developing fine motor skills: hulling sunflower seeds



Hulling Sunflower Seeds (1)

{This is an excellent activity for ages 4-8 for fine motor skills, focus, accuracy, and problem solving.}  

This season of my mothering life is a very special one right now.  It's partially because I have older, more independent children and partially because the younger three are old enough to do and explore so much more than, say, a year ago.  We can do so much!

I'm lucky to have not just one but two eager + excited five year old girls that are thrilled to put their skills, minds, and focus to the test daily.  I knew that they were ready and determined to increase that focus and skill a bit more with hulling sunflower seeds, carefully and delicately, one by one.



If you've never tried it, hulling sunflower seeds is an incredible fine more skill exercise.  It takes focus in holding the tool (see tool options below), accuracy in aiming the tool towards one seed, and using those fine motor skills to carefully grab and pull out the seed.

*If you have your own giant sunflower heads from your summer garden you are ready to start.  If you don't, check around with local farmers or neighbors who's sunflowers have already begun withering and ask if you can cut off the flower's head for an activity.


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It's quite simple.

First, set up a sunflower seed station for your child.  (What's more fun is if you have two heads to invite a friend or sibling to join your child.)

  • parchment paper or large plastic lid for maintaining the station
  • bowl for collecting seeds
  • tweezers (metal or plastic)
  • optional: one kid's chopstick (this is nice when the child's hand is getting tired from using the tweezers and they still want hull seeds)



Second, if new to tweezers, show your child how to hold and use them.  Let the hulling begin!

Let them try them out by holding and tweezing with tweezers.  Depending on the age, you may need to give more guidance initially.

Once your child is comfortable with hulling one seed, turn the hulling over to your child.  Through trial and error, they will find ways to get the seeds most effectively.  They will creatively come up with ways to get a few out at a time, how to use both hands for the process, how to use the chopstick to dig into the root and pull out a seed, and so on.  It is an excellent problem solving activity as well.

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 Let your child own this activity.  They may sit and hull for a long time.  If you set up the hulling station where it can sit all day, you may find your child (and other children) returning to it throughout the day.  Let them own the experience.

Once your child is finished for the day, store the hulled sunflower seeds.  Put the sunflower head outdoors and watch the birds flock to it to gather any remaining seeds for winter.  (This is one of our favorite parts of the process.)

Use the hulled seeds for:

  • roasting in the oven
  • making bird feeders for the winter (tutorial to come)
  • for sensory play (tutorial to come)


Is your child the perfect age to try out hulling seeds?  Have you ever tried it before?  I'd love to hear what you think!


the sleepy time gal