Spring | Soil: Infants & Toddlers

Exploring the Feel of Soil

Summary: Soil comes in all types: sandy, rocky, clay, wet, dry, hot, and everything in between. Tiny gardeners will explore the sensory aspects of soil through touch, sound, and careful observation.

Pre-Visit Planning: 

  • Gather: One scoopful of sand, clay (available at a craft store), and rocks, a shovel, water bottle, clear plastic container or recycled spice jar, old pie pans
  • Explore: The garden! Look up: Rivers and Tides by Andy Goldsworthy (images available here: http://visualmelt.com/Andy-Goldsworthy)
  • Read: Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert 

In the Garden: 

The best way to explore a garden is to use your whole body! As your tiny gardener explores their environment, talk to them about the things they are seeing and give them words they may not yet have to describe what they are experiencing. 

Take a handful of soil from the garden bed. Squeeze it. 


-What does it feel like?

-Can you smell it?  

-What do you see in the soil? 

-When you squish it, does it make any noise?

Questions to Explore:

-What do you think a seed needs to grow?

-Describe a handful of the soil in this garden.

-Compare the soil to the different items we brought with us. What do you notice?

-Can you point to where you would plant a seed?


  • Set up a few different ways for your gardener to explore the materials you brought. Using the pie pans, you can create stations for comparing wet material vs. dry material. 
  • Add a bit of soil medium to your clear containers to give your gardener the opportunity to look more closely at the medium as well as to shake the bottle to see if the soil makes noise! 
  • Provide your gardener with a shovel and allow them to scoop, dig, and drag a bit of the soil—they’re working great core muscles that will help with all sorts of skill development. 
  • Ask your gardener if they can stack the rocks to build a tower. 
  • After plenty of time for exploration, you can revisit some of the questions above to see if your gardener would choose a different soil to plant their seed into or if they would stick with their original idea.

Beyond the Garden | Sensory Seeking Around the Neighborhood 

Take the clear bottles of soil, rocks, sand, and clay home with you. As you go, look around the neighborhood and invite your gardener to see if they can find a rock, or some sand along the way. 

-Does the rock in the landscaping make a different noise than the one in your jar? 

-Is it bigger or smaller? 

You can also find a piece of music your gardener enjoys and help them find a rhythm with their sand shaker. 

Continue Exploring | Supporting Materials

  • Find a state park to explore your local habitat further: Visit your state’s Department of Natural Resources website for details
  • Make Sticky Sand: Add approximately 3 cups sand to 1 can of shaving cream. Mix and explore!

Note for Parents:
Each lesson suggests you explore a piece of artwork and read a specific book with your child. The artwork and books are easily available for view with an online search. However, these suggestions are not necessary to complete the lessons.

Guiding Principles


Learning, though not always visible, is always happening. The lessons are designed using inquiry as a base. Rather than “right answers” be more concerned with asking good questions.


Things may not go as planned. The lessons are designed to be used in whatever way works best for you. You can use all of the lesson or just pull a piece out of it.


Planting and cultivating a garden is believing in possibility. The lessons are designed to generate excitement about the future.


Each lesson includes a way to take the learning out into the community for more learning and more connection.


When a young child’s innate curiosity is unleashed in a garden the possibilities are endless. Any topic is open for exploration.


You will get dirty. There will be bugs.