Sweet and Spicy?

By Activity Bank on Nov 21, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Vickie Brennan, Flo Ryu, and Dennis Lolli and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, Volume 2, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

By observing the student’s response to olfactory and gustatory stimuli, the teacher will discover a reinforcer that can be used in other activities. Students will indicate a preference for this activity by responding with a positive change in affect (smile, laugh) and/or by gesturing or moving toward the adult or item with her hand or body as the item is slowly moved away from the student (after a five- to ten-second presentation period). Lessons include Concept Development and Independent Living Skills.


  • Scents: spices – cloves, vanilla, lemon peel, ginger
  • Tastes: peppermint, chocolate sauce, maple syrup, etc.


  • Present various scents or tastes to the student.
  • Use salt and pepper, tastes, cotton balls soaked with a variety of scents.
  • Always alert the student to the introduction of individual tastes by first providing a verbal or sign cue and a touch to the nose.



Hints: Observe students during food preparation and mealtimes, and consider food preferences. Watch for allergic reactions, and discontinue the activity if the student displays distress behaviors such as pulling away or pushing away materials.