Outdoor Sensory Play – Exploring Fresh Herbs

Outdoor sensory play idea:  Toddlers and preschoolers will love exploring fresh herbs and plants with this fun backyard sensory activity!

This is such a fun way for kids to work on their cutting skills.  It’s also one of our favourite water play activities for engaging all the senses.  The smell of fresh cut herbs, the beautiful colours of the garden, splashing in the cool water – what more could you ask for in an outdoor toddler activity?

Sensory Soup - fine motor, sensory fun and water play
Every year at about this time, when the garden is in full tilt, we break out the bowls, buckets and the scissors and we spend the morning making “Garden Soup”.  It’s one of our favourite Springtime activities.

Sensory Soup - exploring fresh herbs and flowers

This year, I decided to change things up a bit, and instead of having flowers as the main ingredient in our activity, I gathered fresh herbs from around the yard and garden, thinking it would be heavenly to enjoy the pungent aromas as the kids snipped and chopped the sprigs into their “soup”.

To make our herb kitchen, I used:

Herbs for the herb soup sensory activity

  • Herbs:  we used cilantro, basil, oregano, dill, chives, tarragon, thyme and mint
  • scissors
  • ladles and spoons
  • bowls
  • cups or scoops
  •  large stock pot filled with water
  • flowers, shells and stones (added as an afterthought)

We started off by exploring the different herbs, crushing and smelling a few of the leaves, and I explained how they’re used to add flavour to our food: oregano and basil in spaghetti and pizza sauce, mint in gum etc.

Then the hooligans gathered around our 6 dollar thrift shop coffee table , which is perfect for crafting and play at, and they chopped, plucked and snipped their leaves and stems into their bowls; perfect for fine motor and scissor skill development.

chopping and plucking fresh herbs for sensory play

They scooped water from the big stock pot and added it to their bowls,

making Sensory Soup with fresh herbs and flowers

pouring water into fresh herbs sensory activity

and they spent the better part of an hour mixing up their concoctions.

stirring fresh herbs into water activity

sensory soup

When most of the herbs had been used up, someone ran to the deck and fetched a bowl of stones and shells to add to their soup,

Adding stones and shells to herbs and flowers for Sensory Soup

 and I clipped some incredibly fragrant peony blooms garden, and they used the petals to garnish their bowls.

chopping up peonies for Sensory Soup

What a wonderful way to spend the morning!  Water play, sensory play and fine motor development all rolled into one  super Springtime activity.

And when we were finished, we scooped out the shells and stones, and dumped our “soup” into the compost bin. :)

!sensory soup table

If you’re looking for more ways to make learning fun with water, click through to check out our water-works, dino-dig and baby bath station.  They’ve all been super-popular here.

If you’re curious about the denim aprons the hooligans are wearing, I make them from the legs of our old jeans.  You can find my apron tutorial here: 



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  1. says

    That is by far the best kind of soup! I often keep telling people who don’t have a garden that the one thing you always love the most isn’t just the food, it’s the smell the garden emits – not the flower ones – but the vegetable and herb ones. It’s so nice in the backyard!

  2. learnwithplayathome says

    Just looking at those pics makes me want to leap in and play as well. Thanks so much for linking this to Tuesday Tots. I’ve featured it this week :)

  3. says

    What a fun idea! I love how it’s sensory & educational at the same time – anything that keeps them busy and has them learning at the same time is a fabulous thing in my books!

  4. childrens nursery says

    I suggest this site to my friends so it could be useful & informative for them also. Great effort.

  5. pmoppins says

    Would a wonderful free play activity! You may have budding chefs on your hands. :) And there’s the added benefit of pruning back herbs too.

  6. Linda Tandy says

    I have a bowl of herbs growing in the childrens play room. Guess what we are going to do with them today!!
    Thank you for an awesome idea!

  7. Rachel says

    This is so brilliant, yet simple enough that I tried it spur of the moment today and my two-year-old LOVED it. We had recently read “Stone Soup” and she made the connection right away, then spent the ENTIRE morning cutting and stirring and finding ingredients to add to her pot. Thank you so much!

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