Montessori Smell Bottles: Unlocking Sensory Exploration


In the realm of Montessori education, where hands-on learning and sensory experiences take center stage, the concept of smell bottles has emerged as a valuable tool for young learners.

These small, unassuming bottles hold a world of scents, inviting children to explore and engage their olfactory senses in a captivating way.

With their ability to enhance cognitive development, promote concentration, and foster a deeper understanding of the world around them, smell bottles have become an integral part of Montessori classrooms worldwide.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of smell bottles, uncovering their benefits, exploring various scent combinations, and discovering how they can be effectively incorporated into the Montessori curriculum.

Prepare to embark on a fragrant journey that will ignite curiosity and spark a love for learning in young minds.

 the Smell Bottles Montessori
Credit: Elizabeth Park

What is a Smell Bottle in Montessori?

Smell Bottles are a sensory activity used in Montessori education to help children develop their olfactory sense.

It consists of a set of small bottles, each containing a different scent.

The scents can range from familiar ones like vanilla and lavender to more unique ones like cinnamon and eucalyptus.

The bottles are typically made of glass or plastic and have a reMovable lid that allows the child to smell the scent inside.

By engaging in this activity, children are able to explore and identify different smells, which not only enhances their sensory perception but also helps them to expand their vocabulary and develop their language skills.

What are the Components of Smell Bottles?

Smell Bottles consist of several components that engage a child’s sense of smell and promote sensory exploration.

Let’s explore each component in detail:


Smell Bottles typically include a set of small, opaque bottles with lids.

These bottles are designed to hold various scents and allow children to experience different smells.

The opaque nature of the bottles ensures that the child focuses solely on the scent without any visual distractions.

Essential Oils:

Essential oils are the key ingredients used to create the scents in each smell bottle.

Each bottle contains a different essential oil, like lavender, lemon, peppermint, or eucalyptus.

These oils are carefully chosen for their distinct smells and their potential to evoke emotions or memories in the child.


Droppers are included in the smell bottles to allow children to transfer the scents from the bottles to their noses.

By using the droppers, children can control the amount of scent they want to experience and enhance their fine motor skills in the process.


Each bottle is labeled with a number or a symbol to help children identify and match the scents.

These labels provide a visual cue that connects the scent with its corresponding bottle, promoting visual discrimination and memory recall.

Tray or Box:

A tray or box is often provided to store and organize the bottles.

This component helps children develop organization skills and encourages them to take responsibility for maintaining the materials.

By incorporating these components, these bottles provide a multi-sensory experience that engages children’s sense of smell, sight, and touch.

Presenting the Smell Bottles

When presenting these bottles, it is important to engage the child’s senses and create a hands-on learning experience.

Start by gathering a variety of different scents, such as lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, and lavender.

Place each scent in a separate bottle and ensure they are properly labeled.

Next, invite the child to explore the bottles one at a time.

Encourage them to hold the bottle close to their nose and take a gentle sniff, allowing them to experience the scent fully.

As they smell each bottle, ask open-ended questions to stimulate their curiosity and language development.

For example, you could ask, “What does this smell remind you of?” or “How does this scent make you feel?”

This interactive approach not only enhances their olfactory senses but also encourages their cognitive and verbal skills.

Benefits of the Smell Bottles

Smell Bottles are a highly beneficial tool for children as it engages their sense of smell and enhances their sensory development.

It allows children to explore and identify various scents, promoting their cognitive, emotional, and social growth.

Here are some of the key benefits:

Sensory Development:

Smelling Bottles stimulate the olfactory senses, helping children to refine their sense of smell.

By exposing them to different scents, it enhances their sensory perception and discrimination skills.

This sensory development also contributes to their overall cognitive development, as they learn to categorize and differentiate smells.

Language Development:

They also encourage children to expand their vocabulary.

As they explore and describe the scents they encounter, they learn new words and develop their language skills.

This hands-on experience provides a concrete context for learning and helps children to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Concentration and Focus:

They also require children to concentrate and focus on each scent individually.

This activity promotes mindfulness and attention to detail.

By focusing on one scent at a time, children learn to block out distractions and improve their ability to concentrate on specific tasks.

Emotional Regulation:

Smell Bottles can have a calming effect on children and help them regulate their emotions.

Certain scents, like lavender or chamomile, are known for their soothing properties.

By experiencing these scents, children can learn to associate them with relaxation and use them as a tool to manage their emotions.

Social Interaction:

Using these Bottles in a group setting encourages social interaction and cooperation.

Children can discuss and compare their experiences with different scents, fostering communication and collaboration skills.

This activity also promotes empathy as children learn to understand and respect each other’s preferences and reactions to different smells.

By engaging their sense of smell, this tool promotes holistic growth and provides a valuable sensory learning experience.

Including the Smell Bottles into the Classroom

Introducing smell bottles into a Montessori classroom engages multiple senses for more immersive learning.

By bottling scents from objects students know, we create opportunities to sharpen focus, memory, and language skills in a novel way.

The students get excited by unscrewing the lids and taking deep breaths to identify the smells, making lessons interactive and hands-on.

How to create DIY smelling bottles

1. Find small containers

First, gather small containers with lids, like recycled baby food jars or tiny mason jars. Make sure the containers are thoroughly cleaned and dried before moving on.

2. Collect scented objects

Next, collect objects with distinct scents from around your classroom or outdoor area. Herbs, flowers, spices, leaves, and fruits are great choices. Think about scents that tie into your current lessons or samples the students are already familiar with.

3. Organise them appropriately

Take one object at a time and place it in the clean, dry jar. For wet items like oranges, gently poke holes to release the aromatic oils before sealing in the container. For dry items, you may need to lightly crumple or break them up to maximize scent.

4. Close lids and label them incorrectly!

Securely close the lids, and attach labels listing the contents. Avoid using visually identifying images, so students must rely solely on smell to identify them. Place lids on the matching bottoms randomly so the scents are disassociated from the correct labels.

5. Time to sniff!

Once assembled, let students take turns sniffing the mystery bottles and guessing the scented object inside. Watch their sensory discrimination skills strengthen with ongoing smell bottle exercises.

The smell bottles make a great addition to shelves for independent smell exploration or as part of engaging group activities. Incorporating the sense of smell sparks curiosity, focuses attention, and builds important language connections.

Introducing the Smell Bottles into your Home

Integrating Smell Bottles into a parent’s home can be a valuable and enriching experience for both the child and the parent.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to integrate Smell Bottles into your home:

Gather the Materials

To start, gather all the necessary materials for creating the smell bottles. You will need a set of small, airtight bottles with lids (such as spice jars or small glass containers), cotton balls, and a variety of scents or essential oils. Choose scents that are familiar to your child, such as lemon, lavender, vanilla, or cinnamon.

Prepare the Bottles

Take each bottle and place a cotton ball inside. Add a few drops of the chosen scent or essential oil onto the cotton ball. Make sure to label each bottle with the corresponding scent, either by writing directly on the bottle or using small labels.

Create a Sensory Area

Designate a specific area in your home for the activity. It could be a small table or shelf where you can display the bottles neatly. Arrange the bottles in a row or in a way that is visually appealing and easily accessible for your child.

Introduce the Activity

When you feel ready to introduce the activity, invite your child to explore the smelling bottles. Sit together at the sensory area and explain that you will be smelling different scents using their noses. Encourage your child to take one bottle at a time, remove the lid, and gently sniff the scent inside. Use descriptive language to talk about the smells, such as “This one smells like lemons, it’s fresh and citrusy.”

Extend the Learning

To further enhance the learning experience, you can incorporate additional activities related to the smelling bottles. For example, you can encourage your child to sort the bottles based on similarities in scent or create a matching game by placing scented objects or pictures next to the corresponding smell bottles. You can also encourage your child to create their own smell bottles by finding natural scents in the environment, such as flowers or herbs, and placing them in small containers.

By following these steps, you can easily integrate Smelling Bottles into your home and provide your child with a stimulating and educational sensory experience. Remember to supervise your child during the activity and allow them to explore at their own pace. Enjoy this wonderful journey of sensory exploration with your child!

 the Smell Bottles Montessori
Credit: Montessori Academy


In closing, the Smell Bottles are a valuable tool that enhances sensory development in young children.

These bottles, filled with various scents, allow children to explore and identify different smells, stimulating their olfactory senses.

By engaging in this sensory activity, children not only improve their sense of smell but also enhance their vocabulary and cognitive skills.

Incorporating smell bottles into a Montessori curriculum offers a unique and effective way to foster a child’s overall development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are smell bottles in Montessori?

Smell bottles in Montessori are a sensory material used to develop olfactory discrimination skills in children.

They consist of a set of small bottles, each containing a different scent.

The scents can range from familiar ones like vanilla and lemon to more complex ones like lavender and eucalyptus.

By using smell bottles, children are encouraged to explore and identify different smells, enhancing their sense of smell and vocabulary.

This activity also helps children develop concentration, memory, and sensory awareness.

How are smell bottles used in Montessori?

In Montessori, smell bottles are typically presented on a tray or a special shelf.

The child is invited to pick up one bottle at a time, unscrew the cap, and gently smell the scent inside.

The child is encouraged to take their time and focus on each scent, observing and describing it.

They can also compare and match scents, sort the bottles by similar smells, or even create scent combinations.

The use of smell bottles in Montessori is a self-directed activity that allows children to explore and learn at their own pace.

What are the benefits of using smell bottles in Montessori?

Using smell bottles in Montessori offers several benefits for children.

Firstly, it helps develop their sense of smell, which is an important part of sensory perception.

It also enhances their vocabulary as they learn to describe and differentiate various scents.

Smelling bottles promote concentration and focus, as children need to pay attention to the subtle differences between smells.

Additionally, this activity encourages sensory awareness and mindfulness, as children learn to engage their senses and be present in the moment.

Overall, smell bottles provide a multi-sensory learning experience that stimulates cognitive and sensory development.

At what age can children start using smell bottles in Montessori?

Children can start using smell bottles in Montessori as early as 2 to 3 years old.

At this age, their sense of smell is already well-developed, and they are able to distinguish between different scents.

However, it’s important to note that the level of complexity in scents can be adjusted based on the child’s age and development.

Younger children may start with simpler scents like vanilla or lemon, while older children can explore more diverse and intricate smells.

The use of smell bottles can continue throughout the early childhood years, adapting to the child’s growing abilities.

Can I make my own smell bottles for Montessori?

Yes, you can make your own smell bottles for Montessori at home.

To create smelling bottles, you will need small, airtight containers such as glass jars or plastic bottles with caps.

Fill each container with a different scent, using natural extracts, essential oils, or even dried herbs and spices.

Make sure to label each bottle with the corresponding scent.

It’s important to choose scents that are safe and non-toxic for children.

You can also involve your child in the process, allowing them to select and pour the scents into the bottles.

Homemade smell bottles can be a cost-effective and personalized way to introduce olfactory exploration to your child.

How can I incorporate smell bottles into everyday activities?

Smell bottles can be incorporated into various everyday activities to enhance sensory experiences for children.

For example, during mealtime, you can invite your child to smell different ingredients or spices before cooking or tasting them.

You can also use smell bottles during nature walks, encouraging your child to identify and match scents with the surrounding environment.

Another idea is to create a scent guessing game, where your child has to blindfolded and guess the scent of different items using the smell bottles.

The possibilities are endless, and incorporating smell bottles into daily routines can make learning and exploring scents a fun and interactive experience.

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