How to Help Baby Develop Their Senses of Taste & Smell? Try These Activities!
Baby uses their 8 senses every single day!
Many senses continue to develop and change even after we are born. Here we’ll learn more about the taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory) senses, and how you can help baby develop these very important senses.
What are the olfactory and gustatory senses?
Olfactory is the sense of smell, and gustatory is the sense of taste. Babies are born with all senses, but they vary in strength. Their sense of smell is one of the strongest, and will continue to get stronger for the first 8 years of their life. It’s also an essential sense to help them feel comforted and promote the development of their other senses, especially taste and vision.
Taste is picked up by gustatory receptors which are located on our tongues and are linked to our olfactory (smell) senses in both adults and children. Babies are born with preferences for the types of smells and tastes they experienced from the foods their mother ate during pregnancy. As babies age, even into adulthood, I’m sure you’ve noticed tastes change! Do you still eat the same things when you were a kid, or do you like more of a variety of foods now?
Baby’s vision is still developing after birth, so they recognize people and places by their scent. That means that when you hold your baby or enter their room, they may recognize you not by how you look, but how you smell. When you bring them to their favorite place (their room, the car, etc.), or give them their favorite toy, they recognize it by their sense of smell. Learn more!
How can you help baby use their taste and smell senses? Check out these games!
Remember: safety first!
Always supervise baby while playing any of these games.
- Gentle Strokes: Before feeding, gently stroke baby’s lips with nipple or bottle to encourage mouth to open for feeding. Be sure to present the nipple/bottle in the middle of mouth. Helps baby latch on for feeding.
- Massage Feeding: Give baby a little massage on their arms, legs, and back before showing them the nipple or bottle.
- Little Chef: Baby is probably already in their highchair while you’re cooking, try making your time in the kitchen a learning experience. Let baby smell the foods you are cooking and talk through what you are doing.
- Yummy in My Tummy: As your baby begins to eat solid foods, talk to baby about their food while you feed them, “Yummy bite of squash!”
- Tray Time: Place pureed foods, like applesauce or yogurt, on baby’s tray and encourage play with a spoon.
- Tray Top Reach: Place new and safe foods within reach on baby’s tray so they can begin to reach and explore.
- Family Meals: Have baby join you at the table during mealtime so they notice the different foods you are eating. Share new, safe, bite-sized foods from your plate.
- Trying and Tasting: Baby is developing taste and smell. Offer baby different types of foods. If baby doesn’t enjoy a food, try it again on a different day. It often takes multiple tries before learning to like a new food.
- First Time Foods: Give baby new foods first, while they’re still hungry and more open to the new experience.
- Spoon Savvy: Work with baby to help them eat with a spoon independently. It’s ok if baby gets food on their face and hands. Place plastic, baby sized utensils on tray so baby can practice scooping food.
- Plastic Eggs: Filling plastic eggs with different food items can be lots of fun for kids this age. Fill the eggs with bite-sized snacks toddlers can eat. They’ll love opening the eggs and eating tasty snacks at the same time.
- Scent-sation: Keep baby in the kitchen while you cook to let them experience new types of smells. Place a small bit of food, baby lotion, or a flower in a small container and let baby smell (without inhaling) it.