single sense materials

Smelling Bottles or Boxes

Material Description:

Pairs of bottles containing various substances with distinct odours, such as spices, herbs and essential oils.  There are four sets with three pairs of bottles in each, the first pair contain contrasting smells – one each from the fields of cooking (e.g. herbs and spices), medicine (e.g. tiger balm, Salon, Vics, Dettol, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils) and perfume (e.g. jasmine, rose, lavender and other sweet essential oils) the other three sets contain three classified scents from each field.



  • Bring the tray containing the items to two chowkis and place it on a cloth on the floor
  • Introduction – Contrasting Scents
  • Isolate one bottle and open it on the table, holding the lid with the right hand
  • Holding the bottle in the left hand bring the neck of the bottle at least ten centimetres from your nose inhale and you move the bottle slowly from left to right, move the face away from the bottle to exhale
  • Pass to the child and invite her to repeat
  • Place the bottle back on the chowki and replace the lid


  • Pairing
  • Place the set introduced into a row, at random on the left
  • Remove the other set of bottles and place them at random on a row at the right of the chowki
  • Bring any bottle forward from those on the left to the centre and smell it as above, replacing the cap
  • Bring one bottle from the right, until it’s pair is found; if a bottle does not form a pair keep it at the base right corner until a pair is found and then bring the rejected bottles back into circulation
  • Check both bottles once more and invite the child to do the same
  • Put the pair at the far middle of the table
  • Continue to take bottles in the same manner until another pair is found
  • Put the bottles back into their two sets and mix them, invite the child to try
  • Note: always replace the bottles top




  1. Pairing the first tray
  2. Pairing the subsequent classified trays one at a time




The names of the substances



Criteria of Perfection (Control of Error):

  • In the child’s ability to differentiate scents



Direct Aim:

  • Refinement of the olfactory sense




Age at Presentation:

Three and a half years




  1. Substances should be natural and non-toxic
  2. Encourage the child to smell flowers, herbs, leaves, bark in the garden, food and drink in the kitchen and recognise other scents
  3. Change the material regally to maintain interest and give a wider variety.  Use different bottles or clean using bicarbonate of soda or similar to neutralise smell
  4. Avoid exchanging the lids as the scents will become contaminated
  5. Indirectly show that you are limiting the amount of scent you inhale by keeping the bottle at a distance
  6. Suggest that the child closes her eyes or uses a blind fold to bring further focus





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