The Best Activities for the Olfactory System

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Is your child or student sensitive to certain smells? Maybe they can smell something that you can't, or they can't be in certain environments because of the smell. Today I want to share some of the best activities for the olfactory system, or our sense of smell.

What is the Olfactory System?

The olfactory system, or our sense of smell, travels through chemical receptors with direct neuronal connections to limbic system (responsible for emotional memory). This is often why our emotions are tied to smells and food. 

When we eat, we smell something first. If it smells good we are more likely to try it. If it smells bad that sends a warning that we may not like it OR that it is dangerous for us to eat.

Some sensitivities for the olfactory system include:

  • overly sensitive to certain smells and avoids them
  • limited diet (gagging or avoiding)
  • explores objects by smelling
  • craves certain smells or textures
  • holds their nose to avoid smells, even if you don’t smell anything
  • avoids foods most children their age enjoy

Best Activities for the Olfactory System

  • scented play dough, finger paints, or sensory doughs
  • use scented markers or stickers
  • create smelling bottles with various spices or items to introduce new smells
  • use scented bubbles – a recipe for scented bubbles here
  • scented chewable items
  • avoid scented soaps, lotions, perfumes, and oils
  • visit a herb garden

If you are looking for specific resources for picky eaters, my friend Alisha over at Your Kid's Table is an Occupational Therapist expert with this.

She has a FREE Picky Eating Workshop that you can sign up for here, which is a great first step.

Free Handout on the Olfactory System

I have a free handout on the visual system, along with all 8 sensory systems in these 8 sensory systems printable packet. You can access it for free when you subscribe to Growing Hands-On Kids. I send a weekly newsletter of child development tips, tools, and strategies, plus other free handouts and printables.

To get your free printable packet, put your email address into the form below. You'll be redirected to a thank you/success page and then check your email for the free download. You'll also receive my free sensory systems email series with more tips and ideas for all 8 sensory systems.

Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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CONTENT DISCLAIMER: Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.
All information on the Website is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for medical advice from a physician or your pediatrician. Please consult with a medical professional if you suspect any medical or developmental issues with your child. The information on the Websites does not replace the relationship between therapist and client in a one-on-one treatment session with an individualized treatment plan based on their professional evaluation. The information provided on the Website is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

Do not rely on the information on the Website as an alternative to advice from your medical professional or healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment as a result of any information provided on the Website. All medical information on the Website is for informational purposes only.

All activities outlined on the Website are designed for completion with adult supervision. Please use your own judgment with your child and do not provide objects that could pose a choking hazard to young children. Never leave a child unattended during these activities. Please be aware of and follow all age recommendations on all products used in these activities. Growing Hands-On Kids is not liable for any injury when replicating any of the activities found on this blog.

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