I’ve been wanting to make smell bottles for a long time. I first learned of them as a Montessori activity. They are also an amazing sensory activity for teaching about olfactory and providing sensory input. My kids really enjoyed this activity. Of course, boys being boys, I got to hear what other smells we could have bottled!!! How is it that boys can always find a way to find the gross factor?!
If you’re doing a unit on the Senses, this is a good way to introduce the sense of smell.
This is an inexpensive activity as you will likely have most of the supplies at home already. I found the travel spice bottles we used at the dollar store. You could also use leftover empty spice bottles if you have any.
How to Make Sensory Smell Bottles:
- travel spice bottles
- cotton balls
- coffee beans or coffee grounds
- peppermint extract or peppermint essential oil
- lavender essential oil or lavender
- lemon essential oil or lemon juice
- Put the coffee grounds or beans in one bottle, some cinnamon in another, some coconut in another.
- Put some peppermint extract or essential oil on a cotton ball, lavender essential oil on another, and lemon juice or lemon essential oil on another cotton ball. Place each cotton ball into a container.
- Have the child guess what each smell is. With younger kids, allow them to use their visual sense as well. They can look for clues such as colour and pair that with the smell to help them figure out what it is.
With older kids, have the child try the activity blindfolded so that they are only using their sense of smell.
Try filling the bottles with more challenging scents to identify such as a flower, dirt, honey, pepper, salt, or orange.
Talk about what the smells are and how our sense of smell also affects what things taste like. You can find an explanation about smell and taste to share with kids here.
Note that just like all senses, some kids will be more sensitive. They may find some (or all) of the smells too strong or even offensive.
Allow them to go at their own pace. Let them hold the bottle further away or even smell through the lid. Some kids’ sense of smell is so strong that they will be able to smell it through the closed lid.
Find this sensory science activity and many more in The Sensory Science Book, full of engaging hands-on learning ideas.