Your toddler’s nose is nowhere near as discerning as yours is. It’s important to remember that our senses are heightened after pregnancy. The scent of a dirty diaper is pretty powerful to us, but not so much to our kids. Our body odor doesn’t offend them either – that’s why they’ll snuggle up to you even when you haven’t had a chance to shower all day and you may think you stink, but your child doesn’t notice.
This lack of acuity and sensitivity in their sense of smell is part of the reason why your toddler cannot distinguish between safe and dangerous products. Cleaning fluids that smell acrid and repulsive to us do not to our toddlers. Part of our job as parents is to help them identify what is safe and what isn’t and until they have the ability to distinguish it for themselves, you have to keep those items away from them.
So When Does Their Sense of Smell Become More Acute?
You’ll notice that your toddler is starting to become more aware of the scents in their world about the same time they are getting the hang of potty training. It’s interesting because when they have accidents – they become more hyper aware of them because of how it feels, but also how it smells. They can tell you when the bathroom is stinky and you may even notice a rejection of foods that they previously liked because the scents are powerful and different for them – now.
This is a good time to begin exposing your child to different scents around the house and around familiarizing them with bad smells as well as good ones. The more you expose them to, the more they will begin to recognize what is nice and what isn’t and they will also develop their own preferences. My daughter for example loved oranges before her sense of smell got developed and she went off oranges for a while because she didn’t like the scents of citrus.
Be aware that during this time period that your child will resist new foods if they are powerfully pungent and they may go nuts for foods that smell strange to you. It’s important to recognize that taste and smell are very closely intertwined and that what smells funny to them is something they are going to resist tasting – so be patient and take your time – they will get more adventurous as they go along.