Smelly Spots – Rewarding Positive Behavior


Positive behavior recognition is an incredible motivator in kindergarten.

Here is my simple tip on how to use “smelly spots” as a way to reward amazing behavior in the moment.

I believe my students want to know what is expected, can reach my high expectations and thrive on positive behavior reinforcements.

Smelly Spots - how to reward positive behavior easily in kindergarten

Standards are set high within my classroom walls and I do believe in rewarding those who go above and beyond.

Think of smelly spots as adding recognition for students who:

  • go above and beyond in effort
  • think outside of themselves
  • refuse to give up, or
  • accomplish something independently for the first time.

I often reward students for completing their classroom job independently without reminders since that is something I highly value.

Smelly Spots - how to reward positive behavior in kindergarten easily

How to use smelly spots

To use smelly spots – simply allow students (when given permission as they get recognized) to swirl a dime-sized spot of a good-smelling chapstick onto the back of their hand.

It’s practically invisible so it’s very popular with both boys and girls.

I have also had experience with children with autism who are highly motivated by the smells too.

Smelly spot tips

  • Follow up with a positive comment like, “Now you’ll be able to always smell that and remember the good choice you made.”
  • They love sharing the smell with others, telling them why they earned it.
  • Offer choice in smells {well, technically flavors, but we’re not tasting here people}.
  • Keep your eyes open for seasonal smells when checking out in your grocery line, for soda flavors or large packs.
  • Save a few smells for later in the year to keep it fresh!
Kindergarten rewarding behavior with smelly chapsticks - brilliant

Students don’t doubt that I am on the lookout for positive things, and often are very aware of what others do to receive positive recognition.

Generally speaking – looking towards the positive – works for any type of classroom management… not just with rewarding amazing behavior with smelly spots.

For example, instead of saying, “You’re supposed to be sitting on your bottoms right now.” I will say, “Thank you {student name} for choosing to sit on your bottom as expected.”

This positive recognition brings the four other students propped up on their knees directly to their seat pockets without me directly addressing their choice.


Just be sure to model:

  • how to put it on
  • how to twist it up (without twisting it allllllll the way up)

before/if you release it for students to put their own on.

I usually start by giving out smelly spots and release the option for them to put them on independently when they get recognized only after the first few weeks of school have passed.

Smelly spots is one way that we recognize the positive and it works great for us.

I use it as I see fit and it changes regularly as we grow in our expectations of classroom procedures, expectations, and levels of responsibility.

What other teachers are saying

Well, I think smelly spots are awesome – but you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what fellow teachers have shared about using smelly spots in their classroom:

My kiddos love smelly spots. Thanks for this idea a couple of years ago! M&M flavored were a hit! – Diane

These are absolutely working in our inclusive education classroom. And bonus – they don’t fall off and get lost or stuck to the floor! Thank you thank you thank you! – Christy

I used this in k and we called it Happy Chappy ๐Ÿ™‚ The kids loved it! – Tammy

Use them all the time and LOVE THEM! This will be our 3rd year using smelly spots. – Jill

I use smelly markers with my Kindergarteners all the time, but I like that this would rub off so they could earn it againโ€ฆ and not have purple smudges under their noses – Jenny

I loved how easy these were! Lasted me the whole year! – Marie

I hope you can use or adapt the idea smelly spots as a way to reward amazing behavior in the moment for your kindergarten class too.

Common questions

When trying something new – like smelly spots to reward positive behavior – a few questions tend to pop up so let me try to help answer those for you!

Is it expensive to keep up as a reward system?

Nope. A good handful of chapsticks will last you all year long!

Just put a few out at a time (like 3-5) and then rotate in a couple to help keep things fresh.

What scents (flavors) should I pick?

While you’ll have to do a bit of checking or shopping around to find chapsticks that would be right for your classroom and students – here are some scents I think are fun to use.

(And just a heads up that these are affiliate links. Itโ€™s so kind of you to support a fellow teacher with your clicks)

Do parents object to you putting chapstick on their kid?

I’ve never had a parent respond negatively to using a chapstick on the back of their child’s hand. So, while I’ve not had that in my experience, it might be a great idea to add it to your classroom management plan so parents are aware.

What if kids bring their own?

I didn’t run into this issue personally, but my students were generally only allowed to bring in water bottles into the classroom.

I would’ve probably confiscated them if they used their own brought-in sticks for any purpose other than chapstick on their own lips. But that’s just me.

Where do you keep your chapsticks?

I kept my chapsticks in a small mini-bucket near my whole group teaching space.

I placed them there so they were in plain sight for me to monitor and they were easily accessible for students to get to on their own when prompted.

The mini buckets were from the dollar tree or dollar section at Target.

I liked the plastic bucket that had lower edges as compared to the metal bucket since it was quieter… but whatever works to make it easy to grab and return without fuss.

What’s next

Want to see how else I liked to reward behavior in our classroom?

Check out How to Organize and Use Classroom Reward Coupons in Kindergarten.

classroom reward coupons in kindergarten

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

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Smelly Spots - simple positive behavior recognition in kindergarten

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  1. Hi Leslie!

    I really like this idea and would like to implement it this year! Have you ever had any issues or parent concerns with allergies (potential or actual)? If so, how did you approach that?

  2. Now there’s different character chap sticks too! My kids love when I bust out the Spider-Man or Hulk smellies! I got them at Walgreens.

    1. You’re welcome Diane. Do you (or they) have a favorite? I always loved the Christmasy ones ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I have heard about this strategy before, but you explained it so perfectly! I will definitely be trying this this school year ๐Ÿ™‚

    K Teacher

  4. Such an amazing idea, I’ve never heard of this in all my years! As a kindergartener I would have been so happy to have pleased my teacher enough to get the “smell” on my hard. Thank you for this post, I’ve pinned you too!
    Fern Smith’s Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith’s Pinterest Boards!

  5. Leslie, I love what you do!! I am especially interested in your icons and fonts that you use in creating your student activities. Where can I find them?

  6. I use smelly markers with my Kindergarteners all the time, but I like that this would rub off so they could earn it againโ€ฆ and not have purple smudges under their noses ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I have used this, too, with great success! Thanks for the reminder–I need to grab a few more (since the Christmas things have arrived on shelves)!

  8. Oh, I am SOOOO going to try this – what a fabulous idea. My children LOVE smelly stickers and this is even better – more scents and choices to make. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Leslie, I love this idea! I think that this will work especially well in my classroom because, being blind, my students know I’m really into lovely scents. Thank you so much!

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT

    Teaching with Sight

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