If you’re looking for a fantastic outdoor activity to keep your toddlers and preschoolers entertained, you MUST try this pretend play Perfume Factory activity. This wonderful activity will have your kids exploring nature, developing their fine motor skills, and using using their imagination for hours. Plus they’ll be playing with water and all kinds of interesting grown-up tools and instruments, and that always makes an activity extra fun.
When I was a kid, my friends and I spent countless hours lost in pretend play in our backyards. And one of our favourite things to do was to make “perfume”. A bunch of us kids would ask our mothers for some empty jars, and a bucket of water, and we’d spend the whole afternoon snipping flowers and leaves from around our yards and gardens, mixing up bottle after bottle of treasured potions.
I still love simple and magical pretend play, so we do lots or it here in my daycare. In today’s busy world of technology and structured extracurricular activities, it’s so joyful to let kids play “the old-fashioned way” – when the imagination and carefree exploration lead the way.
Some of our most popular pretend play activities have been our baby bath station, our dolly diaper changing station, our colour-mixing laboratory and our pretend play coffee shop. They’re all fantastic activities that develop their motor-skills and life-skills, allowing kids to pretend to do grown-up tasks.
I knew the hooligans would love this perfume factory because it’s similar to another one of their favourite outdoor activities: making garden soup. When we make garden soup, I give the kids a large pot of water, and they use cuttings from around the yard and garden to turn it into a big batch of pretend soup.
Today’s activity is similar, but instead of a large pot of water, I gave the kids lots of small and interesting, glass bottles and jars, along with plenty of tools and instruments for making their perfume.
Let me show you how you can set up a pretend play perfume factory for your children or students.
For our pretend play perfume factory, I used:
- unique glass jars and bottles (look for these at the second hand shops)
- shampoo and soap pump-bottles filled with water and a drop of dish soap
- turkey basters (pick up several at the dollar store to use for your water play activities)
- plastic medicine syringes (our medical clinic sells them for 25¢ a piece
- safety scissors
- plastic test tubes
- wooden stir sticks
- several containers of coloured water (dyed sparingly with food colouring)
- various other bowls, cups and containers for pouring and mixing and
- the hit of the day: our camping water-jug
Setting up the activity:
I took our trusty 6 dollar second-hand coffee table out to the backyard. If you ever see a cheap coffee table at a thrift shop or yard sale, grab it! It makes a fantastic activity table for indoors or out.
On a stool beside the table, I set up the water-jug that we take camping. This is always a HUGE hit in the backyard. It gives the kids access to “running water” that they have complete control over. They LOVE turning the tap on and off, and filling up containers, rinsing their hands etc. You can see all the ways we use our camping water-jug for play here.
Then, on the coffee table, I set out the coloured water and all of the jars and tools and instruments for the children to experiment and concoct with.
They began by gathering ingredients from the garden. There are so many colours and textures to explore in a garden! The two and three year olds particularly loved this part of the activity, and spent ages snipping off leaves and chopping them into small pieces. This is such a wonderful way for little ones to experiment with scissors, and to work on their cutting skills.
Just look at all the fun they had!
They filled their jars with the sudsy water in the pump bottles, and by transferring coloured water into their jars with the turkey basters.
The kids LOVE pumping the water out of the bottles. It’s great for strengthening hand and arm muscles.
The turkey basters are always very popular too. Not only are they a lot of fun to use, they’re great for helping develop hand muscles, and co-ordination.
It’s tricky to grasp the concept of using a baster at first. They have to squeeze the bulb, and release it to fill the baster (great hand exercise!), and then squeeze it again to empty it.
Lining the baster up with the small opening of a jar also challenges their hand-eye co-ordination.
The children chopped up big leaves and small leaves, and stuffed them into their bottles and jars.
Rose petals and peony petals were a beautiful addition to the perfume bottles.
Not only do flower petals smell lovely, they feel lovely too. Some are soft and delicate, while others are sturdy yet satiny.
There’s so much sensory exploration going on here.
One of the most popular parts of the activity was filling the perfume bottles with water from the water-jug. This also requires strength and co-ordination so it’s great for little hand muscles.
Critical thinking comes into play too as the children must judge when to turn off the tap before their bottles over-flow.
Don’t these foamy bubbles look lovely? A drop of soap in those pump bottles is a must!
Measuring, pouring, mixing… it was all so fun.
The kids were like little scientists in a lab, working a way, creating their potions.
We got almost a full morning of play out of our perfume factory.
And when we were finished, everyone popped the lids on their bottles so they could take their perfume home.
I’m guessing we’ll be setting up our pretend play perfume factory again soon. The kids will want to do this one often.
And we can! Because it’s such an easy and inexpensive activity, we can set this up time and time again over the summer.
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. In 1997, Jackie stepped out of the corporate world to start a family and to open her own home daycare. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.