We are forever underestimating our senses, but they form the foundation of our lives. We experience the world through touch, taste, smell and sight. Without them, we would miss out on a lot. You only have to look at examples of synesthesia. This condition, which causes the senses to become muddled, can lead to a person experiencing the world in a very different way.
The benefits of sensory play for our children are endless, from helping with depth perception to assisting coordination, but, do you spend enough time nurturing your children’s senses? The chances are, you don’t. Our senses are so linked to who we are, that it’s easy to forget that they need developing too.
We could go on for hours about the part each sense plays in our lives, but I want to focus instead on smell. Why? Because of all the senses, it’s the one we most often forget, and yet, it plays a huge part in who we are. As well as helping us sense danger and comfort, scents also make a big difference to the way we taste. You can show your children this by playing a simple eating game.
Buy some jelly beans, and ask your children to chew them while holding their noses. Then, while they’re still chewing, get them to release their hold. They may not notice the flavours missing at first, but the moment their nose is released, the full taste will flood them! It may seem strange, but researchers believe at least 80% of what we taste comes from our sense of smell!
There’s also substantial evidence to suggest smell is the only sense which affects memory and emotion, and, when you think about it, that makes absolute sense. How often does a particular scent take you back to another time? Maybe the smell of a certain soap powder reminds you of your grandparents. Or, does the perfume your mum used to wear remind you of your childhood? None of the senses bring back such a feeling of nostalgia as scent does.
Of course, your children won’t be able to understand that yet, but, in a few years, they’ll be hungering for the scents of their younger selves. It may be that the scented candles in your home come to have special meaning to them. Or, maybe it’s the smell of your home itself. We all know that every home has a particular smell. While we may not notice it, our brains do, and they associate it with safety.
Also scent doesn’t just remind us of good times, either. Though you may associate sound and sight with keeping you safe, scent plays a huge part too. In fact, you could argue it’s more important. You can often smell danger long before there’s anything to see or hear. While impressing the importance of scent on your little ones, teach them how important it is for keeping safe. From smelling a fire to detecting a gas leak, your nose knows what it’s doing!