Today Jennifer Tammy from Studyathomemama.ca and InTheKidsKitchen.com is joining us as part our Five Senses Play Challenge. Jennifer is a Canadian psychologist who runs a Montessori daycare out of her home so she can stay home with her daughter. She loves hands-on learning and is spending 2015 striving for minimalism.
The Montessori Method has this weird thing about isolating the senses. We use scent bottles and touch tablets, and generally try to teach children through their senses rather than relying on lectures and rote memorization.
There are also weird rules in Montessori about how we don’t play music unless we are focusing on music – we eliminate sensory input that could be deemed distracting.
Despite all of this, I always try to consider scent when we are engaging in an activity.
Because smell is the sense most tied to memory. While we can learn hacks about how writing in green can improve memory function, or using hands-on learning to reinforce concepts, scent is the easiest way to create a memory impression without overwhelming a child’s sensory input.
Because scent is quickly processed and categorized by our central nervous system and it stops being noticeable after an average of 90 seconds, unless we “trigger” our sense by getting closer to the scent or changing up between scents (by smelling something else and then returning), so it is less likely than other sensory inputs to be overwhelming.
I am so excited to share with you today my top 7 ways to include the sense of smell into learning.
1. Homemade Play Dough
Homemade lay dough is one of those few things where scent comes first. When making chocolate play dough, you know you have to make it smell chocolaty; when making pink lemonade play dough, you know it better smell sharp and sweet.
If you don’t have the time to make homemade play dough, you can always add some essential oils or scented extracts to commercial PlayDoh for a sensory hack.
2. Montessori Scent Bottles
I shared ours during our 5 Ways to Play: Cotton Balls post, they are simple to set-up but wonderful for really refining the sense of smell. Think of it like a “Smell Matching Game.”
If containers just won’t work for you, try dropping/spraying/rubbing a bit of scent onto cardstock!
3. Baking with Kids
Have your kids experienced the smell of bread baking? Or vanilla simmering in milk on the stove for a lovely pudding? Baking with kids is a bit of a messy proposition, but the sensory benefits are unparalleled.
4. Smelly Paint
One of the easiest sensory hacks is to add a drop of scent to paint! Whether finger painting or using a brush, that little addition can make a huge impact.
Or, there’s always the easy store-bought method of smelly markers!
5. Sensory Play
6. Learning About Cultures
7. Calming Scents
While sensory input can cause children to get riled up, certain sensory inputs can also be incredibly calming, and not surprisingly, scent is my go-to. We have a peace corner set-up in our work room and in my daughter’s bedroom, and I try to incorporate calming scents into those areas. Lavender and Orange Oil are my favourites.
What are your favourite ways to engage your child’s sense of smell?
Thank you to Study At Home Mama for sharing their top 5 ways to include the sense of smell into learning. This guest post is part of our Five Senses Play Challenge, for the sense of smell. Click here for more smell activity inspiration.
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