

Do you like smelling things? My godson loves to smell EVERYTHING, and it’s fascinating how this has really heightened his sense of smell.

Smelling gives us a lot of things – impressions, memories, good or bad feelings, etc. I’ve read before that for many animals, the sense of smell is so important because this is their only way to tell if the plant or animal they eat in the wild is good for them or dangerous for them.

For a starter, I just introduced the smelling work – and observed if it was something my toddler was already in to. He liked it, and so we did this for a few days. When he lost interest, I kept the bottles. But maybe, he would be ready for the smelling work done in classrooms [finding the matching bottles] next time. You can read more about it HERE. The one we did had no control of error, but simply an activity for exploration.

What I Used:

(4) small and clear spice jars –
food: onions, basil, garlic, calamansi

How I Presented:

I placed all the jars in a tray.
Since our jars are clear, we looked at the jars together, named them one by one, then I closed my eyes (to isolate the olfactory sense) to smell each.
Then I invited him to do the same.
When he was already familiar, we would have a game – he would close his eyes and then I would pick a jar and he would smell and tell me which one was it.

That’s it.


* When your toddler is already enjoying this, you can do more bottles and do matching work (and placing a sticker at the bottom with the same color of stickers for the pairs for control of error).

* You can also choose dark bottles so your child won’t see what’s inside and really isolate the sense of smell – but I only worked with what we have, so we used the clear spice jars I have.

* You can put cotton and place the food on top. This helps absorbing the smell of liquids (like juice) better. I used the cotton we have from medicine bottles.

* Start with what you have at home, but for this activity, here are some ideas:
SPICES – cinnamon, vanilla, curry, turmeric, ginger, onion, garlic, pepper, saffron, etc
HERBS – basil, mint, rosemary, bayleaf, cilantro, tarragon, etc
CONDIMENTS – vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, mayonaise, etc
FRUIT RINDS OR JUICES – lemon, calamansi, lime, orange, mango, watermelon, pineapple, etc
FLOWERS – if you have flowers with strong smell like roses, sampaguita, etc, these are great addition, too!
OIL – coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc – they have different smells, too!

* Others use perfume and essential oils, but personally, I’d stay away from them for this activity first. Children’s senses are so sensitive and I think these are too strong.

Have fun!



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