Sometimes when I want a quiet activity that will still engage my kids, I bring them over to our spice rack. We have come up with a couple of different games to play while we explore the fragrances in our cupboard.
I have descriptions below for games broken down into preschool, toddler, and baby games. The age guidelines are just the ages at which I introduced these actvities. My older son still enjoys the spice smelling now as much as he did when he was a baby.
Preschooler: My four year old enjoys trying to match the spices and herbs up when they are presented in different forms (for instance, fresh spearmint from our garden and dried spearmint).
To play this game, I first place jars containing the dried herbs and spices in one row. I then hand him a fresh herb or an unground spice. He smells the fresh herb and then matches it up with the dried version. In the game pictured above, I used dried and fresh basil, dried and fresh thyme, whole and ground cloves, and a cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon.
Toddler: When my older son was a toddler, we added another element to the game. After he smelled it, we put some glue down and sprinkled the spice onto the glue, and I wrote the name down. He would tell me how he thought it smelled. In the most recent one, I learned he is still not a fan of cardomom (he’s labelled it “garbage” a couple of times now), but that he still loves cinnamon (“yummy!”). Now that he’s older, he does most of the gluing and sprinkling himself.
Baby: I stand by the spice rack holding my baby, and we go down the rows of spice together, opening up the lids and smelling each jar. I first place the jar under my nose and take several exaggerated sniffs, and ask if he wants to smell the spice.
I also did this with my older son when he was a baby. It’s a fun way to play a quiet game together, and it also serves as something different to do on a rainy day. Watch out though because as babies, they definitely try to bring in two other senses during this game though- touch and taste! My older son had a very unfortunate cayenne pepper experience this way. So I am now extra careful to make sure they don’t taste the spices.
Looking for more baby and toddler play ideas? Check out Zero to Two: the book of play, an e-book I co-authored! It includes 25 step-by-step tutorials with pictures, as well as links to over 50 more ways to play with babies and toddlers – all for $8.99.