Simple Autumn Sensory Play Idea: Pumpkin ‘Soup’ for Toddlers and Preschoolers

This simple Autumn sensory play idea is just perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. It doesn’t require expensive resources to set the activity up – in fact, you can find all of the ‘ingredients’ you need by going on a walk with your children.

During the Autumn months, we always find an abundance of nature treasures when we go on weekend walks in the countryside. Usually, a pocket full of pinecones, leaves and sticks will find their way home with us. We use these resources in many Autumn themed activities, including this super simple ‘soup’.

a jug of water is being poured into a circular tray full of autumn themed resources such as pumpkins, conkers and twigs. The water has been dyed orange with food colouring for this simple autumn sensory activity

Suggested resources for the simple Autumn sensory activit

Here are just ideas for what you can use in this simple Autumn sensory play activity. I always recommend that you use items that are seasonal rather than store bought. Availability of the items below will depend on where you live.

Resources for this Simple Autumn Sensory Play Activity

  • a shallow tray – we used our Flisat table but it isn’t essential
  • water
  • yellow dye — optional
  • toy pots and utensils
  • spoons and scoops
  • fine motor tools – optional

20 Nature Treasures for this Simple Autumn Sensory Play Activity

  1. Leaves: Collect colorful leaves for mixing into mud creations or as pretend food.
  2. Pinecones: These can be used as scoops, dishes, or even as decorations.
  3. Twigs and Branches: Great for stirring, building, or creating mini log cabins.
  4. Acorns: Use them as pretend acorn cups, or create tiny acorn pies and cakes.
  5. Chestnuts / Conkers: Perfect for rolling in the mud or using as natural “meatballs” in play cooking.
  6. Seed Pods: Pods like milkweed or sweetgum can be interesting additions to mud recipes.
  7. Pebbles and Stones: These can be used to decorate mud pies or as play cooking ingredients.
  8. Moss: Create a “mossy garden” or use it to decorate mud structures.
  9. Pine Needles: Use them as broom bristles or add them to your mud creations.
  10. Fallen Flowers: Gather fallen petals to add color and texture to mud dishes.
  11. Bark: Use it as pretend food platters or for building structures.
  12. Small Logs: Ideal for creating miniature log cabins or bridges.
  13. Dried Grass: Make miniature brooms or use it to add texture to mud creations.
  14. Sunflower petals: These can be used for decorating or as pretend salad leaves.
  15. Feathers: Collect fallen feathers for decorating mud pies or as ingredients in imaginary dishes.
  16. Small Pinecones: Mini pinecones can be used as garnish or toppings for mud creations.
  17. Wild Berries: Find and use non-toxic berries for pretend baking and cooking.
  18. Aromatic Herbs: Use herbs like mint or lavender to add a sensory dimension to play.
  19. Small Rocks: Perfect for stacking, building, and creating mud sculptures.
  20. Fallen Tree Bark: Use it for texturing mud creations or as pretend wood chips for “cooking.”

Remember to ensure that any items you gather for your Autumn Mud Kitchen are safe for children to handle and play with, and always supervise them during outdoor activities. Some items listed here might be considered unsuitable for very young children who still put items in their mouth. 

a 4 year old blonde boy squats down to pour water from a hose into a jug for a simple autumn sensory play activity. On the tuff spot tray in front of him is a circular white tray filled with autumn finds such as pumpkins, sunflowers, conkers and twigs

Simple Autumn Sensory Play Set up:

As the name suggests, it doesn’t really take much to set up this simple Autumn sensory play activity. I recommend that you take this outside and place a tuff spot tray – or large sheet on the ground. Add a circular tray (as shown above) or plastic container on top, then provide old kitchen utensils, water and nature treasures for the ‘soup.’

Once you’ve set the activity up, invite your child to play. Let them decide how much of each ‘ingredient’ they want to put into the tray – it’s all part of the fun of making the soup.

As an extension for older children, you could also provide a chalkboard and chalks so that they can write or draw a menu.

If your child is struggling to know what to do, perhaps because they aren’t used to sensory play activities, then get involved and start playing!


5 Benefits of Sensory Play:

All sensory play has many benefits, including this simple Autumn sensory idea, but it can feel off putting when the play is messy! With that being said, this sunflower sensory play activity shouldn’t be too messy and you can always do it outside. Here are just some reasons why you should give sensory play a try:

  1. Gives children the freedom to explore new materials which in turn fosters curiosity and imagination. There is no right or wrong outcome when it comes to sensory play.
  2. Helps to develop fine motor skills and hand strength. This is crucial for learning to write later on down the line
  3. Encourages communication and language development. Sensory play can be a really social activity, particularly if you invite friends to join in!
  4. Helps to develop spatial awareness as children begin to understand the environment around them via exploration of materials.
  5. Boosts brain development which in turn helps ability to problem solve. Sensory play is a great introduction to STEAM learning.

an overhead image of a simple autumn sensory play activity. Visible is a small child's hand who is picking up a conker to put into the autumn 'soup' he is making

At Home Autumn Art & Sensory Camp

If you enjoyed this really simple Autumn sensory play activity and wanted to find more fun Autumn themed activities, check out the At Home Autumn Art & Sensory Camp in my membership group. If you would like to access the content, you can check it out here. 

This image shows a timetable for an Autumn art & sensory camp. The pumpkin hammer art is one of the activities included

Autumn Blog posts to read next:

If you loved this simple Autumn sensory play activity, you might also enjoy some of our other Autumn posts. Most are suitable for both toddlers and preschoolers:

Autumn Art Ideas for Preschoolers

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Mask

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story basket

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt pre-writing skills  activity 

21 Autumn Ideas for the Entire Family

Autumn Activities for Kids: 25 Playful Prompts

Autumn Loose Parts Play

Autumn Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray

Apple Playdough Activity

Farm Playdough Ideas

Sunflower Sensory Play Activity 

Pumpkin Hammer Art 

Pumpkin Gloop 

You can also search the keyword ‘Autumn’ in the blog search bar for the most up-to-date Autumn blog post listing.


Interested in learning more?

If you enjoyed this simple Autumn  sensory play activity and want to learn more about sensory play and the importance of play in the early years, you might just like my exclusive membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’ too. The membership costs just $5 per month and you get access to 10 mini courses on a range of topics including sensory play, play spaces and starting school. Here are some membership posts that you might enjoy:

Sensory Play Mini Course

Starting School Mini Course 

Play Space 101 Mini Course

Toys 101 Mini Course

Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.