Smelling Activities

Smelling activities can be a wonderful way to engage with your friend or loved one, and to bring happiness and a sense of calm to the room.

Making Coffee - includes video

Making Coffee
This activity is most suitable for coffee drinkers.
You could use a manual coffee grinder (available from kitchenware or coffee supply stores), or an electric grinder.


Purchase approximately 100 grams of fresh coffee beans.
Provide a grinder, a coffee plunger, milk and sugar.
You will also need a source of boiling water.

Tip: You may need to handle the hot water, depending upon the person’s abilities.

The Activity

  1. Place the coffee beans in the manual or electric grinder.
  2. If using the manual grinder, after demonstrating, encourage the person to grind the coffee (this will depend upon their dexterity). This exercise is good for improving and strengthening the fine motor skills of the hand.
  3. When the coffee beans have been ground, tip the ground coffee into a small bowl.
  4. Smell the aroma and invite the person to smell.
  5. Ask the person to place in one tablespoon of freshly ground coffee per person into the plunger.
  6. Top up with boiling water, and allow the coffee to steep.
  7. Pour the coffee, again enjoying the aroma.
  8. If the person is able, invite them to add milk and sugar if they want to.
  • You may need to grind the coffee and then offer the ground coffee for smelling and enjoying.
  • The person may watch you grinding and making the coffee.

You could:

  • encourage the person to do the whole activity, grinding the coffee and making the plunger of coffee, and you simply supply the hot water when required
  • discuss coffee making experiences in the past
  • buy some biscuits to enjoy with the coffee
  • make some cake or biscuits to enjoy with the coffee.
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Flower Arranging - includes video

Flower Arranging

This can be a very colourful activity with many aromas. You could use real flowers, or artificial flowers that you have scented with different bottled aromas.


Buy a bunch of flowers.
Provide a vase.

The Activity

  1. Place a vase on the table, and add some water.
  2. Give one flower to the person to hold.
  3. Show them how to smell it.
  4. Invite them to put the flower in the vase. If they like to hold on to it. You can continue demonstrating how to put flowers in the vase until they follow suit.
  5. Continue with the other flowers.

You may want to:

  • arrange the flowers for the person.
    Let them still hold one flower
  • just smell each flower or feel the
  • match flowers with pictures.

You might like to:

  • hand the person all the flowers and leave the arranging to them
  • bring a number of different flowers and ask them to combine these in the vase. You can prepare this as a gift for a neighbour or friend
  • go to a flower shop together and let the person choose which flowers to buy
  • take a walk and explore all the flowers that you encounter. Gently touch, smell and discuss colours or other aspects of the flowers.
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This activity is ideal for people who like cooking or gardening. It might be good to use herbs with a distinct smell (e.g. mint, coriander, rosemary).
This activity can also be done using spices (e.g. cinnamon, vanilla).


Buy several bunches of herbs or bring some home-grown herbal plants.
Have some wet wipes ready to clean your hands.

If you buy herbs, you can store them best by wrapping them in wet newspapers and put them in your fridge.

The Activity

  1. Give one herb to the person and hold one yourself.
  2. Demonstrate rubbing the leaves between your fingers, then smelling your fingers.
  3. Invite the person to do the same.
  4. Continue with the other herbs, one at a time.

You may want to:

  • let the person smell your hands
  • show pictures of the herbs and sort the actual herbs with the pictures.

You could:

  • use a mortar and pestle to squash the herbs and bring out the aroma more
  • consider planting the herbs together (Activity 20)
  • bring a cookbook and match herbs with dishes
  • do a sorting activity where you separate Asian herbs (e.g. ginger, lemon grass, coriander) from other herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme, mint).
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Planting seeds

Planting Seeds
This activity may be enjoyable for anyone who enjoys gardening.


Organise to have some soil in small bags, small amount of seeds, and some colourful pots.
Bring some gardening gloves.

Tip: Have some wet wipes ready to clean your hands.

The Activity

  1. Show the gardening gloves, demonstrate how to put them on and then invite or help the person to put theirs on.
  2. Place one pot near the person.
  3. Demonstrate using a gardening tool to transfer soil from the bag to the pot. Push it down to compact the soil.
  4. Invite the person to participate, and hand them the tool.
  5. Open the bag of soil and invite them to take some out and put it in the pot.
  6. Continue until the pot is reasonably full.
  7. Demonstrate making a hole in the soil, putting in a seed and covering in the hole.
  8. Invite the person to make a hole.
  9. Hand them a seed and invite the person to plant it.
  10. Suggest they cover the seed with some soil.
  11. Continue planting seeds in the same pot, or start a new pot.

You may want to:

  • plant the seeds for the person
  • just feel the soil
  • go for a walk through the garden.

You could:

  • plant some actual pot plants or herbs
  • extend the activity by watering the soil daily
  • make a little garden together.
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‘Snoezelen’ is a term that describes multisensory treatment. It means creating a calming environment that facilitates relaxation. This could be pleasant to initiate before bedtime. In this you combine several of the previous activities.
You might introduce some aromatherapy using an electric oil diffuser with a small amount of pure essential oil to add a subtle aroma to the room.

Good oils to help aid natural sleep are:

  • lavender (calming and sedating)
  • chamomile (sedating and calming)
  • jasmine (sedating, soothing and has antidepressant properties)

Oils to calm, relax and relieve stress include neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram and ylang ylang.

It might be helpful to find a quiet corner or, if possible, a room that can be used for this activity.
The person may like to use this space every day, so it may be worth the time to find or design a relaxing environment.


Find a quiet corner or a room that can be used for this activity.
Find out what kind of music they enjoy and that has a soothing effect on the person.
Install a bubble lamp or a lamp that gradually changes colour in a corner.
Prepare a comfortable chair, preferably one that can tilt backwards. You could also provide a footrest.
Bring a few different oils to the activity so that the person has a choice. It is important to use good quality essential oils (and not a blend or a fragrance), and use only a few drops at any one
time. They should not be used directly on the skin.
Bring an electric oil diffuser (if you have one).

Do not to use the oils directly on skin; use only in a diffuser.
Use good quality essential oils, and use only a few drops at any one time.

The Activity

  1. Explore with the person what their preferences are.
  2. Put a drop of oil on a tissue and ask the person if they like the smell. If not, try a different oil, remembering not to use the oils directly on skin.
  3. Start the oil diffuser with the preferred oil.
  4. Invite the person to sit down by pointing at the chair. Put the footrest in front of them; if necessary help their feet up.
  5. Put on comfortable shoes or slippers for them; perhaps add a blanket.
  6. Turn on the bubble lamp and dim other lights and turn on some music. With every step observe the person reaction: is it relaxing them or does it cause overstimulation? Turn things off again if the response is not positive.
  7. Turn on the music.
  8. Sit next to them for a while. Are they happy to relax alone or would they like you to stay with them? You could perhaps give them a hand massage if that is enjoyable for them.
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