Sensory exploration is essential for young children, as they learn through their senses. This is the easiest activity you could set up for your child and since you are buying pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time to try it!

Typically, our fall curriculum includes a trip to the pumpkin patch at our CEFA Early Learning schools. COVID-19 has made it unsafe for us to do it this year, but our schools are preparing to make their own “pumpkin patch” on their playgrounds and you can do the same at home! Get some pumpkins and hide them around the yard or even a park if you don’t have a yard and invite your child to find them and bring them home, using a wheelbarrow if possible! Your child will love spending time outside with you and finding their pumpkins for Halloween night. The trouble with pumpkins is that they are covered in mud! This is where this activity comes in handy.

All you need is a bin, some dish soap, some water and a few brushes to enlist your child to leave those pumpkins squeaky clean! This has many learning benefits and is a very satisfying activity for children at the same time. Go ahead, try it at home.

Best Ages for This Activity

Zero to five

How to Make It


  • A sensory bin (I love these under bed Tupperware containers that can easily be covered and hidden under your bed if you don’t want a mess when you are not around to supervise).
  • 3 or 4 pumpkins of any size (try to get different sizes to add a math component to this activity)
  • 2 or more tablespoons of dish soap, or to add another layer to this sensory activity, try this beautiful fall-scented soap – make it bubble.
  • You can add red and yellow food colouring to make it orange as well.
  • Old toothbrushes, cleaning brushes or kitchen brushes. You can also add sponges and face towels.

Let’s Get Started!

  • Add the soap to your sensory bin (you can do this with your child)
  • Fill half of your sensory bin with warm water (it will make your soap foam)
  • Add the pumpkins and brushes
  • Invite your child to wash the pumpkins with the tools provided
  • Ask your child what other tools they would like (perhaps something to pour water, or towels to dry the towels afterwards).
  • Watch as they play! Ask them how it feels on their hands, how it smells (this will work on their
    vocabulary) and talk about the textures, the sizes (math), colours, etc.
  • Ask them what techniques they are using to make sure all the mud is cleaned off of their pumpkins (life skills). Demonstrate how to clean something thoroughly if needed.
  • Talk about where the pumpkins came from, about how to grow a pumpkin and about where the best place is to plant them (you can use the seeds from those very pumpkins to plant your pumpkins for next fall)
  • Dry the pumpkins if you want. These can be used to carve and for other activities.

Learning Opportunities

Children will learn life skills by learning to clean an item (in this case, pumpkins of various sizes). They will learn S.T.E.M., particularly math and science. Children will learn about our environment and about gardening, including where our food comes from. This will develop an appreciation for food and what it takes to grow it. They will practice their fine motor skills by using their wrist and hand movements to thoroughly clean the pumpkins and add to their vocabulary, therefore enhancing their literacy skills. This is a really good sensory activity as well.

Don’t forget to use math vocabulary such as:

  • Size
  • Big/bigger/biggest
  • Small/smaller/smallest
  • Intensity (of scent)
  • Temperature
  • Volume
  • Cold
  • Cool
  • Warm
  • Colour

Describing while using vocabulary is one of the most important learning outcomes at this age. It teaches them reading and mathematics.

Extended Learning Opportunities

  • Use the pumpkins once they are clean, to carve them, or even to make pumpkin pie.
  • Explore this sensory bin on the floor if possible, so children can use their hands and feet while playing. You can even try it in the bathtub!