Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Incredible, Indulgent Sensory Activities

Here are a few fantastic smelling sensory activities that both you and your children are bound to adore!

This first idea is from a Bev Bos conference, and is absolutely fantastic!  Set out a few heavy duty mortars and pestles with various delicious smelling things to smash or grind up.  Today we used coffee beans, dried rose petals (which should be easily found after Valentines Day), whole cloves, whole hazelnuts, and cinnamon sticks.

In general I let them use as much as they want, but today I had to ration the cinnamon sticks a bit so that everyone could have a couple (since there were only a few left).  Without fail every single child does this activity whenever it is presented.  It is quite popular with the children and the parents as well.  The parents always comment on how great the room smells after the kids have been working on such a project.                                

After they are done smashing or grinding up all of their treasures I bag it up and label it "a special scent made by Susan" or whatever that child's name is.  Some parents have put it in a cup or a dish and left it somewhere in the house as potpourri.

During the holidays this year I put somethings that they smashed up (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, all spice berries, star anise, and other "holiday smells") in little tiny white paper bags, folded them over and put a string through two holes punched in the top and had the children give them to their parents as car air fresheners.

 It was a cute and easy Christmas Present for them to give their parents and I had a lot of positive feedback about them.    There are a lot of other things you can give them to grind or smash- including cocoa beans, lavender, fresh or dried herbs, and much more! It seems so simple, but the really adore it and it smells fantastic.

When we were done with the coffee beans I added some coffee beans to the beans in one of our sensory bins!  Again, the smell was delicious! This bin contains a visually mesmerizing assortments of beans and dried vegetables some of which include pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, white lima beans, split peas, yellow split peas, red lentils, black eyed peas, giant fava beans, indian corn, and coffee beans!  The kids love running their hands through it and I have often spotted adults who can't help themselves from doing the same!  They also love the sound of the beans running through the mill, or being poured in the wooden or metal containers we have.  For more sensory bin ideas that include coffee beans check out this post by Teacher Tom or this post by Mary Lea (aka Pink and Green Mama).

The next idea came from the the Ooey Gooey Tooey Book by Lisa Murphy aka the Ooey Gooey Lady.  For years I have put Oatmeal in the sensory bin, but had never thought to add cinnamon (even though I EAT it in my oatmeal on a regular basis).  In any instance I put two large containers of oatmeal in the bin and added a half a cup of cinnamon, a half a cup of salt, and a little nutmeg because I had some and love the smell.  Thus far it has had rave reviews.

They have enjoyed playing in it and smelling it, and one poor little fellow even ate some.  Today, (of their own designs), they got the clip board and "wrote down"  the ingredients for oatmeal cake and then "baked it,"  putting a little literacy in the mix.  The first day I put it out, I caught some of them putting their faces almost down in it to better take in the smell!

Another hit recently was putting babies with soap, water, and sponges in the sensory bin for "baths."  Any soap can be used, but to infuse your room with a pleasant smell baby shampoo is nice to use or Lavender baby shampoo (by Johnson and Johnson) like we used today.  It smells absolutely beautiful.

Some other things that might be useful include cups (especially ones with spouts) to pour water over the babies and rinse them off, and little hand towels for them to wrap their babies in when they are done bathing (these were after thoughts, so I will use them next time).

If you liked these sensory ideas, here are some links to other posts:

5 more sensory bin ideas



  1. I love the oatmeal and cinnamon idea! I never would have thought of that!

  2. We have the little Christmas scent bags still hanging up -- one in my bedroom and one in the kitchen. M'mm! And the classroom smelled like Starbucks last night when I came for pick up!

  3. I love all these ideas. The little gift is cool too. We did something like it with cinamon last year, but it wasn't working right. I think it was the material they bought, but the room smelled really good. We've also done the babies in bath idea, but I didn't think to add shampoo. I'll have to do that next time. I've included your post on my weekly favorites here: http://play2grow.blogspot.com/2011/02/weekly-favorites-for-february-27-2011.html

  4. I love all your tub activities. I bet JDaniel would love washing his doll in bubbles.

  5. I love the bathing babies activity. Its on my to-do list with my class. They are gonna LOVE it!