I remember as a child sitting in a waiting room of a doctor’s office or at the hairdresser’s saving up a spot for my mum, and coming across magazines with scratch and sniff pages.
Most of these were advertisements to perfumes, and they always intrigued me. How had they – whoever “they” were – managed to pick up a scent and encapsulate it within the pages of a magazine (apparently) forever? How could I scratch that scent over and over and still be some left for the next person picking up the magazine? It was the closest to magic I remember being able to touch and experience.
In the middle of a pandemic, these memories feel almost weird. Scratching a piece of a magazine probably loads of other people have touched before and smelling it? No, thanks! But I have to admit the whole thing still fascinates me.
Although the technology has always intrigued me, it wasn’t until I started researching for this article that I truly tried to understand it. How does this scratch and sniff thing actually work?
If you have also wondered, I have the answers for you.
Scratch and sniff technology didn’t result from an attempt to create scratch and sniff. It originated when, in the 1960s, scientists at 3M tried to create a way to make copies without carbon paper, since copying machines didn’t exist back then, and carbon paper made everything a bit of a mess.
This mess-free process of copying documents was reached through the use of micro-encapsulation, which soon revealed that micro-encapsulation could be used to store scents. Scratching the surface of the paper made those micro-capsules burst, revealing the smell of ink. When the scientists at 3M were asked to find other uses for the technology, scratch and sniff became a reality.
Although this process is easier to explain than it is to actually create, there are a lot of fun and easy ways to copy this process at home (For example, here is a fun video to make your own scratch and sniff sticker using kool-aid).
The perfume strips we know were first introduced in 1981, and although popularity has fluctuated, the technology is still around, used most often in books for kids, and stickers. Don’t worry — there are adult scratch and sniff books which offer this experience as well.
Note: while researching books for kids with a specific theme, is clear how difficult it is to find information about the authors. It’s even more difficult to find info on the illustrators. Because of this I am not able to present a diverse list of scratch and sniff books representing marginalised cultures and people, even in those released as recently as last year.
Scratch And Sniff Books For Kids
Follow Your Nose, Everyday Scents by Azou and Emma Martinez
Each page presents a challenge: rub the page and guess the smell.
By pulling a tab, an illustration of the scent you are trying to identify will be revealed, making this series fun in more ways than one.
Scratch And Sniff: Food by DK Publishing
This is a board book that will assure hours of fun with kids, inviting them to discover the smell of some of their favourite foods.
The Smell Of A Rainbow by Dawn Goldworm and Andrés Landazábal
Dawn Goldworm is recognised internationally as an olfactive expert, and she has developed several perfumes for Nike, Valentino, and even Lady Gaga.
In this book she joins forces with illustrator Landazábal to create a unique experience, bringing colours, feelings, and scents all together.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Garden Picnic by Eric Carle
For the fans of this classic children’s book, a scratch and sniff edition was released in 2020, giving this fun story about a very hungry caterpillar a new shiny approach. There are six scent experiences.
Scratch And Sniff Fart Book by Buddy And Barney and Nicola Moore
One day I will make a list of books for kids that doesn’t contain poop in some way, but today is not that day. Because, let’s face it, kids tend to like disgusting things, and sometimes talking about those things is the only way to get their attention.
This book explores animals and their flatulence, from unicorns to bears and koalas. All this with the help of funny rhymes which will delight both kids and grown-ups.
Cutie Fruities And The Fruits Of The Spirit by Rosie Greening and Lara Ede
This is a religious book related to the fruits of the spirit.
Each of the nine characters in this book represents a different feeling: Lily is love, Jessie is joy, Pippa is peace, Paisley is patience, Katie is kindness, Gabby is goodness, Frannie is faithfulness, Gracie is gentleness, and Sophie is self-control.
The book is filled with rhymes pertaining to each character, with nice scents to scratch and sniff.
A Day at the Café by Kristen L. Depken and Francesco Legramandi
For fans of Butterbean’s Café on Nickelodeon, this book offers the experience of a day at the café, with the main characters of the show, the fairies Butterbean, Cricket, Poppy, and Dazzle.
It includes ten different scents, and beautiful illustrations, and you can get another book with five extra scents in this scratch and sniff series: Sweet As Pie.
Pirate Pete And His Smelly Feet by Lucy Rowland and Mark Chambers
This not a scratch and sniff book per se, but it includes some scratch and sniff stickers to play with, and it is a funny story about a pirate with smelly feet.
Daniel’s Apple-Picking Adventure by Maggie Testa and Jason Fruchter
For those who love fall and would like to see their kids discovering all of its scents, this book is the perfect choice.
Part of the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood series, inspired in the classic TV show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, it teaches kids that there are several ways to help, even when we don’t seem to have all the assets to do so.
Another scratch and sniff book included in these series is Daniel’s Sweet Trip To The Bakery.
Ready or Not, Here Comes Peanut Butter! by Terry Border
This is a search book at its core, but kids will use their nose to find who is hiding.
The goal? Help Peanut Butter find Cupcake, Hamburger, French Fries, and more, in this mysterious adventure.
The images are also quite different from what you usually find in children’s books (resembling a stop-motion movie), making it extra fun.
Cat Butt Scratch and Sniff Book by Doug Cholewa and Scott Havice
Who does not love cats? Okay, maybe a lot of people, but I’d guess most kids love cats, and talk of butts. So this board book will be great fun to read and sniff!
The illustrations are super cute, and kids will scratch a cat’s butt to get to the scent. Disgusting? Maybe. Will it ensure loads of laughs? For sure!
The best? No foul smells, just nice scents, despite the premise, which makes for a good guessing game.
Follow Your Nose! A Scratch And Sniff Adventure by Jason Fructher
Another of Nickelodeon’s series adapted into a scratch and sniff book, this story follows Princess-Knight Nella as she sets on an adventure, smelling everything she finds along the way!
Disney Mickey’s Thanksgiving by Editors Of Studio Fun International
We are now entering the seasonal themed books, and we start with Thanksgiving.
In this Mickey Mouse–themed book you’ll find two scents, and four touch and feel elements.
This is a short board book with lots of fun in it, and a thanksgiving story that teaches a lesson about what we should be thankful for.
The Sweet Smell Of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry and J.P. Miller
Looking for a few YouTube tutorials on how to make these stickers, I stumbled upon a very fun video. The kid in the video teaches how to make the stickers using natural scented oils, and she presents an inspiration for the craft: this fun Christmas-themed book.
You can check the video, where they read bits of the book, here.
Christmas Cookies For Santa by Holly Berry Bird and Bob McClurkan
Another Christmas-themed book for the mix.
It is great the way this book mixes several mediums: it teaches kids the various steps of baking cookies, the smell of the baked goodies, and it also encourages kids to experience different shapes and textures.
Looking for more fun books for kids? Here are a few more for you: