Sure, you could go to the store and buy scratch-and-sniff stickers or those scented markers that often mark up your preschooler's nose more than the paper. But those products usually don't last very long and aren’t as much fun as making your own projects. Besides, who knows what commercial scratch-and-sniff products are made from? Make your own scratch-and-sniff projects for some smelly bonding time with your preschooler.
Scratch-and-sniff activities can help children associate smells, especially pleasant smells, with different objects and memories. However, you don’t want your child sniffing everything in sight – or nose range. Before beginning any scratch-and-sniff project, teach your child the difference between safe smells and dangerous ones. Besides putting potentially dangerous items out of reach, use "Mr. Yuk" stickers on things like household cleaners, hairspray, glue, or anything with unhealthful fumes. Don’t assume something is safe just because it is labeled “non-toxic,” and if something is questionable, it’s best to avoid letting your child smell it.
Paint and Stickers
Gelatin and flavored drink mixes may cause toddlers and preschoolers to bounce off the walls, so here's another use for them: scented scratch-and-sniff paints. Before beginning, dress your child in play clothes and have him paint in an area covered with newspapers or a drop cloth. For watercolor-type paints, mix a packet of scented flavored drink mix with ¼ to 1 cup cold water until all the powder is dissolved. The less water you use, the stronger the scent will be. For thicker paints, add flour to the colored mixture until the paint takes on the consistency of pudding. Let your child’s creative juices flow as he creates his own masterpieces. Just be sure to keep him away from the furniture! To create stickers, let your child paint on mailing labels and cut them into fun shapes. If you’re reluctant to let your little artist finger-paint because he can’t keep from putting his fingers in his mouth, mix up a box of flavored gelatin, using half the amount of water listed on the box. Once the gelatin sets, use it as finger paint. The color and scent will linger – perfect for scratching and sniffing.
If the thought of your toddler running around with a paintbrush and a cup of homemade paint is frightening, make the paint yourself. Then put together a special book all about smelly things by using a different scented paper for each page. For instance, make a "fruit book" by lightly brushing a sheet of craft paper with different scented paints, then allow it to dry. Draw simple pictures of different types of fruit on each page.
Games and Puzzles
Play a “guess the scent” game with your child by painting notecards and having your child scratch and sniff to guess the scent. You can use the same cards to play a scent memory match game for your preschooler by laying them scent down on a table. Rather than match images, try to match scents.
If you have thick cardstock, use the paints to color and scent the paper. Once it dries, have your child draw a simple picture. Cut the paper into puzzle pieces for her to put together.
Take a nature walk and pick flowers, berries, nuts and leaves. Go a step further and get some fruits and veggies from the garden or grocery store. Citrus fruits, melons, apples, corn, squash and tomatoes work well. After gathering your materials, let your preschooler create a poster or drawing by rubbing the flowers, fruit, veggies, nuts, or leaves on a piece of paper. After it dries, he can hang it up and practice guessing what’s what.