Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exploring our Sense of Smell

Try to convince a six year old boy to only use his sense of smell and this is what you get! ;0)

Exploring our Sense of Smell

Outdoor - To get the kids thinking about what we will learn about today, I wore a clown nose as they arrived. Actually I popped it on once all the kids were there and the parents were gone!

Once we were all gathered for circle time I asked "What part of body helps us to smell?" and then led a lively discussion of things that smell good and things that smell bad. You know we entered the potty-talk department but I quickly brought the conversation back to other more appropriate topics!

"Smelling Walk" would be fun but since it's mid-winter there really weren't any aromas to find, so we'll save that for spring when there are flowers and freshly cut grass!

Active Game - Smell and Go Seek Game - I put peppermint essential oil on small "leaves" made from felt. I had our intern hide the 8 leaves and the children and I used our noses to try to find the hidden cloths. It was fun hunting for the smells with the kids since I didn't know where they were located. Though the cloths were saturated with the oil the fragrance wasn't strong enough. In the future I would use a spray bottle with additional peppermint essential oil in it to spray the areas that the cloths are hidden so the children would be more successful finding them. Doing this activity indoors would make the aroma easy to detect as well.

Smelly Art Ideas:

Kool Aid Art- make by sprinkling a small amount of dry kool-aid mix onto a coffee filter. Then the child uses eye droppers or small spray bottles filled with water to wet the filter. Use several different kool-aid scents. (Kool Aid does stain clothes, so we may want to use the smocks.)

Smelly Water Colors - Mix 1 part hot water to 2 parts jello. Make sure all of the jello is dissolved and then let the children paint.

Homemade Scratch and Sniff Pictures: Mix one Kool Aid packet to 2 Tablespoons hot water. Stir well. Let the kids paint and allow to dry. Afterwards it can be used as a scratch and sniff!

Easel Painting - I didn't get to doing this at preschool this year, but I thought it would be fun to add essential oils to tempera paint to make them smell like the color. (Such as: Purple - lavender oil, Yellow - lemon oil, Green - mint oil)

Guided Activity - Smelling Jars - we used four different jars filled with a familiar scent to the children (use - lemon, garlic, cinnamon, & soap). The child smelled the container and put it next to the picture they thought it matched. Then we opened them to see if their guesses were right. 

Instead of using jars I put the objects into a toilet paper tube that was taped shut on the bottom and partially shut on the top. These worked well and I though let more aroma come out than the jars I poked a hole in.

I did this same activity at home with my kiddos but I put one of each of the objects for them smell on the mat and then match. My almost 3 year old loved this game but decided to eat the raw garlic when I wasn't looking!
  Water Table - "Lavender Water" - add several drops of lavender essential oil & lavender flower buds. Add a variety of scoops and funnels for gathering the flower buds. This smelled wonderfully but many of the kids did not like the texture of the herbs floating in the water. It looked murk-ey and not inviting. Next time I think soapy suds and lavender essential oil would be much more pleasing!

Sensory Table- add a variety of natural materials that have strong scents - pine branches, dried herbs such as peppermint, etc.
Another smelly bin would be to dump a full can of fresh coffee grounds and put small cups, scoops, spoons, etc.

Play dough Table-
Chocolate Play dough was a huge hit and little Valentine boxes and mini candy wrappers made it great fun for the kids!
Kool-Aid Play dough with various scents would have been fun as well!

Writing Center - Mr. Sketch smelly markers, cut-outs of a nose for the kids to decorate.
At home I gave my children popcorn scented scratch and sniff stickers. They were so tickled over these stickers that I have to remember to buy them a variety of scents at holiday times!

Science Center -
Smelling Jars were added to the science center after the guided activity was done.
Make a T chart: Smells I like, Smells I dislike. Ask the children and draw their responses on the chart.
I wanted to have a collection of herbs and spices for the kids to smell and explore but need to find containers that they can sniff but not dump. (Any tips?)
Fragrant Flowers - some fresh cut flowers would be fun but mid-February in Vermont there are NO flowers outdoors and the prices at the floral shop are at Valentine premium prices! I considered using rose water to scent some silk flowers but the aroma is overpowering to me.
Scratch and sniff books would have been fun but all of mine seem worn out. (Maybe I can re-scent them?) smelling jars.

Closing Circle- I read The Nose Book and the kids just loved it. I also shared a story of how I was working at my desk at home and thought I saw a cat outside pass by the window. When I looked closer it was a skunk! The preschoolers thought I was joking but it was a true story...of course I left out the part were I jumped out of my chair and said a naughty word!

The Nose Book by Al Perkins
Smelling by K.B.Smith
Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup
Skunks! by David T. Greenburg

Additional On-line ideas for teaching SMELL:

How to present Smelling Jars -

Idea for making smell cups with aluminum foil tops & aromatherapy flower craft -
Books for the sense of smell:


  1. Thanks for sharing your post - some great ideas - I think I'll be trying the coffee grounds in the sensory table.
    Or I just bought some thistle seed for the table, maybe I could add some lavender pieces to it.
    Again thanks for getting me thinking.

  2. I always say, if i hold up a black card and a white card, if you can see, NO ONE will get that wrong. But if I asked a group of 10 people, which song has more bass, which is brighter, even which is louder, 2-3 of the people would have complete opposite answers than the rest of the group. AND, they would feel they were right, like its an opinion! click here