Let’s Play – Fun with Scents

Members article

By E. Joy Bowles BSc. © dementiacareinternational

Play a great new ‘smelling’ game to promote fun, relaxation, memories and communication using aromatherapy oils and scents from everyday items.

Let’s Play

Aromatherapy is often thought of as a means to relax and reduce stress levels. Having fun can also help people relax, so here is a game that can be played using aromatherapy oils as well as other items with strong aromas from every day life. The game works best if the people playing have a good sense of smell, but even those who don’t think their nose is up-to-par can still have fun checking out which aromas they can smell. The sense of smell is not often included in other types of games, so it’s interesting to see the results when it is the focus of the game. When I have played this with students, noise levels go up and the general excitement level rises as everyone tries to guess and identify the aromas!

The game requires ten jars with lids – covered so you can’t see into them – and numbered from one to ten. Into the jars place cotton wool balls sprinkled with a few drops of essential oils, or try different smelly things, such as a piece of chopped onion; only hide them under a piece of cotton wool. The game facilitator writes down which oil or substance corresponds to which jar. Those who wish to play sit round a table with a piece of paper and pencil to write down their guesses as to what might be in each jar. The jars are passed around until everyone feels they have guessed as much as possible, or the facilitator can set a time-limit to add a bit more excitement. The aim of the game is to guess the contents of each jar correctly. For adults or children who can’t write, pass around the jars one at a time, and then ask for answers. It’s surprising to see which people have a good sense of smell!

Another variant of the game is to use the jars as conversation starters. Ask people to choose a jar and then tell a story of when they last smelled that particular aroma. This can inspire a whole series of stories as people remember times when they experienced the same smell too.

The essential oils I suggest using are: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Mandarin, Aniseed, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Clove, Bergamot and Geranium, as most of these occur in everyday life as well as being fairly easy to distinguish from one another. If playing with a group of people familiar with essential oils, you could use oils that have similar smells, for example Mandarin and Orange, or Eucalyptus and Rosemary, and see if people can distinguish between them.

Other substances could include: chopped onion, vanilla essence, shoe polish, licorice, vinegar, mashed strawberry, banana, 4711 Eau de Cologne, Brut after shave, toothpaste, rose petals, pencil shavings or dried cut grass. The list of possible substances is only limited by your imagination and what’s available.