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Defuser use in Classrooms

  • 1.  Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-15-2019 02:50 PM
    I know according to NAEYC, scented or unscented candles and air freshers are not to be used. Does this also cover defusers used during meditation/yoga time? 


    Dr. Marsha Drew

    Program Specialist DP-Pre K

    Stanford Arboretum Children's Center


    215 Quarry Road

    Stanford, Ca 94305

    P: 650.725.6331  C:415-845-2303  F: 650.723.539

  • 2.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-16-2019 08:28 AM
    Be aware that some people are very sensitive to smells - even natural essential oils - and not in a good way. It can trigger migraine (think about parents coming into the classroom who may have this issue. I have a grad student who would have to wear a filtering mask to enter a classroom with a diffuser and still might have a migraine as a result.) I have a grandson with ADHD who is very sensitive to scents. They can trigger hyperactivity or a meltdown. What can be calming for the majority can be very disruptive for a sensitive minority.
    Food for thought!

    Elizabeth Sherwood
    Glen Carbon IL

  • 3.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-17-2019 12:39 PM
    Thank you Elizabeth!
    i am also sensitive to scents and have been so all my life. There are shops in town that use diffusers that I cannot go into for more than a few minutes. If I stay any longer I'll get a migraine and cramps, often lasting for more than a day. I don't know why some of us have this problem and others don't. Even scented cleaning supplies will get to me so I use bleach water for most jobs.

    Gina Bennett
    Freelance Writer
    Early Learning Advocate
    Baker City, Oregon

  • 4.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-16-2019 09:05 AM
    Marsha -Thanks for bringing up this question. I am curious to hear a response from NAEYC if this is covered by the same guidelines used for candles, though the oils are uniquely different.  There are many schools doing fantastic yoga and mindfulness programs and many yoga trainers advocate the use of essential oils as an effective tool for helping children feel calm, relaxed, and/or more alert and focused.  I'm an advocate for safety first so I'm interested to hear more authoritative voices on this.

    Leslie Silk Eslinger
    Director of Education and Development
    Becker's School Supplies
    Pennsauken, NJ

  • 5.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-18-2019 01:21 AM
    I don't think the oils is a good Tool to use in calming 
    children down. A lot of children have allergies, some are 
    known and unknown. Using oils will bring out these allergies out and may cause other problems 
    There's a many other ways and things that can be 
    used in calming children down we want to 
    keep our little ones healthy and safe

    Neanda and April Vanner
    Just For Kidz II Child Care
    Detroit MI

  • 6.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-16-2019 09:39 AM
    Hi Marsha,  I would be very careful when using ANY kind of diffuser and/or scents in the classroom.  Perhaps you can encourage students to discuss their favorite scents, tell why they like it/them and then imagine those while doing meditation/yoga/relaxation exercises, etc.

    Gina James
    Williston Pk NY

  • 7.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-17-2019 08:44 AM
    Hi Marsha, 

         I would also love some clarity on this! I do think you could turn it into a fun sensory activity before using the oils in the defuser by allowing the children to smell them before hand and discuss their thoughts. A group of my classmates once did this with a 3/4s group and included lavender candies for the children to try as they viewed and felt the actual plant and smelled the oils. They then graphed the children's opinions. I believe they included some other scents. 

          The oils may never make it to the defuser if a few children don't like the smells, but they get the valuable opportunity to express their disagreeable thoughts appropriately, such as spitting the candy into our napkins if we don't like it and using our indoor voices instead of screaming "this lavender smells gross!" And on the flip side, if they all like something that could turn into an opportunity to add STEAM and talk about particle diffusion with the defuser use! You could go so many places with this! 

    Great post!

    Kayleigh Francis
    Ivy Tech Community College
    Indianapolis IN

  • 8.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-18-2019 10:00 AM
    Exceptions are not made because you have a purpose for it.  Defusers serve the same purpose.  I don't think they are saying the object itself I think it is more so the smells.  So many people have those hidden allergies to scents.  I remember working in a setting where we were told not to wear cologne/perfumes at all because some clients were allergic. And it made sense.  I had a kid in my care who was allergic to could not have them in the room or he would have a reaction. That was my a-ha moment that it's not just injesting  or touch, allergies are sense-sative....LOL sorry I had too.

    Mary Smith
    Brooklyn Center MN

  • 9.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-19-2019 09:47 AM
    This conversation is fascinating. Speaking from personal experience, I have worked with children with allergies and asthma, and many are triggered by smells. Sensory activities, such as smell are significant to a child's growth and development. I support the idea of sensory smell exploration but would suggest you know the warning signs of an asthma attack or allergic reaction and be ready to respond. I would also recommend that you communicate with families about the activity and its alignment to their child's development and ask if the individual families are aware of any allergies that their child may have.  What I am suggesting is a mix of what we know about a child's growth and development and supporting those that may have allergies or asthma in the group without eliminating the opportunity for a well planned sensory activity that will support their learning.

    Pamela Perrino
    Early Childhood Advocate and Educational consultant
    Perrino Consulting
    Warren OH

  • 10.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-19-2019 11:21 AM

    NAEYC standard 5 (Health) is designed to support and assess that a program promotes the nutrition and health of children and protects children and staff from illness

    Topic 5.C addresses issues related to maintaining an environment that supports the health of children and staff. As part of this, ventilation and cleaning are used, rather than sprays, air freshening chemicals, or deodorizers, to disperse odors in inhabited areas of the facility and in custodial closets. Scented or unscented candles and air fresheners such as potpourri, plug-ins, essential oils, incense, sprays, diffusers, and mists are not used, and use of personal fragrances is discouraged.  

    Leslie, you mentioned using essential oils during yoga or meditation. We would recommend that not including essential oils during this time either. If a program chooses to use them, I would recommend treating them like any medication and ensure that they have all parents' permission.  And they would not meet item 5C.4 during the Program Observation.  

    Kristen Johnson
    NAEYC Accreditation of Early Learning Programs

  • 11.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-20-2019 09:11 AM
    When my son was in middle school, there was a substitute teacher who the children referred to as "the Avon Lady" because she wore so much strong perfume. The perfume caused students with asthma, breathing sensitivities, and smell sensitivities much upset. They went to the Principal to complain. The teacher was asked not to wear perfume to the school. The smell apparently permeated the entire classroom.

    Using anything with an odor to diffuse smells is not a good idea.

    I am unable to go into candle stores and other places with strong odors. I know that many little children have the same issue, and because they are little, they are not afraid to articulate that they do not like the odor.

    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ

  • 12.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 09-10-2019 03:57 PM
    Good afternoon Mrs. Johnson, 

    Is there something else you recommend to freshen up the classroom environment? We have 2 toddler classrooms that get truly stinky after diaper changes. The windows sit too low to allow them to be open, safety precaution. 

    I appreciate your input in advance! 

    Naioki Wood

    Program Administrator
    Sarfan Early Childhood Center
    Newport News VA

  • 13.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-25-2019 08:49 PM

    I am a Toddler Teacher. Children and Healthy Living are two of my greatest passions.

    I understand we have to respect the NAEYC standards but I am hoping as the modern world becomes more knowledgeable about essential oils, these standards will change.

    A true, 100% pure essential oil is nothing like a candle, air freshener, or anything with "fragrance." Fragrances really disrupt our hormones. Pure Essential Oils benefit our body physically and emotionally. They especially help boost our immune systems.

    Now…you do have to consider the PURITY of the essential oils you are buying because right now, there are no guidelines on essential oils. They can say 100% pure even if they are NOT.

    After doing about 6 months of research, I chose which company I wanted to buy my oils from. I have now been personally using these products for two years.

    When I was teaching at a Non-licenced Registered Ministry, I even diffused the oils in my toddler classroom. I simply sent home a permission slip and included all the names of the oils I would be diffusing.

    If I was going to compare a diffuser to anything, it would be more like an air purifier.

    Anyways…I hope this information helps and encourages you to do more of your own research! If you would like to know which company I decided to buy my oils from, just ask me. 😊

    Sarah Tobias
    Assistant Toddler Teacher
    ISU Early Childhood Education Center
    Terre Haute IN

  • 14.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-27-2019 12:51 AM
    Thank you for spelling this out, Sarah. I agree that even when we say Essential Oils, people assume that (1) it is a chemical and (2) it is used to cover up bad smells. Neither of those things should ever be done. What people are doing with essential oils generally is taking a few drops of a distillation from a flower or leaves, and using that scent to create a response such as Calm (lavender oil) or Joyful (orange oil) or Focused (rosemary oil.) These are plants that students might be exposed to already in a cooking activity or gardening activity 🙂. 

    I'd love to see a working committee on Nature-based health practices and their appropriateness in schools. Issues to look at should include obtaining informed parent consent, looking at existing allergies in the class, and the benefits of using these oils /plants (unless there is a rare allergy or reaction.)

    Many therapists and consultants use things like Joy In A Bottle (a spray bottle of vanilla extract in water) or lavender oil in their homemade playdough in order to benefit from their therapeutic effects. People have safely used these natural plant oils for thousands of years. Let's keep dangerous chemicals away from classrooms (although bleach water is clearly more dangerous than vanilla extract!) But let's not "throw the baby out with the bath water" as the saying goes.

    Mars April Caulton
    Teacher & Teaching Artist
    Chicago IL

  • 15.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-27-2019 12:10 PM
    I personally know several people who are highly reactive to high quality natural oils. The scents can trigger migraines and intense reactions such as hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, and panic attacks. Current thinking is that they may trigger histamine reactions in people who are sensitive to them. I have a family member who lost a weekend family reunion to migraine because another family member insisted that her all natural, very high quality lavender oil couldn't be harmful. Peanuts are all natural and we all know their potential for problems.

    If you want to use essential oils, please check with your families. Also watch for any adverse behavior changes in children. One of my graduate students was concerned about a child's significant change in behavior. She talked with the family about any changes or concerns that might be the cause, but no one could figure it out. When the child's behavior returned to normal over winter break, but fell apart when school started, it occurred to her that the change started with her use of essential oils. Once she removed them from the classroom, the hyperactivity and anger went away.

    Essential oils help many people, myself included, but they aren't for everyone.

    Elizabeth Sherwood
    Glen Carbon IL

  • 16.  RE: Defuser use in Classrooms

    Posted 08-28-2019 10:13 PM
    Marsha, Thank you for your original question! I am excited because at the very least, this has sparked an educated discussion about essential oils. We are all educated people genuinely concerned about the health and care of our children and their families. 
    Elizabeth, I agree with you that people have reactions to 100% pure high quality oils...physically, emotionally, positively, and sometimes even negatively. I am definitely not saying just because it is all natural, a negative reaction is not possible. It seems like there are a lot of variables in both of the situations you have mentioned. I would want to ask more questions about both situations before concluding the reactions were caused by the essential oils. I agree that these oils can change a child's behavior but it can also change a child's behavior in an amazingly positive way. I understand that all the essential oils affect people differently and we have to be considerate of that.
    I used to be the lead toddler teacher at a previous child care facility. I did get all the parents to sign a permission slip before I diffused essential oils in my classroom. As teachers, we spend a lot of time with our students and know them very well. I observed the children's behavior and picked which oils to diffuse based off of their responses. Also, when you are diffusing, it is a just a few drops of essential oil in about a cup of water. (depending on the size of the diffuser and room) It is not an overwhelming smell like it is when you just sniff it directly out of the bottle.

    Essential oils are a great way for Early Childhood to move toward more natural solutions and get away from the chemicals. I am sure the diluted bleach water we spray on all of the toys the babies are mouthing is not ideal for their little bodies. Don't get me wrong. I still used the diluted bleach water because, as of right now, that is the standard. My hope is that this will change.
    I also used natural essential oil cleaners and natural essential oil foaming hand soap in my classroom. These are much better for our bodies than the "fragrance" from other cleaners and soaps that are used in many public facilities. 
    Also, image a baby walking barefoot on a mopped floor at their childcare center. The pores in their feet soak up all the product you have put on the floor. Do you want that to be a harsh chemical such as bleach soaking into the baby's body? 

    Just more to think about...NAEYC please consider more natural solutions when it comes to cleaning in child care facilities. 

    My biggest tips would be... 1. Check the Quality of your essential oil. Make sure it is 3rd party tested and you can look up the quality report. 2. Educate yourself about the use of essential oils.

    Sarah Tobias
    Assistant Toddler Teacher
    ISU Early Childhood Education Center
    Terre Haute IN