7 Ways to Make Your Classroom Smell Amazing

Did you know the sense of smell is the strongest emotional trigger?

Our sense of smell is directly related to memory; certain odors can trigger memories long forgotten, both good and bad.

When it comes to our classrooms, we want children to connect good smells with positive memories of school and learning, without overdoing it.

I have always loved having a fresh smelling classroom, but hate using chemical laden plugins and sprays to achieve a fresh scent.

These are some tips to keep your classroom smelling fresh without using lots of harsh chemicals.

7 Ways to Make Your Classroom Smell Amazing

Classroom Scents

It may seem as if teachers have so many things on their plates these days the least of their worries should be how their classrooms smell, but research has shown that the sense of smell is a direct pathway to the brain and is related to the development of problem solving skills.

Unpleasant odors have also been shown to negatively impact learning while certain scents can be used in the classroom to help create optimal learning conditions.

How to Make Your Classroom Smell Amazing

Best Scents for the Classroom

There are so many scents to choose from, here are a few that can help with certain classroom situations:

Peppermint and citrus scents can help with focus and attention; use these after nap time or towards the end of the day when kids are dragging.

Lavender can have a very calming effect, perfect for an active bunch!

7 Tricks to Make Your Classroom Smell Amazing

7 Classroom Hacks to Make Your Classroom Smell Amazing!

I have always loved having a fresh smelling classroom, but hate using chemical laden plugins and sprays. The ideas below use essential oils (my favorite!) but you could also use peppermint extract if you prefer.

1. Place a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball or handkerchief and tape to the back of a fan in your classroom. The fan doesn’t have to be large; it can be a desktop fan, placed out of the reach of the children for safety.

2. Use an essential oil diffuser at school to help cut down on odors in the classroom. Diffusers don’t get hot so they are safer choices for classroom use. Place the diffuser on top of a tall file cabinet or bookshelf out of the reach of children.

3. Stinky trash can? Place a few drops of lemon essential oil on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in the bottom of the trash can to reduce odors.

4. Place a few drops of citrus essential oil in a glass spray bottle and fill with distilled water to create a natural air freshener. Use fewer drops of oil for a subtle smell or more drops to increase the intensity of the scent.

5. Accessorize! Place a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a scarf, my favorite is Peace and Calming. While it may not fill the room, you will smell amazing all day long!

6. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your favorite play dough recipe to create a calming effect.

7. Attach a bandana or handkerchief with a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the air duct in your classroom to naturally diffuse scents throughout the room.

Can’t use these ideas in your classroom? Try them out at home instead!

The oils I use and love are listed on my essential oils information page.

Use Caution with Scents in the Classroom

While there are many ways to make your classroom smell amazing I do want to caution you about allergies.

As somebody who suffers from chemical sensitivities and severe asthma, scents can be a big concern for me. I am fine with light, natural aromas but the harsh chemicals found in most household cleaners and air fresheners can cause a very bad reaction. When choosing scents to use in your classroom, keep them as natural as possible.

Cookies for Santa Printable Activity

Do your kids love to play with play dough?

It’s difficult to hold the attention of any young child, but even more so during the busy Christmas season.

This fun, educational activity is sure to keep your kids engaged and on-task for a good long time.

I also created a printable note template your kids can use, keep reading to get your copy!

Cookies for Santa Writing Activity with Free Printable for Preschool and Kindergarten
Disclosure: Amazon links included below

Making Cookies for Santa

This hands-on activity provides plenty of learning opportunities for young children.

When children have a real purpose for writing, not just because we told them to, they begin to learn that writing has meaning and can be used to communicate ideas with others- which is an important part of the emergent writing process.

As children roll and manipulate the play dough they develop the fine motor skills in their hands that will be necessary as they begin writing.

Lastly, pretend play involves creativity and imagination which are crucial skills for 21st Century learners.

The most important part of this experience is that your kids will be having FUN making pretend cookies and writing their own letter to Santa!

Gingerbread Play Dough Recipe for Preschool and Kindergarten

Play Dough Cookies

I used my favorite homemade play dough recipe to make this batch, it smells amazing!

Gingerbread Play Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

In a pan, stir together the dry ingredients.

Next, mix in the oil and water and stir until it thickens to the consistency of cake batter or thicker.

Cook over low to medium heat until dough begins to form.

Remove dough from pan and set aside to cool, and then knead until smooth.

Makes enough for 4-5 children to play with. If your dough is too sticky add more flour, if it’s too dry add more water and vegetable oil.

Play Dough Cookies for Santa

Writing Santa a Note

Now that you have your play dough, your kids can make cookies for Santa. Provide some cookie cutters, a cookie sheet from the dollar store, crayons, and buttons or beads for decorating the play dough cookies and you’re good to go!

After the cookies are decorated it’s time to write a note to Santa!

The printable note template your kids can use to write a note to Santa is available for download below.

I included four different versions for you in this printable, color without lines, black and white without lines, color with lines and black and white with lines.

Cookies for Santa Dramatic Play for Preschool and Kindergarten

A Note for Santa Printable

If all this making play dough stuff isn’t your thing then you might like this pretend play Christmas cookie set I found from Melissa and Doug.

The set includes 12 wooden slice and bake cookies, the decorated tops are attached with Velcro. Also included is a very durable wooden cookie tray with Velcro spots.

Kids can slice the cookies and attach them to the cookie sheet without fear they will slide off. There’s also an oven mitt, a pretend knife, and a spatula. Tons of fun!

Free Cookies for Santa Writing Printable for Preschool and Kindergarten

Click on the image above to download the note for Santa printable.

More Christmas Resources:
Christmas Literacy Activities
Printable Christmas I-Spy Beginning Sounds
Printable Christmas Emergent Reader
Dramatic Play Holiday Wrapping Center
Elf of the Day Printable for Santa’s Workshop
DIY Holiday Bulletin Board Awning
Reindeer Play Dough Math Game
Mason Jar Lid Christmas Ornaments
Best Christmas Books for Kids
Christmas Scissor Cutting Skill Practice

Christmas Pinterest Board
Follow my Christmas board on Pinterest for more great ideas!

Classroom Recipes: Hanukkah Menorah

Did you know that Hanukkah begins at sunset on December 16 this year? (2014)

There are many Christmas activities for kids out there, but I have found very few for Hanukkah.

Here is a super easy and tasty Hanukkah snack you can make at home or in the classroom along with a list of my favorite Hanukkah books.

Hanukkah Menorah Snack for Kids
Disclosure: Amazon links included below

Hanukkah Menorah Recipe

This recipe for a Hanukkah menorah is so easy the kids can assemble it themselves. Now you have both a snack and an activity, you’re welcome!


  • Banana
  • Skinny pretzel sticks
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter OR cream cheese

Start by slicing the banana into the different lengths as shown above. You can do this step for your children if they are too young for a knife, but plastic knives or even craft sticks would work well and be great practice.

Then, have the kids arrange the banana slices on their plate with the tallest piece in the middle.

Next, give the children the pretzel sticks and a bowl of peanut butter, or cream cheese if you have any nut allergies.

Invite the children to swipe one end of each pretzel stick in the peanut butter. The peanut butter (or cream cheese) will serve as the “glue” to attach the flame to the end of the pretzel sticks.

Now, invite the children to place a pretzel in the top of each banana slice with the peanut butter “glue” on top to represent the candles.

Finally, the children can add one chocolate chip to the top of each pretzel stick for the flame. You could also use raisins for the flames if you prefer.

Congratulations, you have just made a Hanukkah Menorah! Now comes the fun part, eating it!

You can also discuss the story of Hanukkah with the children and the significance of the candles.

Hanukkah Books for Kids

Hanukkah Books for Kids

I am so excited to share this book list with you because it was created by…you! I asked you for your Hanukkah book recommendations and you delivered. Here are some of the most popular Hanukkah books you recommended below along with a few of my own favorites.

It was love at first read when I discovered Latke the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fisher. This is a heartfelt story of pet adoption readers young and old alike will love, but it’s also a great tool for teaching and learning about Hanukkah!

Honeyky Hanukah by Woody Guthrie is a book you can dance to, it includes a free song by the same title on CD from the Klezmatics. A young boy and his dog gather family and friends for a fun Hanukkah feast to remember.

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia Rouss is a charming and beautifully illustrated story that your kids will beg to hear again and again. Sammy’s mother says, “Spiders don’t spin dreidels. Spiders spin webs.” But oh how Sammy wants a dreidel…
Recommended by: Gina, Wendy, and Barbara

Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser is the tale of young Rachel who wants latkes now! Not to be deterred by her mother, Rachel comes up with her own plan to make latkes.
Recommended by: Ellen

Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel is an updated and re-illustrated version of the classic tale first known as The Chanukkah Guest. This book is perfect for acting out the characters with appropriate voices, especially Bubba Brayna’s Yiddish (Jewish) accent! Woven throughout this entertaining and humorous story of a case of mistaken identity are many Hanukkah traditions.
Recommended by: Barbara, Deb, Miriam, and Katje

Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book by Laura Krauss Melmed features festive poems and scenes of family life that evoke the sights, sounds, and tastes of the festival of lights.

Sweet rhyming text and warm illustrations make Hanukkah! by Roni Schotter the perfect introduction to the festival of lights.
Recommended by: Rosemary

Your favorite prehistoric pals are tempted by all that Chanukkah has to offer- including mischief! If you’re a fan of Yolen’s popular dinosaur series, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen will not disappoint.
Recommended by: Suzanne and Cathy

A family visits bubbe for Chanukah and hilarity ensues when she develops an insatiable taste for latkes, applesauce, and much more! I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz is a fun and creative twist on the most classic of American folk songs.
Recommended by: Suzanne and Cathy

Please note: I have spelled Hanukkah both ways in this post according to how it was spelled in the book I was reviewing.

More Book Lists from Pre-K Pages
Best Books About Winter and Snow
Best Gingerbread Books for Kids
Best Christmas Books for Kids

Hanukkah Pinterest Board
Follow my Hanukkah board on Pinterest for more great ideas!

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