DIY Montessori smelling jars using essential oils

Try this fabulous DIY Montessori activity with your kids!


Create your own smelling jars, as this is a great inexpensive way to bring a Montessori activity into your home!

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If you’ve been following me for awhile, then you know that I am an advocate for not only getting Montessori into every home imaginable, but doing so on a budget with practical, every day items you can find in your home or inexpensively. For the longest time, The Montessori Method was confined to the classroom environment, but over the last ten or so years it has evolved greatly to be easily incorporated into your parenting, home, and home school environments….something the I am really happy and excited about!



With the adjustment for Montessori at home, it allows me to share some of my ideas and activities with others who are looking into simply adding Montessori practices and principles without having to purchase many of the more expensive traditional Montessori exercises. This activity is no exception! Bring the principles of The Montessori Method into your home with this easy, DIY Sensorial activity! Your child will have loads of fun with this, and you can personalize and change out the scents as often as you and your child like. That’s the joy of DIY Montessori activities; you can make them your own and cater them to your child’s interests.


Related post: DIY Montessori size discrimination material


What is the Sensorial area in a Montessori environment?

The Sensorial area in a Montessori classroom environment is composed of activities that engage the senses of the child.  In this area of the classroom, there are activities for smell, taste, and hearing; and various materials that promote the development of sight and touch. The skills and concepts that the Sensorial materials teach can easily be taught using hand made items and a little creativity.


What are the Montessori Sensorial Smelling Jars?

Now that you have a better idea of what the Montessori Sensorial area is, let’s talk more about what the Montessori Smelling Jars are. The Smelling Jars are a work seen in a traditional Montessori classroom. The activity consists of twelve amber colored glass jars.  One set of jars has white lids and the other set of jars has black lids. Each jar scent has a matching corresponding jar.

How children do the work:

  1. Children choose a jar from one set.
  2. They open the lid and smell
  3. They choose a jar from the second set
  4. They open the lid and smell
  5. They place the two scent together if they are the same
  6. If they are not the same, children set them aside and continue until all sets are matched
  7. Each set has a color coded dot on the bottom of each jar for children to “check their work”

Every Montessori activity in the environment has a built in way for children to “check their work”. We call this the control of error.  The control of error is the quality within the Montessori materials that enables a child to complete and correct the task without assistance from a teacher or a peer.  It allows for the empowerment of the child to discover the error on his or her own, rather than discovering the mistake once it is pointed out by a teacher.



DIY Montessori Sensorial Smelling Jars using essential oils and recycled essential oil bottles

What you’ll need to make them:

-an even amount of empty essential oil bottles

-six to eight essential oils

-cotton balls


small round stickers or labels

-an assortment of colored markers


Step 1:

Gather an even amount of empty essential oil bottles. You’ll need and even amount so that each smelling jar has a matching set.

For this particular work, I chose to make eight matching sets, so I used a total of sixteen jars.


Step 2:

Remove lids and plastic oil droppers from each of the essential oil bottles.



Step 3:

Add a fourth a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, a tablespoon of vinegar and a cup of water to a pot. Boil and remove from heat. Carefully place lids and plastic oil droppers in. Do the same with the empty essential oil bottles. Let sit for about an hour.



Step 4:

Remove labels from essential oil bottles and any remaining glue. Make sure to get the bottles completely clean on the inside and outside.


Step 5:

Take a cotton ball and pull it apart a bit so that it is easier to place into the empty essential oil bottles.


Step 6:

Twist and push the cotton ball down into the empty essential oil bottle.


Step 7:

Use the tweezers to push the cotton ball all the way into the bottle.


Step 8:

Choose one of your essential oils and apply fifteen to twenty drops into one of the empty essential oil bottles. Repeat again to make the matching set.

I chose Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Peppermint, Lavender, Clove, Blood Orange and Lime Essential oils to make these particular matching sets. You can choose any scents that you’d like.


Step 9:

Repeat Step 7 until all of the sets of essential oil bottles are made. Use the assorted markers to make a colored dot on the small round labels and attach them to each corresponding smelling jar set for the control of error.



Step 10:

Test out each set of smelling jars. Adjust the scent if needed by adding in more drops if necessary. Place your DIY Montessori Sensorial Smelling Jars into a small basket. The work is now ready to be used. Be sure to give your child the appropriate first lesson on using the work. Follow the above directions for providing your child a lesson on using this work.


Related post: 10 DIY Montessori fine motor activities for children


What to take from this

This activity can be changed to either using less sets of matching jars or even more. For older children, you could even choose scents that are harder and not as easy to distinguish; scents that they are not used to or recognize. The sky is the limit with DIY Montessori materials, you can customize them for your individual child.

The bottom line is, have fun with this and use your creativity to create a fun and engaging Montessori activity for your child!


I would love to hear your thoughts on this DIY Montessori activity. Tell me if you give this a try too, I’d love to hear about it!



Happy Montessori DIYing!

Anitra J.




  1. Love your pictures and the instructions are very clear. Very well written.

  2. I never thought to do this! What a great idea for an activity! I’ll start saving my jars!

  3. That’s a really fun activity for kids and such a great to recycle used jars! I’ll have to try this out sometime!

  4. This is such a cool idea! I can’t wait to try it with my daughter!

  5. Its a unique activity. I love the fact that it allows little ones can check their work themselves. My toddler is learning about the five senses will definitely try this activity with him.

  6. I never thought about using essential oils in an educational context like this. You really can learn something new every day if you try.

  7. i’ve never heard of montessori smelling jars! thanks for the education and the craft!

  8. Pretty straight forward instructions layout. I feel its something I can do.

  9. My bubbas are no longer little enough for this, but I wish I’d thought of it when they were! I always recycled mine – but this is a better way to reuse them!

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