DIY Toddler Class- Smelly Stuff

I am notoriously cheap, at least when it comes to certain things.  I will splurge on a lovely dinner that I have no hope of recreating.  I buy good running shoes.  But if there is even a tiny hope I can make it or do it myself and save a few dollars, I will- for good or bad.

My youngest son, Kellen, longs to go to preschool, like his big brother Liam.  As Liam enters the classroom each morning, Kellen tries to blend in behind his backpack and slip in undetected.  I gently tug the back of his t-shirt and remind him that he is not yet old enough to go to class.  He bursts into tears as I pick him up to carry him to the car.

I started looking into rec center classes for Kellen, to satisfy his need to go to school.  I ran into several issues.  Most of the classes are aimed at an older group, or they meet at a time when we cannot attend.  A friend suggested a few mommy and me classes at local preschools.  While the programs looked fantastic, they were a bit pricey.  I’m already paying for one kid to attend preschool.  I can’t take out a second mortgage on the house just so my two year old can socialize.

I talked to a few other moms with children around Kellen’s age, and suggested we start our own group.  We had our first session today, and I think it went really well.  I constructed the lesson by borrowing from other classes I have attended and throwing in a few ideas of my own.

I am starting off by doing a five week series on the senses.  Each week, we will explore a new sense.  While this is a fun way to learn about our bodies and how they work, the real focus is on expanding attention span, listening, following directions, recognizing patterns, using our imaginations and thinking creativiely.

Here is the lesson plan for our first session, complete with the purpose behind each step.  Feel free to borrow from it, as I have borrowed from many others.  Our theme was sense of smell.  I will say that I am NOT a certified teacher.  I am studying to teach and create lessons based on those studies, but I am still learning.  So if something I say is inaccurate, please help me to learn and understand better.

  1.  Welcome Song (to the tune of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain).  Song is the same every week and acts as a queue to signal class is starting.  We have the children sit around a parachute and bounce the parachute in time to the music.  The parachute and song combination work to engage multiple senses.  When we engage our whole bodies, the learning is more meaningful.  The information stands a better chance of being retained.


Let’s sing hello together

Let’s sing hello together

Let’s sing hello together

We’re glad you came today


Let’s sing hello to Kellen

Let’s sing hello to Liam

Let’s sing hello to (repeat all children’s names)

We’re glad you came today

2.  Ask “Does anyone know what part of our body we use to smell?” Ask children to touch their noses.  Then ask if they can tap their nose and then tap their laps.  Say “tap tap lap,” as you tap your nose twice and then the lap once.  This serves to get the children listening, following instructions, and recognizing patterns.

3.  Sing “Noses” (to the tune of “Jingle Bells”).  Bounce parachute in time to the song as you sing.  At the end of the song, advise that you are going to count to ten and then all let go of the parachute to put it away.  Raise the parachute up and down as you count to ten.


Noses, Noses

Noses help us breathe

Air goes in

Air goes out

I breathe with my nose


Noses, Noses

Noses help us smell

I use my nose

To smell a rose

Noses help us smell


4.  Ask children to think of an animal with a long nose.  Then recite the following rhyme to pretend to be elephants.  Repeat a few times until they catch on to the words and actions.

An elephant goes like this and that,

(walk with arms in front like trunk)

He’s oh so big,

(raise arms up)

And he’s oh so fat.

(spread arms out to the sides)

He has no fingers,

(wiggle fingers)

He has no toes,

(shake freet)

BUT, my oh my, WHAT A NOSE!

(exaggerate waving arms as trunk)

5.  Rhythm sticks/Morning Dance Party

Rhythm sticks are two pieces of wood you can tap together to make sounds.  You can find actual rhythm sticks for under $2, such as these :

Or you can buy wooden dowels and cut them into pieces to make sticks.  I found three foot dowels at Wal-mart for $1 each.  My father-in-law cut them into six inch pieces.  So each set was roughly 33 cents.


We started out by letting the kids play with them however they want.  Most of them hit them together, one on top of the other.  Then I’d say things like “is there another way to tap them together?” or “is there somewhere else we can hit them?”  We alternated between tapping them end to end, on the floor, on our knees, etc.

I then turned on some music and let them dance and play with the sticks.  We listened to “Good Times” by Chic.  Toward the end, I asked “can we all go in a circle?” and then after a few rounds one direction, went the other way.   The kids pretended this was a train and made choo choo sounds.

The dance serves as a way to get energy out, but also a break to process the information they have already received.

The entire activity explores a broad range of benefits- following directions, creative thinking, developing motor skills to name a few.  We also have the kids clean up the sticks, which hopefully translates into taking care of their belongings.

6.  Scarf play.  Each child gets a scarf.  Recite the following skit.  On the “achoos” we wave the scarves.  On “away from you” we throw the scarf in the air.  We perform this a few times.

(Speaking in a squeaky voice)

A tiny ant has to sneeze

Achoo achoo achoo

(speaking in a deep voice)

A big gorilla has to sneeze

Achoo achoo achoo

(speaking in a normal voice)

When I tickle my nose

I have to sneeze

Achoo away from you

7.  Read the book “A Nose Like a Hose” by Jenny Samuels.

8.  Free play with instruments:  I filled a bag with instruments, both homemade and store bought.


I shake the bag to garner attention and then sing:

What’s in my music bag?

What’s in my music bag?

Come gather ‘round

To make happy sounds

Oh, what’s in my music bag?

I set the bag on the floor, but keep it closed while counting to ten.  This helps to delay gratification.  I then let the kids pick instruments from the bag and play them however they want.  We listened to “Planet Claire” by the B-52’s while they played around.

Playing with the instruments freely promotes creative thinking and using their imaginations.

9.  I set up two sensory activities revolving around smell.  Usually I would run both stations simultaneously and have the moms split into groups.  Since we had a small group, we did one activity and then the other.

Scented play-dough:

I made traditional salt dough and then mixed in different scents- orange zest, lemon zest, coffee, vanilla extract, nutmeg, etc.  I let the kids play with the dough in traditional ways- cookie cutters, rolling pins, etc.  But I also put out various scented items they could mix in the dough- basil leaves, rosemary, cilantro, etc.

131122_001 131122_003

Scented trees:

I cut a tree shape from a piece of construction paper and stapled a piece of clear contact paper to the back.  Moms removed the contact paper to reveal the sticky surface.  The kids could then stick scented items to the contact paper to create leaves on their trees, like dried leaves and flowers, fresh herbs etc.  I would then stick another piece of construction paper on the back to seal in the leaves.  You could also stick another piece of contact paper to make a suncatcher.


10.  We finished up with snacks and play time.

Next session, exploring sight.  I’ve got an under the table solar system, and one of the other moms mentioned glow sticks.  Should be fun!




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One Response to DIY Toddler Class- Smelly Stuff

  1. Pingback: DIY Toddler Class- Stuff to Look At | yourmamasallwrite

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