29 Smells From Your Childhood You Forgot You Loved

by Jill Layton

Having a keen sense of smell can be both a blessing and a curse. A curse because of onion breath, skunks, farts, and all the other many foul-smelling things. A blessing because of the smell of freshly baked apple pie, BBQ, your grandmother’s perfume, coffee, fried things, and a brand new baby — you know, all the good-smelling things in life. But the absolute best smells? The smells we remember from childhood. Specifically, the smells of the '90s.

I’m not sure if it’s because smells were just better from 1990 to 1999, or if all humans are just emotionally connected to their own childhood smells. (Probably the latter, but I write about what I know, you know?) One whiff of something familiar, like soggy Fruit Loops, can instantly transport us back to sitting in front of the TV watching Saturday morning cartoons... eating soggy Fruit Loops.

No matter what decade you were born in, the scent of wet pavement after it rains on a warm day can take us all directly back to the feeling of finally being able to go play outside after a thunderstorm. But some smells — like the the all-too-familiar scent of Gap Dream (or Grass, Earth, Heaven, Day, or Om) — are truly unique to the '90s and early 2000s kid. Let’s remember some of the best smells of our childhood together, shall we?

Fruit Stripe Gum

I have never passed by a pack of Fruit Stripe Gum in a store (yes it still exists) that I didn’t pick up to smell. The taste lasted for 10 seconds max, but the smell — oh, the smell.

Scratch 'N Sniff Stickers

We could smell all the smells from the comfort of our own uncomfortable school desk chair. They were the only things that held us over until lunchtime.


I still buy these for old time’s sake. And for the sake of my chapped lips.

Teen Spirit

Our first deodorant.

Mr. Sketch Scented Markers

The '90s: When sniffing markers was encouraged.

Bath & Body Works

The aroma of the store could be (and still is) overwhelming and nauseating, but that didn't stop us from putting on daily Cucumber Melon body lotion and five or six spritzes of Sun Ripened Raspberry body spray.

Gap Dream Scents

I was a Gap Heaven kind of gal. It's unnerving to think about how fast I went through each bottle. Gap Dream scents (Grass, Earth, Heaven, Day, or Om) made us all feel bougie.


There's something magical about the smell of Crayola crayons that instantly transports us back to childhood, no matter the decade.

Watermelon Bubble Yum

Probably the cause of 85 percent of cavities in our age group, but totally worth it.

New Plastic

The smell of fresh plastic meant new toy, and a new toy meant new fun!


Whether they were scented or not, they all basically smelled the same, and we couldn’t stop sniffing each and every one of them.

Koosh Balls

Rubber. Rubber and fun.


Ah, the scent of injuries and pretend injuries.

Old Textbooks

The smell of homework and a new school year.


The scent of pubescent back-of-the-movie theater make-out sessions.

Freshly Cut Grass

Freshly cut grass meant that Dad (or Mom, but usually Dad) was outside in our play zone. Even though they were busy mowing the lawn, they were still in fun territory.

All Things Strawberry Shortcake

I want to know what they put in my Strawberry Shortcake doll to make it smell like strawberries for 30 years. But I also don’t want to know.


It smelled good enough to eat, which was why we ate it.

Silly Putty

Real talk: Sometimes we liked to chew on it.

Bouncy Balls

Straight from the vending machine to our noses.

Herbal Essences

Every single kid used Herbal Essences — even the boys. It was mandatory and delightful.


The international scent of summer.

Robitussin Cough Medicine


Luden's Cough Drops

The smell of pretending to need a cough drop so you could legally eat candy.

Your School Cafeteria

The wafting smell of fried food, trash, and kids who don’t know they needed to use deodorant.

Your Trapper Keeper

The refreshing scent of plastic and homework.

Blown-out Birthday Candles

Any type of blown-out candle will always smell like birthday cake to me.

Halloween Candy

A pillowcase full of candy is probably the best scent a kid could ever smell.


The stuff dreams are made of. We just don't want to know what it was made of.

Images: GIANTsqurl, theimpulsivebuy, ohdearbarb, KristinNador, Enokson, jeri gloege, e.r.w.i.n., unloveablesteve, the hanner, Audesou, Mr. Greenjeans, jacobnmartinez, Chealion, JefferyTurner, jessica wilson, Jeepersmedia, ktempest, nathangibbs, shooteyeout, wyscan/Flickr; Giphy (8)