One way we’ve mixed art and sensory play recently was by creating our own varieties of scented paint by mixing a few different spices with white paint. It was fun to look at the variety of tones they made, and to smell the different spices while we mixed our paints and got creative with them.
This sensory play activity focuses on the olfactory sensory system (sense of smell) and is also a fun way for kids to experiment seeing what will happen if they add more spices to their paint – and what if they mix different spices together?
To mix our spice paints, we used these spices:
I just grabbed a few different powdered or ground spices from the front of our cupboard. You can use whichever spices you have on hand. Next time, we’ll definitely include paprika and turmeric too to see if those give a stronger colour (red and yellow).
Each of these spices created a slightly different colour when mixed with the white paint, but all of them are pretty natural and subtle in their tones. The children (3-6) mixed all of the paints themselves and enjoyed that creative process. We tried each of the paints on black and white paper and talked about why they showed up better on the black.
The cinnamon paint was the strongest in colour and scent, so that was a definite favourite with the children but they enjoyed painting with all of them and learning more about the different spices. They are keen to do this activity again, so I would say that makes it a hit!
Although our paints include spices which are edible, and some of them smell kind of yummy, they are not taste safe since we mixed them with regular white paint. If you think your kids would like to have a taste (and add a gustatory sensory element to the activity too) then you can switch the white paint for plain yoghurt and let them mix spices into that instead.
Another fun way to uses spices for scented sensory play is to add them to a simple cloud dough recipe. We made this cinnamon and ginger cloud dough and it’s one of our favourite sensory materials. It lasts so well when stored in an air tight container. It is really easy to make with only 2 ingredients (plus the spices) and is a lot of fun to play with, offering a great tactile play opportunity.