Sunflower Sensory Play: Easy Play Idea for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It’s early September so now is the perfect time for a sunflower sensory play idea. Sunflowers typically bloom between late August and early September. The florists here in Vienna are filled with bouquets of this happy, vibrant flower and we always love the addition they make to our dining room table.

Every year, we visit the sunflower fields to enjoy the flowers and often pick a bunch or two to take home with us. On the outskirts of Vienna, we have found many fields with an honesty box. Flowers usually cost around 90c per stem and mine just love to select their own blooms to take home. More recently, we visited the sunflower fields in Rhossilli in South Wales whilst visiting family members.


But what to do with the sunflowers once they have past their best? We personally love to do sensory play with ours!! One easy sunflower sensory play idea to try is ‘Sunflower Soup.’ It’s always a big winner with toddlers and preschoolers alike.

This image shows several sunflower heads ready to be used for a sunflower sensory play activity

Sunflower Sensory Play: Make ‘Soup’!

We only do this sunflower sensory play activity when we have done other activities with the sunflowers first. Obviously, we simply enjoy them first by displaying them on the dining room table and other areas of the house. We often do still art with the flowers and save some back so that we can dry the petals to use in ‘potions’.

In fact, we always have so much fun when we do this activity that I completely forgot to take many photographs, so below is a video of the activity from my Pinterest page so that you can see how the activity happened:




For this sunflower sensory play activity, you will need:

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

How to play:

This sunflower sensory play activity can get messy but the more you expose your child to these activities, the easier it will become. I’ve been doing these activities with my children every week since they were tiny. I can now keep a sensory activity out all day (or even all week) and not have to worry about the play space descending into chaos – yes, really!

When you are first getting started with sensory play, it’s about practice. Sit with your child and model how to play and how to tidy up afterwards.

Below are some examples of how to help your child navigate sensory play, particularly if they aren’t used to it.

Remind your child of the boundaries:

Remember, we talked about keeping the water in the tray? You forgot whilst you were having fun – that’s okay as you are still learning how to play with the (rainbow rice/ lentils/ water) but now I’m reminding you.

If your child still continues to make a mess:

It looks like you are having a hard time keeping the (rainbow rice/ lentils/ water) in the tray, let’s put away the tray and we can try again tomorrow – and yes, follow through with this!

Remember, these phrases are for when your child is making a purposeful mess rather than making a mess because of those developing motor skills. However, in both instances, the more exposure they have to sensory play the less messy they will become. This is always worth keeping in mind!


this image features a close up of a sunflower that will be used in the sunflower sensory play activity

5 Benefits of Sensory Play:

All sensory play has many benefits, 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.

Autumn Blog posts to read next:

If you loved this simple sunflower sensory play idea, 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

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 the sunflower sensory play idea 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.