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Enhancing Smell in Toddlers

by Darlene Peer

When your toddler seems to be ignoring terrible smells, it could be she doesn't even notice them. Infants and toddlers are still developing their sense of smell, along with their likes and dislikes. You can help your toddler develop this important sense by taking the time to expose her to a variety of scents and helping her to identify the relevant vocabulary to express her thoughts about what she smells.

Toddlers and Smell

Although your child didn't have a highly developed sense of smell at birth, she was still sensitive to very specific smells. For example, studies have shown that newborns can find their mother's breast by smell, following the scent of milk. Infants are also sensitive to faint differences in body odor. By the time your tot reaches age 3, she still may not have a sensitive enough nose to choose between some smells but she will have likes and dislikes that are similar to an adult's odor preferences.

Match Words to Smells

When you're using fragrant spices or herbs in your cooking, invite your toddler to take a sniff or a nibble. Describe the taste to him as you sample it as well, so he can match the word to the taste This way you'll help him identify the smell while enhancing his language skills and broadening his vocabulary. Ask him to repeat the word back so he practices pronouncing it. You can reinforce some words by letting him taste something. For example, let him smell chocolate and taste it. When you associate the taste of food with smells, it may help him learn faster.

Create a Smell Story

You can combine craft time with olfactory improvement by creating a story your child can read and smell. Take a piece of cardboard or construction paper, since glued or taped items may get heavy, depending on the story your toddler wants to tell. Take your child for a walk or even to the playground beforehand and ask her to help you collect smells for your story book. When you return home, write a story about what you did at the park, including physical items about the journey. For example, you can tape grass to the page for freshly cut lawns along the way, include sand from the sand box, add flowers that you picked or tape in a few of the crackers that you snacked on. The book will provide visual stimulation and scents to remind your child of her trip.

Smelly Bag

You can create a smelly bag full of your child's favorite scents or create them on your own and see if he can identify what's inside. Use a clean sock and then just knot the end to hold the secret contents inside. Let him feel the sock, smell it and shake it to increase the sensory experience. Try strong scents, such as lavender, popcorn, grass, potpourri, apples or oranges. After trying the game with your child, get him to mix bags (with help) and see if an adult can guess what he's put in there.

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