Support for PBS Parents provided by:

  • Arthur
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Let's Go Luna
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Pinkalicous and Peterriffic
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Sesame Street
  • Ruff Ruffman Show
  • Mister Rogers
  • Cyberchase
  • SciGirls
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Martha Speaks
  • The Electric Company
  • WordGirl
  • Caillou
  • Oh Noah
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM
Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Leo’s Sense of Smell

My little boy Leo has always been a keen observer of smells in his ever-expanding world. When I give him a hug after my shower he always comments on how yummy my hair smells. When Leo is unsure about trying a new food, he always insists on smelling it first. I don’t wear perfume very often, but when I do, Leo is the first with a sweet comment. And we can always count on Leo to inform us about stinky smells with a wrinkled nose. Sometimes he can be quite vocal about his distaste for a certain smells (think bathroom) and this can lead to awkward moments when guests are over. But Leo is true to his sense of smell and seems to enjoy life with a “nose first” approach.
When I found the Sid investigation called, What’s That Smell? I knew that Leo would get a kick out of it. Our friend Donald was at the house for a play date and he was thrilled to participate in one of our Sid experiments. Apparently, our friends have gotten wind of the fun science investigations happening over here and are asking to take part. Leo, Henry, and I are happy to spread preschool science into our small universe!
The investigation calls for kids to identify distinctive scents while blindfolded. We wanted the boys to take a whiff and then describe the smell. I then recorded their ideas on a chart. I chose coffee, cinnamon, chocolate, lime, and play doh as our scents.
Donald went first. We used an old pink bandana for a blindfold. He giggled as we put the coffee can under his nose.
“Smells like coffee!” he said.
Donald proclaimed the cinnamon as spicy and the lime as sour. Clever boy! Then he called the chocolate “chips” and nailed the play doh. Preschoolers are honest little people and he quickly told us he could see the last two items. We were proud of his observations and his honesty!
We weren’t going to take any chances with Leo. I found a hat to pull down over his eyes for a peek-less investigation. Just like Donald, Leo was very giggly. He proclaimed the coffee smelled like cherry. What? And the cinnamon was “sweet.”
Leo was back on track when he said the lime was sour, but then he said the chocolate smelled like crayons. It seems that when Leo was put on the spot with his sight blocked, he was unable to identify the scents. Or perhaps it was the vocabulary he was missing. I tried to give him smelly words like sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, but Leo wanted to strike out on his own and make connections to other familiar smells like crayons. I like to watch my boys think.
The great thing about this investigation is that there aren’t really any incorrect observations. This one forced the boys to concentrate in an unfamiliar way that made them giggly and a little uncomfortable. It was a lot of fun. Leo was more aware of his nose and the scents around us for the rest of the day. Thank goodness we were having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner – that’s a smell we all like!
What scents would you choose from your pantry for this experiment? Do you think your kids have a scent vocabulary to investigate with?

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

What's this?

PBS Parents Picks

  1. Wild Kratts image

    Wild Kratts App Teaches Young Children How to Care for Animals

    In this app, kids are charge of feeding, washing, and playing with baby animals.

  2. Curious Kids image

    How (And Why) To Encourage Curiosity

    "...when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better."

  3. Gardening Benefits image

    The Benefits of Gardening With Kids

    Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. A few containers and soil in a sunny spot will do.

PBS Parents Newsletter

Find activities, parenting tips, games from your child's favorite PBS KIDS programs and more.