Smelling jars can be a wonderful learning experience for kids. It helps develop their senses and learn to use more than just their eyes when solving problems. These activities challenge children to identify smells, sort scents, and match what they smell.
Follow your nose and sniff your way to a fun day of learning with your sense of smell.
Setting up the Activity
First, you’ll need to find bottles or jars. If the activity is for younger children, you should use plastic bottles rather than glass.
For many of the activities, you will want the bottles to look the same on the outside. That way the kids are using their sense of smell to identify the bottle and not their sense of sight.
Try to find bottles that have pop open lids so that the kids don’t have to unscrew the lid. This also keeps the children from being able to see inside the bottles. Spice bottles or parmesan cheese bottles work well. Film canisters with holes poked into the top are another good option.
When you have several identical bottles, you’ll need to clean them out so they don’t retain the original smell. If the bottles are see-through, you may need to either paint them with a dark color or tape a piece of dark paper around them. You could put colored tape around the bottles as well.
Adding the Scents
When the bottles are ready, you will need to put substances in the bottles that have a strong odor. If the activity will be used for multiple days, it is best not to use something that needs to be refrigerated.
Don’t use any toxic chemicals or chemicals that have toxic fumes that could cause damage when sniffed.
These things work well in sniff bottles:
- Most spices
- Scented oils
- Lemon juice
- Scented lotions
- Fruit extracts
- Coffee beans or grounds
- Fresh grass clippings
- Strongly scented flowers
You can put the substance straight into the smelling bottle or you can pour it onto a cotton ball and then place the cotton ball into the bottle. For liquid substances, it is best to use a cotton ball. That way the liquid won’t accidentally run out of the bottle if the kids turn it the wrong way.
Only a small amount of the substance is needed in the bottle. A ¼ to a ½ an inch of powdered substances and a couple of cotton balls of liquid stuff.
Make sure the lids are screwed on tight before the kids receive them.
If the bottles will be used for several days, you may need to add a bit more of the substance to the bottles to freshen it after a couple of days.
Smelling Jar Activities
Scent Match Activity
For this activity, you will need two bottles filled with each scent. Use a pair of substances for each year of age for the kids in the group. For example, if the kids are four, use four pairs of matching smells.
Take the bottles and mix them up. Sit them on a table or a tray and have the kids match the smells. It is like a game of memory only using your nose instead of your eyes to find matching pairs.
Name That Scent
For this activity you will need several bottles of different scents. Have the kids try to identify what they smell. Ask them what they think the stuff is used for (cooking, bathing, etc.). What part of the house it is used in (kitchen, bathroom, etc.). See who gets the most right.
This game can be fun for kids of all ages and even adults. Without visual clues, it is difficult to determine what some scents are. For older kids, write down the responses and compare and contrast the answers. With perfumes and oils, different people sense certain ingredients more than others. People will often give very different responses for the same substance.
This is especially good for younger children who may not have the knowledge to identify the scents. Begin with several sniff bottles. Have the kids group the bottles. You can have them sort them by good smells and bad smells (not everyone will come up with the same results for this). They can sort them by kitchen smells, bathroom smells, outdoor smells, etc.
Talk about how they came up with their sorting. Older children can make a chart or graph of the class results. You can see which smell was voted the worst and which one the best.
More for Your Nose
- Snot Decoded
The color of your snot can tell you a lot about what is going on inside your body. Clear, white, yellow, green, brown, red, or graywhat does your mucus say about you?
- Five Senses Activities
These activities will help kids understand what each of their senses does for them and how we use the senses in everyday life. They will have fun guessing the smell, matching sounds, crawling through textures, mixing colors, and eating in the dark.
- Five Senses Books: Teach Kids the Five Senses
Books about each of the senses are good compliment to five senses activities and lesson plans. They will help kids understand the concept of each sense and incorporate it into learning.
- How to Make a Sensory Feely Box
Sensory boxes are simple, inexpensive, and entertaining for children. Kids learn about the world by exploring their senses. Great for any theme. Make fake body parts boxes for Halloween.