DIY sensory activities: smelling jars

Kids can have fun sniffing the yummy ingredients, while improving their memory learning and exploring what smells they like!

Make your own smelly jars!

With these simple smelly jars, kids can have fun sniffing the yummy ingredients, while developing their sense of smell.

A sense of smell is actually closely linked to memory learning – just think of how the smell of freshly cut grass can make you feel!

Smell can change your mood – bringing with it feelings of calm or excitement, or at times a dislike. It is great for kids to explore what smells they like, and those they don’t.

Dive in and give them a sniff!

Video content description: YouTube video demonstrating how to make smelling jars.

What you will need

  • Fun smelly ingredients. We used lemon, rosemary, mint, ginger, vanilla essence, and cinnamon stick (do not use ground or powdered cinnamon)
  • Several small jars or containers
  • Squares of thin paper or fabric
  • String (or rubber bands)
  • Skewer for poking holes

What you do

Step 1: Pick your fun smelly ingredients. See our tips and tricks if you would like some inspiration!

Step 2: If possible, cut, grate, or crush the ingredients to release their fragrances.

Step 3: Place each ingredient in a separate jar. If you are using a liquid, place some cotton wool balls in as well to soak up the fragrance and avoid a mess!

Step 4: Cover each jar with a square of paper (or fabric also works well).

Step 5: Tie the paper on firmly with string (or rubber bands).

Step 6: Poke holes through the paper with a skewer.

Step 7: Sniff!

Tips and tricks

Tip 1: It can be fun to compare all the different smells, but you can make a game out of it too! To do this, either cover the ingredients in the jar or use a blindfold so your child doesn’t peek, and ask them to guess what they are smelling!

Tip 2: If possible, you can encourage your child to tell you why they like or dislike each smell. This can help build their communication skills.

Tip 3: There are so many fun ingredients you can use, but here is some inspiration: orange peel, essential oils, tea, soap, coffee, lavender, rose petals, garlic, pineapple, popcorn, the list goes on!

Tip 4: Be careful of using powdered substances as these can be inhaled. For example, inhaling powered cinnamon can be dangerous. Also it’s best to use non-toxic ingredients.

Tip 5: Some children can dislike certain smells, so it is important to keep this in mind when introducing children to new smells.