The Five Senses of Christmas in preschool: Smell

I mentioned that we are exploring the Five Senses of Christmas in a previous post and today, I want to share with you a few of the ways we explored our sense of smell…

We started by reading the book titled “The Sweet Smells of Christmas” by Patricia M. Scarry…

On every other page of the book, there is a scratch and sniff dot that you can smell.  The kids LOVED getting a turn to smell each page and I have to say that this book was awesome to read for this experience.  Even I was surprised how authentic the smells were on each page…

After reading the book, then we took a minute to smell some spices I had brought with me to school that day…

Our Pre-K students also made their own peppermint smelly candy canes….

To make the candy canes, we started by drawing a candy cane with pencil on our paper. We actually practiced drawing this shape on chalkboards before hand.  By the way, you will notice that in just about every post I share that I do something with candy canes.  I just love candy canes.  I love the color, the smell, the taste, the shape, and all the things you can do with them! But any way back to drawing the shape….

And after a simple candy cane shape was drawn on the paper, the children used painter’s tape to add stripes across their candy cane line….

Then the children painted over the tape and the line.  They were given a choice of paint color and I added peppermint extract to whatever paint they chose so the paint smelled like peppermint…

We had pink and blue candy canes…

And red candy canes…

And green candy canes…

The paint smelled great while we were painting but after it dried, it didn’t smell so much. I think I should have added more extract but it was still fun during the process. After they finished painting, we removed the tape while the paint was still wet.  We just couldn’t wait to for it to dry:)  I had to help most of the children, but not everyone, remove some of their tape….

Sometimes the paper would tear just a little but we quickly learned that it was okay if the tape pulled off some of the paper because it was still white underneath.  We had to be extra careful though so we didn’t tear it too much…

And finally, to complete our sense of smell we played with peppermint play dough (by the way – the play dough was out the whole time it is just easier to write this post up in order but we didn’t necessarily play in this specific order)….

To make the peppermint play dough I used…

  • 2 cups of flour  (not flower:)
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 TBS of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. of Cream of Tar Tar
  • 2 cups of water
  • Red food color for the red play dough and no food color for the white play dough
  • And 5 or so drops or TBS of peppermint extract
I mixed the dry ingredients in a large sauce pan and then added the oil, water, extract and food coloring. Then I cooked on a medium heat and stirred constantly until the play dough looked like play dough. Then I took it out of the pan and kneaded it a bit.  The children used the play dough to make – yep you guessed it, candy canes!!
Well they also made other shapes too and by the end of the day, most of the play dough was all mixed up…
Those were the highlights of our “sense of smell” activities for our “Five Senses of Christmas” unit.  We actually explore all senses in some way everyday during this unit so you will see some criss-crossing back and forth on this as I share in future posts.
You can get the book we read from by clicking the photo below…

By |2011-12-03T07:00:43+00:00December 3rd, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas December 3, 2011 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Deborah I had an idea for doing the 5 senses of Christmas with my girls (coming to my blog in about 2 weeks after our gingerbread week!)- this time of year is full of so many wonderful sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures!

    I love how they made their candy canes & I will have to borrow that!

    I have to see if I can buy that book my youngest would LOVE it! 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 10:16 am - Reply

      I can’t wait to see what you share. I am going to share our Gingerbread ideas next! LOL! I love it!

  2. D'Lynn Smith December 3, 2011 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I love the candy canes! One I do with my students while we also explore the letter Cc, is crushing candy canes with hammers and glueing the pieces. I also put out cloves and clementine oranges for the children to push the whole cloves into the oranges. Our room smells wonderful at that time.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 10:13 am - Reply

      Oh, oh, oh, I am so going to do that with my pre-k kids! They would love that!!

  3. D'Lynn Smith December 3, 2011 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Oh, and another fun one is taking the red or yellow plastic ketchup and mustard bottles and putting cotton balls with drops of extract inside. I have used peppermint, anise, vanilla, orange and any others that might be fitting. Then have pictures of the products the extracts are derived from. The students squeeze the bottles to smell the extract and then match the smell to the picture.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 10:14 am - Reply

      Haha – what a fun idea! If you give my kids anything they can squeeze – they will play all day!! You are full of great ideas!

  4. ruby December 3, 2011 at 10:44 am - Reply

    we are doing an ABC Countdown to Christmas. Yesterday was the letter C is for Candy/Candy Canes. We made white playdoh with peppermint flavoring and red/pink playdoh using cranberry juice diluted with water for both coloring and flavoring. It was a huge hit with both my 5 yr (who is doing the ABC Countdown) and my 12 y boys.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      Oh how cute! I never thought to use cranberry juice for the red!! So smart!!

  5. Charlotte December 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    We have a sensory tub with orange slices, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, we are also using the cloves with some white playdough as ‘coal’ when we make snowmen.

    With your paintings, you could smash up some hard dry mints (we have Trebor Mints in the UK, I don’t know the US equivalent) in a ziploc with a rolling pin and use them as sprinkles over your wet paintings… it would look great as snow too.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Mmmmm, what a great sensory idea! I love the idea of smashing up mints – my kids would too!!

  6. Country Fun December 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Love the candy canes. I’ve begun using essential oils so the smell remains longer in playdoughs and paints.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      I will have to look for essential oils!

  7. KM December 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    So many fantastic ideas!!!!! We loved our scratch n sniff book so much it has lost it’s smell… Wouldn’t it be neat if they sold replacement stickers?! Happy chistmas!!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 4, 2011 at 9:51 am - Reply

      I was trying to figure out a way to make my own replacement stickers:) My book is new so the smell i still strong but I am thinking!

  8. Ali December 4, 2011 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Peppermint scented paint – you are brilliant.

  9. Little Wonders' Days December 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    We love this book and I love your candy cane painting! We used this book last year to do a “guess the scent” type of game. Here is the link if you are interested

  10. Natalie December 5, 2011 at 7:13 am - Reply

    Adding peppermint extract to the paint is brilliant! We are definitely going to try this project in the future. Thanks for sharing!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 5, 2011 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      That is terrific!! I am glad you will give it a try!

  11. Sara Achuff December 9, 2011 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I thought the candy canes looked like a great idea, so I tried them myself before the children did them. They didn’t work! All the paper ripped off from under the painters’ tape. I think I will still have them paint with peppermint paint, though.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 9, 2011 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Yes – this can be tricky. You have to find the right combination of paper and tape:)

  12. My Oatmeal Kisses December 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    We had so much fun doing both of your ideas on our blog! I think I am addicted to your site, every new post I am amazed! Thanks for all of your insights!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 22, 2011 at 12:11 am - Reply

      I am thrilled you are trying the ideas and enjoying them too:)

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