The last time I was at my parents” home, I noticed my mother was wearing her signature perfume – one that she has worn since I was a very small child. One whiff of that scent and I was transported back to childhood memories of sitting on the bathroom counter, watching her get ready for the day.

We all know what an incredible and powerful role scent has on our memories, and many of us have experienced how exposure to certain smells can trigger thoughts, emotions, and sensations. We often think of incorporating aromatherapy into our own lives through bath and body care, burning candles or incense, or even in caring for our clothing, but how often do we intentionally teach our children about the power of scent?

Babies, toddlers, and children tend to be much more in tune with their five senses, and our senses seem to be sharper and more sensitive when we are younger. Here are a few ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your home in a way that meets the needs of your children in the present while empowering them with knowledge to utilize it in their lives in the years to come.

Rise and Shine: Scents to Start the Day

Photo by krossbow

Who doesn”t love to wake up to a wonderful smell? I can remember waking up to the smell of sticky buns fresh from the oven at my grandparents” house, and nothing has ever come quite so close to making me feel so loved and doted on first thing in the morning.

Even if your kitchen doesn”t race to life in the pre-dawn hours, you can still invite sleepyheads to leave slumber behind with some energizing scents. Peppermint essential oil is probably one of the most popular choices for waking up our brain cells, so a few drops of that in a diffuser might be a nice addition to the breakfast table.

If you have a little one dealing with anxiety, try lavender, lemon verbena, or orange oils (or a combination of the three!) to soothe upset nerves before a big day.

Good-smelling Fun:  Scents at Play

Children learn best through play, and it”s easy to find ways to teach children about the power of scent through play. A nature walk is the perfect time to talk about all of the smells you happen upon as you walk. Older children can make notes in a nature journal about the scents they were most attracted to and what they didn”t care for at all. Take note of the scents your smaller children enjoyed – these are great clues for knowing what they might like to smell more of at home.

Another way to include scents in play is through making or buying play items that bring smells to playtime. Scented play dough is very popular right now, and with a little thoughtfulness and imagination, a focus on scent can be added to nearly anything. And don”t leave babies out of the fun! At NurtureStore, Cathy described her  which includes lots of fine motor skill items with lingering smells like cocoa boxes or tea tins.

Simmer Down: Scents that Calm

Photo by audreyjm529

A few years ago in an issue of Mothering magazine, I read about using an aromatherapy foot bath to soothe an upset child. My oldest daughter sometimes has a hard time calming down from Big Feelings, and she will often ask for a foot bath to help her feel better. We fill a large bowl with warm water and add a few drops of a soothing scent. She really likes lavender, but bergamot is another great choice for restoring calm. The combination of pleasant, healing scents with warm, soothing water always seems to help her get back on track.

In 8 Natural Solutions for the Common Discomforts of Infancy, I wrote about using a scented massage oil to help babies with cold symptoms. Gentle, soothing touches combined with calming essential oils can bring relaxation and relief to babies, children, and adults.

Gifts and Giving: Scents to Share

Photo by lindsay.dee.bunny

One area that might be the most enticing to older children is discovering how to incorporate knowledge about aromatherapy into handmade gifts. Given the diverse array of information available on the internet and in library books about the different properties of essential oils, there is ample opportunity for kids to research what scents would be best for gifts.

Scented gifts that children could make with a little supervision from a grown-up include candles, lip balm, lotion, sleep masks, drawer sachets, ornaments, heat packs/rice pillows, and scented cards. Again, encouraging our children to learn how to investigate and use the power of smell is a skill set they can apply in a variety of ways throughout their lives.

Sweet Dreams: Scents to End the Day

A constant element in our bedtime routine is a spritz of Sweet Dreams Spray right before I tuck in my girls for the night. We created the Sweet Dreams Spray when my oldest was having problems with scary dreams. I found an atomizer spray bottle and added water and about ten drops of lavender oil, and then I sprayed a little over my daughter and her pillow every night before bed.

Through the years, we have expanded our choices for Sweet Dreams Spray flavors. The current favorite is this Therapeutic Grade Vanilla Essential Oil

that we actually bought for making candles and lip balm; it turns out it makes for a yummy last scent of the day. We”ve also used lime essential oil in the summer, and the girls love to come up with new mixtures of favorite scents for each new batch.

These are simple ideas that any family can incorporate into daily home life. Always remember that essential oils should never be applied directly to skin, and it”s always a good idea to investigate a new oil you are bringing into your home.

For more information on aromatherapy, check out these resources:

Playful Learning:

Jeanne Rose: Aromatherapy Book: Inhalations and Applications


How do you use aromatherapy in your home? Does your family have a favorite recipe or scented idea to share?