While wandering through nature, we all take in our surroundings using our senses. We smell flowers, touch tree bark, listen to bird calls, see details (like an ant trail on a tree), and even taste some of the natural objects we come across (think berries or edible flowers). And while investigating nature in this way comes naturally to most children, sometimes we parents forget to allow our children the time and space they need to do it. Never fear, Hike it Baby is here! This month, we are sharing five different ways to explore each of the five senses with your children! So get outside as a family, slow down, and explore nature with your senses together!

Want to learn more about exploring nature with your senses? Check out our other posts on using your sense of hearing, taste, touch, and sight!

Photo credit: Katie Fox

Exploring Nature by Smell

Our sense of smell is an incredibly important part of our body and plays a role in how we perceive the world around us. Not only is the sense of smell linked to memories and emotions, but our noses can smell about 10,000 different smells in the area the size of a postage stamp. In other words, you and your children take in a lot of different smells every single second of every single day. But how often do you sit and really consider what you are smelling, especially while you are exploring the great outdoors with your children?

Oh did we mention that the smells of nature are linked to lower physiological stress? It totally is!

Here are five ways you can slow down and use your noses in nature together:

  1. Smell a tree. Walk up to any tree and see if you can detect a smell. If you live near ponderosa pine trees, make sure to give their bark a sniff. They smell like vanilla or butterscotch and it is truly delightful. All trees have some sort of smell, it just takes some time to walk up and smell them.
  2. Complete a nature-smelling scavenger hunt. You can use literally any nature scavenger hunt, but instead of seeing them in nature, take a moment to smell them. You can take this even further and try to smell every item on your list or by taking a moment to stop and describe the way each item smells. Maybe even rank them from best to worst smelling.
  3. Put your nose to the ground. No, you won’t really be sniffing out clues but instead investigating how different ground cover smells. How does grass smell compared to dirt? What about a ground covered in wet, Autumn leaves? Snow, sand, moss, a rocky riverbank, a muddy puddle, and so many more walkable surfaces all have distinct smells and should be explored to your heart’s content. Or, you know, until your children are thoroughly filthy. We all know the muddy puddles and wet leaves will be the favorite exploratory option on this smell-hunt.
  4. Stop and smell the roses and literally any other flower you see. All flowers smell different and spending time sniffing them is an easy way to pass the time in the Spring and Summer months. There are even a few Fall and Winter wildflowers, though they are harder to find. If wildflowers are not easily found, try visiting a nursery or flower shop and smelling the flowers there.
  5. Play a guessing game by scent. This is an easy way to use your nose to explore nature and it can even be done in your own backyard! All you do is help your children gather a few nature items, like pinecones, grass, leaves, sticks, rocks, dirt, flowers, fragrant herbs, etc., and then guess which item is which based on the way it smells. You and your children can simply close your eyes while you sniff each item or you can use a blindfold. This is an easy game to set up, but surprisingly it is not as easy to guess each item correctly.

How are you using your nose in nature this week?


Let us know in the comments below or share your experience and tag @hikeitbaby on your favorite social media platform!



Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.


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