Spring Sensory Activities part 1 – Herbs


Ok – So Spring is my favourite time of year – March has my birthday, plus 2 of my boys’ birthdays, Mothers Day, and Easter is always around the corner. So it is always a time for celebration (lots of cake), but also the warmer weather find us on day tips and the lots of picnics!

It is the time of year the ‘I wonder what I will find in the pockets?’ game during laundry becomes more interesting.  My boys are avid collectors, and a walk and picnic just isn’t the same without spending time finding lots of precious things to bring home – pine cones, stones, flowers, leaves, bits of bark, shells, bits of crab!!! (we live by the coast).



In the kitchen, it means the return of fresh herbs, I replace the ones that didn’t survive the window sill over winter, with weak supermarket ones, until the home grown ones come into their own in a few months in the garden.

Our lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage are fairly robust and tend to withstand the Winter, followed by the boys enthusiastic rediscovery of the garden in Spring.  I have always the encouraged the boys to dive in and explore, to handle and experience the garden, so I usually find some toys living under the lavender!

One of my favourite ways to use herbs during sensory play is to make them into paintbrushes, then as the children use them, the herbs get bashed about and give off such a head aroma; if you add home made paints, it truly is one of the best resources to have in your sensory toolkit –

  • loaded with multi-sensory stimulation (looks, feels, smells and tastes amazing!),

  • economical as a free and easily accessible resource,

  • environmentally friendly – no harsh chemicals to produce, no packaging waste, plus can be composted when finished!

  • Aesthetically pleasing, so attractive and inviting to look at, guaranteed to attract little hands to play with them



To make these I used

  • willow twigs (more about these in another post), lots of herbs from the garden,

  • lots of herbs and foliage from the garden including Lavender, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, hedge leaves (these were not fragrant but waxy, firm and long, excellent for painting!), basil, parsley, chives.

  • electrical tape – for convenience and I wanted them to stand up to use from several children in a session.  At other times I have used gardeners twine which is great, but takes a bit longer and is quite fiddly when you are doing a large amount – I made 3 or 4 of each type on this occasion – so tape was my choice to attach herbs to twig.

The lovely thing about this, is that children can get involved in making their own resources, ownership and autonomy over what they are doing is exciting and motivating.  Supervision is necessary if they are very young and you do not want your garden decimated by enthusiastic hands!  Its also offers a great opportunity  to teach children about care of plants, about not pulling flowers especially when out and about in public areas.

We have used the herb paintbrushes on several occasions now, and each time I am amazed at how they influence the play the children engage in, the language is enriched, the way they handle the herb paint brushes is different than using a traditional brush; observing children you can see that they;

  • use their whole body to move and control their arm to make marks

  • the different herbs make different marks in the paint, the children enjoyed noticing exploring the patterns

  • applied different pressure and movements to get the brushes to make different marks

  • talked about the texture of the paint, commenting if it was thick or thin (thick paint was more effective)

  • the length of the twig plus herbs is relatively long, excellent for splatting!

  • tended to prefer working on the ground on the Tuff Tray and swiping the paint from a tray or plate rather than dipping in a pot

  • tended to be less focused on creating an end product ‘painting something’ and more on the experience of the materials and resources

  • use language that is descriptive, enquiring, curious – lots of  ‘I wonder what/ how…?’, ‘what is/ if…’, ‘look a …’

  • were animated and engaged, with lots of laughter and giggles!


Painting outside on a glorious sunny day  – All Of Me was attending a weekend convivium at Turnip House , a steady stream of festival families coming and going.  This activity worked really well as the heat of the sun enhanced the herby scent; for quick re-set up as children came and went moving freely between activities I had lots of large sheets of paper to change out as needed.  Interestingly children were so engrossed in the experience, everyone was happy to collaborate and share sheets, no-one looked to take ‘their own’ picture away – my little corner of the field was beautifully adorned by large colourful masterpieces all weekend!

Another lovely activity was inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers using printed images and paint colours to inspire the children set to work.  This started so tamely but the children quickly extended it by improvising and using the actual sunflowers as brushes, so much fun!



Tentative at first, then the rest of the group decided to join in!

An extension of the sunflowers herb paintbrushes was to change the home made paint, and add berries – using a mixture of frozen and fresh give an added sensorial and surprising edge!




… well that proved just too irresistible and the children just dove straight in – the smells emanating from the mix of paint, brushes and now berries was delicious!



This activity was experienced by children of all ages and abilities from 6mths to 16yrs, including children with SEN, it promoted all areas of development and having been truly tried and tested in workshops, drop in sessions and at home; honestly, has become one of my all time favourites!


One thought on “Spring Sensory Activities part 1 – Herbs

  1. Pingback: DIY Paint… Yoghurt | All of Me Sensory

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