CA News


Added Mar 18, 2019

The Smelling Jars

A curiously engaging lesson, the Smelling Jars follow the same presentation as many of the other sensorial materials, presenting matched pairs of a number of different qualities for the child to explore, first in isolation and then in comparison. Here, the child is offered a series of three or five pairs of opaque bottles, with one half of each pair lidded in white and the other half lidded in black. In each bottle, a unique scent is captured for the child to discover. Liquid scents might include vanilla or rosewater, coffee or a floral perfume, among others. Dried scents might include rosemary or pepper, basil or cinnamon, among others. The child is invited to carefully remove the lid from a bottle, gently breathe in its scent and then try to match it to the other half of its pair.

Like the other Sensorial materials, the Smelling Jars isolate a single sense, in this case the olfactory sense, for children to develop and refine. But there is far more than a nuanced nose to come from working with the Smelling Jars. When the mysterious process of opening a jar to notice its scent begins, eyes closed in order to better discern its qualities, the rest of the classroom seems to fall away. Who can guess what stories are unfolding behind those closed eyes? While the practical skills of organization, classification and systemizing are being established, the child's attention and imagination are equally engaged. The result is a lesson which is wonderous to experience and to observe.

Explore distinct smells at home... you may notice your child's enthusiasm, too. Using simple muslin bags or even simple closed paper packets, prepare a few distinct scents to compare. You might try lemon zest and cinnamon, or sage and black tea leaves. Or you can drop a few drops of liquid scents on to individual cotton balls: try vanilla and lemon juice, or a sample of your own favorite perfume or cologne, or your child's shampoo. Take your time in gently breathing in the scent and let your child explore with you. Ask your child what the scents evoke. What does the smell of cinnamon remind you of? What do you think of when you smell Grandma's perfume? Every day scents evoke strong memories. Explore those memories with your child or, as you notice the new scents of springtime around you, and mindfully create new ones for the future.

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna


Back to Blog