Elisa Parhad

DIY Simmer Pots: A Fun, Easy Way To Practice Aromatherapy

Like any family, mine likes to pop out of the house whenever we can and get some fresh air. But with one self-proclaimed 6 year-old homebody in tow, it can help to have a little nudge with an exciting destination or “purpose” to our time in nature. One of the best ideas I’ve come up with, which works whether you are on a mountain trail, in a city park, exploring your own garden, or a suburban neighborhood, is the simmer pot. It’s a slightly more sophisticated version of cooking up a mudpie, and a lot less messy.

Here’s how our simmer pot adventures work: we head out on a nature walk with a focus on choosing some items we can put into a pot of water or crock pot at home to simmer and make our house smell good. I give each child a small bag for collecting. We typically don’t get very far, but find ourselves deeply involved in the shrubs, bushes, fallen branches, grasses, dirt, and seed pods. We sniff our way through our stroll and look forward to what aromatherapy we can bring forth from our finds.


Elisa Parhad

Anything can be put into a simmer pot, including leaves, grasses, and flowers (and, depending on the age, expect some rocks, dirt, and sticks to make it in the pot too). The only items I don’t allow are living creatures. (Sometimes worms or potato bugs are added to our collection pile, but I’m not a fan of animal cruelty in our house. I’m pretty sure they don’t add to a pleasant smell, either.) To that goal, there are lots of plants to seek out, including eucalyptus, sage, rose, geranium, pine (both needles and cones), lavender, rosemary, and any other herbs. When you prepare your pot for simmering, it helps to break up leaves and stalks to allow the oils to seep into the water.

It is hard to argue that being outside is not a sensory experience, but unless you are in a blooming citrus grove or a field of lavender, it can be easy to forget your nose. The simmer pot opens up a whole new world of scents. Watching my kids explore natural items through their nose is exciting, and sometimes surprising. Engagement is high because they are in control of the process— they pick what goes into their pot. While the excitement of the results has yet to be anti-climatic at our house, I’ll admit that I sometimes include a few drops of food-grade essential oil or vanilla, which works like a charm for pots that might include only non-aromatic items like pebbles, grass, and dandelion heads. No one seems to mind a “magic ingredient” anyways.


Elisa Parhad

While the simmer pot is a great way to explore the outdoors in a new way, it can also be done indoors with a little pre-planning. Cinnamon sticks, allspice, anise, nutmeg, cloves, citrus peels, pieces of fruits, mint, and any other kitchen herbs can all create a delicious-smelling house. The beauty of the simmer pot is that the journey is the adventure, and just about anything in a simmer pot “works”– you just have to let your nose be your guide.

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