Outdoor water activities: rainbow water xylophones and garden soup

Make a rainbow xylophone! Brew some garden soup! Make a fairy potion! These sensory water play activities combine sound and colour for a truly multidimensional treat.

For the rainbow xylophone

You will need: 6 repurposed glass jars, food colouring, water, a xylophone ‘striker’ such as a wooden spoon or stick



  1. Start by filling each jar with water. Try your best to ensure that each jar has slightly less water than the previous jar. The different volumes of water will create different sounds later on. This may take some evaluating and adjusting to get things exactly right, so it’s good to work together to pour the water.
  2. Add some food colouring to each jar, creating a rainbow effect.
  3. Next, encourage your child to use the spoon to play their rainbow water xylophone. If they gently touch the side of the glass with their spoon, each jar should make a different sound. The glass with the most water in it is likely to make the lowest sound, and the glass with the least water in it is likely to make the highest sound.
  4. Once you’ve mastered the basic sounds, why not combine them to make a tune? By hitting several jars at once, you can create chords and double chords.
  5. When you’re done playing, you can encourage your child to mix the water from each jar, and to look at how the colours change.


For the garden soup/fairy potion:

You will need: Fresh herbs and grass cuttings, scissors, ladles and spoons, bowls, cups or scoops, a large pot filled with water, flowers, shells and stones (optional)



  1. Start by collecting the fresh herbs* and grass cuttings with your little cook, pausing to crush and smell a few of their leaves. Do you both have a favourite fragrance?
  2. Explain how these herbs are commonly used to flavour our food and other products (eg. coriander is a delight when paired with Indian and Southeast Asian dishes, while oregano is used on pizzas and in pasta sauces. Sage is used to roast potatoes, and mint finds its way into our dental products). Do they recognise any of the smells and textures?
  3. At a small table, help them to chop, pluck and snip the leaves and stems into the bowls. This is perfect for fine motor and scissor skill development.
  4. Scoop some water from the pot into each bowl, and have them stir the concoction for as long as their heart desires.
  5. When most of the herbs and cuttings have been used up, your child may want to add some additional touches to ‘garnish’ the ‘soup’ such as flowers, shells or stones.
  6. When you’re finished playing, take the stones and shells back out of the bowl, and discard the natural mixture in the compost bin.
  7. Top tip: To make a ‘fairy soup’ potion, follow the same instructions as above, but add some glitter and food colouring to the water as well as the herbs. The results are dazzling.

* If you don’t have access to fresh herbs in your garden or park, fear not. Supermarket herbs work well, too.