What Is Olfactory Sensitivity

What Is Olfactory Sensitivity? (6 Sensory Activities)

The ability to smell is important for nutrition, protection from danger, and quality of life, even in children. Although smell loss is unusual in children, it can be symptomatic of some childhood disorders and may be useful for understanding some disorders. We all have a sense of smell, but some people are more sensitive to certain smells than others. The part of the nose that detects odors is called the olfactory system and it includes tiny nerve cells in our noses that transmit information about what we smell to our brains. 

Some people may be more sensitive to bad smells such as skunk spray while other people may not notice these same things. Sensitivity can be genetic so if your family members say they are bothered by specific scents, chances are you will also be affected.

What Is Olfactory Sensitivity?

The olfactory system, or sense of smell, is the sensory system used for smelling. Olfaction is one of the special senses through which smells are perceived. The sense of smell has its importance and has many functions, including detecting hazards, and pheromones, and plays a role in taste.

A human can detect an infinite range of smells, but scientists have concluded and managed to sort them all into 10 basic categories, ranging from peppermint to pungent. Taste, vision, and hearing can be quantified, but a systematic description of smell has remained indefinable. To describe the odor systematically, researchers have used mathematics and simplify them into overall 10 categories: fragrant, woody/resinous, fruity (non-citrus), chemical, minty/peppermint, sweet, popcorn, lemon, pungent and decayed.

Importance of Smell

 Our sense of smell is as a result predominantly important when it comes to relishing food or a meal. Smell and taste are closely connected and bear combined responsibility for our experience of taste. Can you remember the last time your nose was blocked and you had a cold and you lost your sense of smell? In such a position, food unexpectedly becomes bland, with the taste leaving something to be desired. 

For most living creatures and manhood, smell is one of the most momentous ways of interaction with the environment. Your sense of smell is the only sense that has a direct connection to the brain. Like fingerprints, every person has a distinct odor.

Various children on autism spectrum disorder show sensory abnormalities, which are apparent as sensitivities, under sensitivity or sensory-seeking behaviors that are also comparative to the sense of smell. Some people can notice the smell of filthy foods from a distance while on the other hand some will not smell at all when entering a stinking place. The children who don’t respond to smells might be disinterested in food which may result in eating issues. Identifying these issues, researchers target sensory glitches, as well as related complications, such as social behavior.

Here are a few olfactory sensory activities for kids: 

Explore Sense Of Smell

This is a very interesting and elementary game to understand the smell of basic items used in the kitchen and food. Choose a few items related to the kitchen with a strong aroma and put them in small containers and ask your kid to guess the items by smelling without seeing and touching them.

What We Need

  • Lemon slice
  • Coffee grounds
  • Black pepper
  • Onion
  • Cinnamon
  • Cilantro
  • Small containers/ jars
  • Blindfold

Before starting this game, use a blindfold so the kid cannot see the items. Give each container in his hands to smell it. This activity is very helpful in recognizing the smell of kitchen items.

After guessing all the foods, to make it more interesting, ask your kid to taste all these items one by one.

Don’t forget to share the review of your kid after this game and ask him about his favorite smell among these items.

Spice Painting With Edible Glue

In this activity, we will learn how to make edible glue and paint with spices. This activity will help kids to differentiate between spice smell and other food items. 

What We Need 

  • Different spices
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C water
  • 1 t vinegar
  • Paintbrush
  • Paper

 Mix the flour and sugar according to the quantity mentioned above. Add half of the water and stir until you have a smooth, thick glue. Add the remaining water and stir until smooth. Mix in vinegar and stir over medium heat until the glue begins to get thick. Don’t stop stirring during this step or you end up with clumps of glue!

 Once you get desired thickened results, remove it from heat and keep it on a safer side to allow it to cool before transferring to an airtight container.

Spice Painting

For the spice painting, put some water and place it in small dishes. Then allow kids to add some spices according to their choice. They can enjoy it by smelling them to verify which ones are best in combination to add in watered down glue. Add spices with combinations in different glue dishes.

Now ask kids to paint according to the season and allow them to paint whatever they like the most. When color dries, don’t forget to judge the scent of the drawing glue. Try to recall and judge which spices were used in a particular glue tray.

Flower Smelling Group Activity

This sensory sniffing activity is a fun one to perform and encourages children to use their sense of smell and judge things. It also introduces the idea of collecting, organizing, and interpreting data and is quite sharpening for the brain.

This activity is done in a group (5 students are perfect) which also reinforces teamwork and makes it more fun to play. A few inputs are required for this task but the output will turn out to be sensational.

Materials Required:

  • Two flowers of your choice
  • Colored markers
  • Short flower description passages or flower books
  • Poster paper
  • Sticky post-it notes with the children’s names mentioned on them.


Now place the flowers you have chosen (we picked a daisy and a rose) and mount them in a glass jar or mason that does not break as we are playing this activity with kids. Fill water to keep them fresh until the activity.

Make a simple table with the title ‘Which Flower Smells the Best?’ and divide the page into two halves with subtitles ‘Rose’ and ‘Daisy’. Pasting a picture along with the names of the flowers may be more effective and will grab the attention of the kids and encourage them to play.

Register down the names of the kids on the post-it notes and begin decorating the table you have created. You can add washi tapes or colorful pictures and drawings to make it look even more beautiful. Now paste this ready table on a wall. Now time for the final touch: you will stick the names of children along with the poster.

Distribute the flower texts amongst the kids and let them read for a while. After they have completed the reading, ask them what they love about flowers. Now before the activity starts, instruct them to make a prediction on which flower they assume will smell the best.

Now call the kid one by one and make them smell the flowers and think about their choice. Now they will proceed and stick their names in the relevant column according to them on which flower they liked better.

Observe which flower had the most votes and declare it as the winner. After this, explain to them what flowers are famous for. They are used for perfume scents and decorative items too.

What Is Olfactory Sensory?

Olfactory sensory is the sense of smell. It’s our ability to detect odors or scents through our nose and nasal passage. Our olfactory sensory system detects airborne molecules that stimulate receptors in the upper part of an individual’s nasal cavity. This area is designed to absorb all sorts of smells, so it’s important for us to take good care of this sense! Not only does it help us identify what we’re smelling, but also can warn us about dangerous substances like gas leaks or smoke.

The human olfactory system has approximately 400 different odor receptors, so there are many types of smells that we can detect.

Mystery Scented Playdough

Playdough is a great learning and sensory experience for kids. When your child shapes the playdough into a snake or orange, it develops creativity in the kids. Pinching, squeezing and pulling movements develops fine motor skills and is one of the great sources to strengthen a child’s hand muscles at an early age. 

Take a single color or white dough so that all of them look identical. Scented each with different extract and ask kids to identify the smells. 

Place each dough on different plates and present one by one to a child. Ask the child to guess the smell of the dough. To make it more interesting and fun, give a few hints about the scent and allow several guesses. 

Once the kid correctly identifies each playdough scent, ask him to label the specimens. Labeling is a wonderful way to work writing into your child’s everyday play and exploration.

This would be a perfect olfactory sensory activity. The smelling dough would be irresistible and available for further sensory play throughout the day. If you give your child some tools to add to the playdough activity, you could spark his imagination and creativity. 

Scented Water

Add aromatic abstracts (e.g., almond, vanilla, peppermint, etc.) to water in a water table, in ice cubes for play, even to shaving cream for smearing. What about a colored fragrant soothing bath to relax in at the end of the day? 


The olfactory sensory system is one of the least understood senses. It can be difficult to understand how smells are processed in our brains. However, studies show that smell often triggers emotions and memories more than other senses like sight or sound. We hope that you’ve found this article to be helpful. 

Do you have any more questions about how your sense of smell can affect the way your brain works? If so, we encourage you to leave a comment below.

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