myNDNA: Early years and childcare activities

View our latest childcare activity guide below, written by early years experts.

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Coronavirus disclaimer - Legislation and policy guidance change regularly. It is the responsibility of the setting to review the latest COVID-19 guidance from the Government when undertaking these activities.

Halloween sensory bucket 

Learning aims

  • To use their senses to explore a collection of objects on the same theme
  • To talk about what they see and touch using a wide vocabulary
  • To become familiar with Halloween and their own experiences of it in their community
  • To make connections between objects in their setting and their home.


  • Large plastic bucket which can be decorated with pipe cleaners and stars to look like a cauldron 
  • Pumpkin shapes of various sizes, 2D and 3D. Made from playdough, card, paper or clay
  • Pom–poms
  • Ask parents if they have Halloween themed novelty items such as glasses or headbands which could be lent for the bucket
  • A homemade mummy (tissue wrapped round lolly sticks or a small world play figure)
  • Black material to resemble a witch’s cloak
  • Small broom or a small brush to give the experience of a witch’s broom
  • Pictures linked to Halloween such as children trick and treating, spiders or carved pumpkins.
Activity outline


  1. Place the bucket in a quiet area such as the book corner and lay out a green or orange piece of fabric next to it
  2. If there are no children with you at the time work with another member of staff to explore it. Lift items out, naming them and using adjectives to describe what you see and feel. This will soon entice children to join you
  3. Encourage children to take turns in choosing items from the bucket. Model interest and focus. Ask open-ended questions for older children, e.g. “How does it feel?” For younger children, model language which will help them identify and describe what they are seeing and touching; e.g. “It’s soft and squishy - a playdough pumpkin”
  4. When a child picks out the fabric intended for a witch’s cloak allow them to explore it and play with it as they choose. If they are not sure you can wrap it around them and build on any suggestions from the children, e.g. flapping it as if they were flying. Use this same process for the broom. Explore its different functions together and encourage the children to add their own resources from around the room to add meaning for themselves
  5. When all the items are laid out on the fabric next to the bucket, older children can start a discussion about their own experiences of Halloween. You could start by sharing your own. “I cut up the pumpkins and leave them outside my door. I didn’t like the smell. I like to bake pumpkin tarts”
  6. Leave the objects out for the children to explore on their own and extend into their play. 
Extending the activity

  • Add objects to the bucket so it can form part of your continuous provision. These could be natural objects such as twigs or autumn leaves which can support the children’s understanding of the time of year 
  • Initiate a spider hunt in the outside area
  • Draw children’s attention to things which look the same when outside such as a cloud shaped like a pumpkin or mud in the mud kitchen which is black like the witch’s cloak.

Special considerations

To maintain children’s safety, ensure that all objects you provide for children to use have been risk assessed and are suitable for use.

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