Tickling the Senses

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Recommend for: Cognitive, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Preschooler,


Summary: Experiencing new smells is very important in child development as it allows them to learn about the world around them. Talking to them about their sense of smell and describing other smells they sense can also help in their language development.

For this activity you will need a range of smelly substances such as:

  • Perfume
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Vanilla essence
  • Spices (cloves, cinnamon, ginger…)
  • Mint, basil, thyme (or essence)
  • Coffee
  • Chopped onion
  • Vinegar
  • Small piece of banana
  • Lemon juice or essence


  1. Collect sufficient small containers such as film canisters so that you have one for each of the substances
  2. Poke small holes in the lid of each container
  3. Place a little of each of the liquid substances onto cotton wool balls
  4. Put the scented cotton wool balls and a little of the remaining substances into individual containers
  5. Put lids on containers, securing firmly with tape around edge of lids

As children smell the substances ask them to describe the smell and try to identify it. Encourage them to use descriptive words rather than just saying “This one smells like grass”

An additional activity could be matching the smells – make two containers of all smells and then let the children match them.

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