Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Making Scents of Christmas


Wednesday 06 December 2017

The Christmas Season is upon us, as evidenced by shopping centre aisles filled to capacity with tons of cheap, commercialized, plastic toys. For months now, great trucks thundered up and down the country delivering their cargo of 'must have’ Paw-Patrol, Nerf guns and Lovabella dolls, stacks of colouring books and arts and crafts paraphernalia.

Similarly, Early Childhood Education and Care settings are hives of activity but never more so than before Christmas. Little hands rummage through boxes of glitter, sequins, cotton balls, pipe cleaners and googly eyes to stick and paste on Santa and Frosty The Snowman paper-plate activities found on Pinterest. Nothing wrong with that, is there? -these materials are inexpensive, accessible, easily prepared, executed and monitored, and children love them? Be that as it may, it begs the question(s): How do Christmas craft- type activities recognise the voice of the individual child? Where's the opportunity to express, explore and investigate? Adult-directed activities involving templates revolve around set objectives and steps, to be completed in a given timeframe, not allowing learning to evolve naturally. The end products are so similar that an individual child would be hard pressed to identify his/her own Santa when displayed. So, what’s the alternative? How can we build on children’s emerging interests and respond to their curiosities? What creative experiences can we offer to facilitate meaning- making and a recognition that their observations, ideas, interpretations and feelings are valued?

Making Scents of Christmas  

While Santa Grottos and Christmas trees and lights are being erected, Mother Nature too has been busy weaving her own Winter Wonderland. When children are outdoors one of these frosty mornings, encourage them to breathe in the fragrant Winter aromas, to observe the changing light, glistening puddles, berries, leaves and twigs trapped in ice sheets. They can pick up - a pine cone, a leaf, a twig or a bit of bark. Educators can pose open-ended questions allowing children to articulate what they notice about the transformations in Nature during Winter. Our sense of smell is perhaps the most evocative, especially related to memory. Back indoors, celebrate the essence of Christmas from an aromatic perspective. Aesthetically display provocations such as thistle, pine, eucalyptus and pussy-willow. Add dried orange and lemon segments and peel, Christmas spices like cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, star anise and cloves. Place items in individual transparent containers to encourage thoughtful responses from children. A magnifying glass allows close examination of subtle intricacies and access to a mortar and pestle lets children make their own pot pourri of mixed spices, filling the air with intense aromas. These spices can be used to scent play-dough, while acorns and pine needles emboss and add texture. Extend the experience by engaging children in transient art (as opposed to permanent art, like paper and paint for example) making designs and imagery using the little treasures they've collected.

Playdough with orange peel, cinnamon stick, berries and cloves in it -Making Scents of Christmas  

These learning opportunities are alternatives to the world of plastic and paper and afford children choice, whereby they are agents of their own visual representations. Children feel valued and connected to the experience in an authentic way, which templates and the like never would afford.


For more ideas on supporting creativity look back on our previous posts:



Evelyn Egan Rainy is a lecturer in the Visual Arts EYE BA programme at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) since 2006. She previously worked at Scuola di Grafica Venice and later as Head of Art at the International School of Padua, Italy. She is currently studying for a PhD in Early Years Education, with a focus on Inquiry- Based Learning in the Visual Arts, using a Transdisciplinary approach. She has recently contributed to the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide and Better Start Resources for Practitioners

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Ann Quirke says:

    Fantastic Evelyn – The children just love the different smells, textures and creations that they can make when left to do their own piece of work.. I’ve started mine already

  2. Lilian Joyce says:

    Such a thoughtful presentation of natural materials with different colours and textures, so inviting. I would take pleasure in exploring these materials myself!

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

First 5(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Pobal(1) Love(2) Graduate(1) Diversity(1) bonds(1) emotions(2) Affordability(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Twitter(1) Leadership(1) Mount Everest(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) under 3's(3) Mathematicians(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Oireachtas(1) Plastic(1) Lego(2) E.coli(1) Digital(1) Learning Stories(9) mushrooms(1) Flowers(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Recycling(2) The Lullaby Book(1) Creative(1) Adoption(1) NCCA(3) Painting(1) Creativity(4) Maths Week Ireland(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Storytelling(4) Educators(2) Meet the Members(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Names(1) AIM(2) Wonder(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Wilenski(1) research submissions(1) relationships(17) Special Needs Assistants(1) Infectious diseases(1) STEM(3) Magda Gerber(1) Exercise(1) Touch(1) Training(2) Fantasy play(1) CIT(1) gender stereotype(1) Universal Design(2) Afghanistan(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Biting(1) Line-ups(1) learning(19) Titles(1) Iraq(1) Maternity Leave(1) Yoga(1) SPICE Framework(1) Shapes(1) RTE Investigates(1) Qualifications(1) Sustainability(3) Stress(2) Traditions(2) Awards 2018(3) Vertical grouping(1) Independence(1) early years learning(1) Valentine's Day(3) interacting(2) respect(5) Decision Making(1) Gratitude(1) Limerick(1) journey(1) story time(2) Technology(3) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Maynooth(1) Awards Night(1) Blocks(1) outdoor play(6) Magic(1) CCTV(1) play stories(1) Sweets(1) Behaviour(3) pets(1) Margy Whalley(1) DES Inspection(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Administrative Burden(1) Mixed age groups(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Leargas(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Patterns(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Design(1) experience(1) Maynooth University(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Meal time(1) MECPI(1) Sustainable(1) animals(2) Valerie Gaynor(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Xbox(1) Mealtimes(1) The Jelly King(1) eating(1) Easter(1) Kilkenny(1) Performing(1) meals(3) scéalta(29) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) ERASMUS+(3) Party(1) Playschool(1) Craft(1) Light table(1) play(32) Jillian van Turnhout(1) science week(2) risk assessment(1) Rituals(1) Change(1) Irish(1) Budget 2019(2) planning(1) Cork(1) dining experiences(1) Settling in(4) Impact(1) Building Resilience(1) First 5 strategy(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Investment(2) United Nations(1) Anxiety(2) Christmas Creativity(2) ears(1) budget(1) Exploring(1) Arlene Forster(1) Decisions(1) UN(1) Infection Control(1) Feeding(1) man up(1) awards 2020(1) Eritrea(1) Identity and Belonging(4) documentation(3) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Kids Own(1) School Age Childcare(1) transitions(10) Winter(1) Malaguzzi(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Exit interview(1) Children(3) Sculptures(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) role playing(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Confident(1) Advocacy(1) Identity(5) Learning Stories Award(3) Inspirational(2) Intention(1) Routines(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Facebook(1) Siolta blog(6) communication(4) Document Learning(1) Childcare(2) Japan(1) purpose(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Map(1) Obesity(1) Time(1) Appreciation(1) Gardening(1) Laugh(1) Autism(3) Interactions(2) aistear blog(2) Orla Kenny(1) Belonging(3) Spiders(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Community involvement(1) Nonverbal(1) HR(1) Learning Journal(1) Early Years(1) AsIAm(1) baby room(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Our Little Seed(1) Graduation(1) collaboration(1) Horizon 2020(1) curriculum(5) Cognitive development(1) University(1) Upcycling(1) Giraffe(2) Wendy Lee(3) Magnavacchi(1) Thinking(1) blog(28) Care-giving routines(1) Book Review(1) Masterclass(2) Buddies(1) Thank you(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Italy(1) European Project(1) environments(1) Reflective Practice(1) Snakes(1) National Holiday(1) Trigonometry(1) Queues(1) Mindfulness(2) child-centred approach(1) life long learning(1) Workplace Relations(3) educating(1) Games(1) Self-Esteem(1) Window(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) conversations(1) Certificate(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Celebrations(4) Snacks(1) Communications(1) Interests(1) Exclusion(1) Culture(2) Workforce(1) Arts(1) Shoes(1) Aistear(115) UD(1) routine(2) Maths Week(1) Santa(2) Engagement(1) Early Learning and Care(1) behavioural science(1) Academic Skills(1) Síolta QAP(1) supportive environments(2) Mental Health(3) Human Resources(1) Summer(1) Positivity(1) Fee Play(1) educarer(1) Participation(2) Inter-generational learning(2) Recycle(1) Playdough(1) Thanks(1) Arithmetic(1) INTO(1) Penguins(1) Little Buddies(1) Sleep(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Wrapping paper(1) EECERA 2016(1) Prexit(1) CPD(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Art(6) Event Guide(1) Trade Unions(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Early Years Educators(3) emotional environment(1) ICBN(1) Loss(1) Hand Hygiene(1) curiosity(3) Elders(1) Primary School(2) Mantra(1) babies(7) Inclusion(3) Degree(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Sport(1) grandchild(1) Mo Scéal(1) early childhood educator(1) Childhood(1) learning bias(1) linc(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Wesco(1) Sequins(1) Self Help Skills(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Vietnam(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) MA(1) Nutrition(1) feisty(1) RIE philosphy(1) Smiles(1) Montessori(3) ECCE(7) Children's Rights(3) dublin(2) Supernanny(1) Drawing(2) Visual Impairment(1) Capable(1) Awards(2) dining(1) ReCreate(2) books(4) Competent(1) preschool settings(1) Favouritism(1) reading(5) dogs(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Sessional service(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Treasure(1) National Awards 2018(2) Pen green(1) NAEYC(1) development(8) Jenga(1) Fabric(1) Interaction(1) Tuscan Approach(2) outdoor space(3) overhear(1) Study Trip(1) Builders(1) Maths(5) Time Out(1) Children's Research Network(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Social Skills(1) San Miniato(4) Celebrate(1) community(5) Brain(1) GDPR(1) Health(2) Quality(4) Children's Voice(1) Síolta(108) Awards 2019(1) Ceremony(1) Bereavement(2) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Grief(1) Mud kitchens(1) Potential(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Learning journals(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Children and families(1) UNCRC(1) Learning Story(1) toddlers(3) worries(1) ECEC(2) listening(1) Policy(2) Teamwork(1) Seas Suas(1) preschool(3) Relaxation(1) Breathing(2) Professionalisation(4) Rich Documentation(1) Online(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Trick or treat(1) Traffic Lights(1) Budget 2020(1) refugees(1) Empathy(1) code of ethics(1) Kerry(1) Photographs(1) Story(1) Glitter(2) IGL(1) food(1) Budget 2018(1) Support(1) Care routines(1) Treasure Chest(1) Family wall(1) Challenges(1) Albert Einstein(1) Plants(1) Research Seminar(1) research(6) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) College(1) Iceland(1) Confidence(1) Workplace well-being(1) Snack Time(1) ECEC Setting(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) New Appointments(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Mark Twain(1) DCYA(4) Laughter(1) EM Standing(1) Reggio(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Inspections(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Running(1) Trade union(1) parents(6) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Funding(1) Child mental health(1) value(1) Self-regulation(1) Book Club(2) Inter-generational(2) Engineers Week(2) Motor neuron disease(1) Scéalta Blog(93) PIP(1) Academics(1) trust(3) early years research(2) christmas(9) Engineering(3) Well-Being(9) Death(2) Ariana Pucci(1) Performance Management(1) National Awards 2019(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Home Corner(1) Mayo(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Leprechauns(1) social media(1) Environment(2) Frustrations(1) Syria(1) Halloween(2) Family(1) TOY Programme(1) Through the looking glass(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) risky play(2) Norway(2) Digital Devices(1) friendships(1) Communicating(1) listen(1) memories(1) social science(1) Visitors(1) Socioemotional development(1) stories(2) education(2) Pobal sector profile(1) gender bias(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Body Language(1) Scents(1) Role play(1) TRAP(1) Dance(1) Consent(1) outdoors(3) Staff Motivation(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) maternity health(1) Weather(1) Music(3) science(3) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Imagination(3) Buddy Bench(1) Whole Group(1) Employee(1) Maria Montessori(1) risk(2) Vivian Gussin Paley(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine