Wash the Pumpkins! A Simple Autumn Sensory Bin for Toddlers

If you’re looking for the easiest Autumn activity for toddlers, your in the right place – wash the pumpkins couldn’t be simpler. Water play is always a huge hit with toddlers and it also makes for a brilliant introduction to sensory play too.


a toddler boy plays with a wash the pumpkins sensory bin


What is a Wash the Pumpkins Activity?

As the name suggests, we’re simply putting some pumpkins into water, along with some bubbles and washing them! It’s a really simple sensory bin for toddlers that helps them to work a number of early learning skills including hand-eye coordination, motor skills development and focus.

In addition, this wash the pumpkins activity will also help your toddler to learn about the world around them. Hands-on activities are the best way for children to learn about seasonal changes and Autumn is one of the best for being able to get real resources in which to play with.

5 Benefits of Sensory Play:

All sensory play has many benefits, including this wash the pumpkins 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.

You can read more about the benefits of sensory play here. 

a blonde toddler boy inspects a bottle of washing up liquid while playing with a wash the pumpkins sensory bin

Suggested Supply List for Wash the Pumpkins

  • A large storage container / Flisat Table / Tuff Spot tray
  • Mini – medium pumpkins
  • A scrubbing brush
  • Baby bath or washing up liquid
  • A messy mat – we love the Tots Ahoy! Brand
  • Towels to help clean up mess
  • Wellies, waterproof trousers and coat – if you intend to do this outside when it is colder


How to Set up

I personally believe that activities like this wash the pumpkins idea work best when your toddler or preschooler has had the opportunity to pick out the pumpkins for themselves. There’s something about the process of going to a pumpkin patch or farm to choose a few pumpkins that really help with interest and involvement. If you don’t have a pumpkin patch near you, try looking in local florist too.

a shot of pumpkins from a farm visit - pumpkins your child has picked out themselves can be used in this wash the pumpkins activity

Once your toddler has picked out their pumpkin, there are many activities they can do, including this wash the pumpkins version.

I recommend that you take this wash the pumpkins activity outside where possible – it just makes life so much easier! If it’s a little colder where you live, pop them in wellington boots and some waterproof trousers to prolong play.

If outdoor play just isn’t feasible, find a place that is easy to clean up — the kitchen or bathroom is a good option. You can even use the sink rather than a plastic container if you wish.

Simply put a messy mat down on the floor with the plastic tub filled with water on top. Add the water and place the pumpkins inside.

Put some scrubbing brushes, kitchen utensils and a jug for extra water around the outside.

Then invite your child to play!

Does this activity ruin the pumpkins?

When I first did this activity with the kids, I thought that the pumpkins would get mouldy quicker, however that didn’t turn out to be true. If you dry the pumpkins properly and they don’t have any holes, they seem to last just fine.

However, if you are looking at an order for pumpkin use, we tend to use ours in small world play first, then for activities like this and finally for activities like ‘hammer the pumpkins’ before cutting the pumpkins open to make gloop or other messy fun activities.


At Home Autumn Art & Sensory Camp

If you enjoyed this simple wash the pumpkins 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  themed wash the pumpkins 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 

Simple Autumn Sensory: Pumpkin soup

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 wash the pumpkins 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.