Search form

To Love Her
Is to Smell Her


You and Your Students!

Script By

Vicki Cobb, Education World Science Editor


Kids learn how smell makes them feel happy and secure.


Human Body, the five senses

Required Props

  • unwashed T-shirts worn for at least a day by students' mothers
  • paper bags
  • markers
  • blindfold

Setting the Scene (Background)

In their writings, Marcel Proust and Helen Keller both linked smell and memory -- and scientific studies have backed them up! You can use that idea for a very interesting class project and lesson on the sense of smell.

Stage Direction

This experiment is suited for use with the very youngest children in your school, but it is not exclusive to them. In fact, it would be interesting to see how a group of older kids fared compared to the younger kids. This is also a great way to involve parents in a class project.

Show-Biz Science is scripted by popular children's book writer Vicki Cobb. Click to learn more about Vicki or to read a brief synopsis of her philosophy of teaching science.

Visit our archive of archive of Show-Biz Science Activities. Watch for a new activity each week. Then chat with Vicki -- share your feedback and ask your questions about teaching science -- on our special Showbiz-Science message board.

Be sure to visit Vicki's Kids' Science Page for more great science fun, a complete list of her books, and information about how you can invite Vicki to come to your school. And don't miss her library of science videos too. Or visit Vicki and other great authors of nonfiction for children at the INK Think Tank.


Act I
Each student should bring to class a cotton T-shirt, worn by his or her mother for at least a day. Each shirt should be placed in a paper bag and labeled discreetly with the mother's name

One at a time, select students to be blindfolded. Hold open the bags for each student. Let him or her stick a nose into each bag to sniff the shirt. See if the child can pick out his or her mother from the smell of the shirt. If he or she hesitates and isn't certain about a bag, set aside that bag until all the bags have been smelled.

Act II
The results of this experiment can be the basis for a math lesson. How many students got the right answer? Express the results as a percentage so your class's results can be compared with the results of other classes.

Behind the Scenes

The olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that receives information about smells from nerves in the nose, is directly linked to the parts of the brain that control the expression and experience of emotion and the consolidation of memories. Memories that are linked with odors are more emotionally loaded than memories not associated with smells.

The earliest and strongest emotion of childhood is love for a mother. Because of the close physical contact between mother and child, that feeling is linked to the smell of the mother. That is why pediatricians often recommend putting an infant down to sleep with a small blanket or diaper that has been in contact with the mother; that will induce a feeling of comfort and well-being. The smell of "pet blankets" or favorite stuffed toys become symbols of security for young children.

The End

You might want to repeat this experiment with very young children by having them bring in their "security" toy. See if they can distinguish their toy m from the others by smell.

For more on the sense of smell read my book Follow Your Nose: Discover Your Sense of Smell, which is illustrated by Cynthia C. Lewis. (Lerner Publications, the Millbrook Press).

Article By Vicki Cobb
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World