Get your hands dirty


Explore the garden by digging and handling soil, compost or other garden materials.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): English, Science

Learning objectives

  • Explore different textures in the garden
  • Describe textures to others using descriptive language


If access to the garden is limited, source different soil and compost materials.

Make sample boxes using old ice cream tubs or similar. Fill each box with a material and number each box according to list.

Explain to the group they are going to explore a range of different materials that can be found in soil and the garden.


  • Hand tools
  • Gloves
  • Samples of garden soil
  • Gravel
  • Pebbles
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Garden compost
  • Leaf mould
  • Bark chippings

Step by step

  1. Give children a safety talk about working with tools safely in the garden 
  2. Allow children to dig in the garden with hand trowels and forks. 
  3. Compare digging in the soil with digging compost, or bark chippings or collecting leaves.
  4. Ask children to come up with some descriptive words for the different garden materials.
  5. If using the sample boxes, open each in turn and have a feel of the material inside.
  6. Describe the material in each box – how does it feel? What do you think it is? You can use a recording sheet or simply discuss as a group.
  7. Wash hands after activity.

Hints & tips

  • If you don’t want to make boxes, simply go around the garden looking at soil materials and different textures.
  • Use this activity as part of Sensory Sensations class growing topic

We've won awards!

Winner of the Drum Marketing Awards 2017
Winner of the ERA 2017 awards
Winner of the Third Sector 2017 awards