Now that the leaves are beginning to change color, I thought my children would enjoy the opportunity to play with this fall leaves play dough invitation.
Strengthen Hand Muscles
This fall-themed play dough invitation allows children to have fun while learning and strengthening their hand muscles. Rolling, stretching, smashing, and otherwise manipulating play dough engages children’s hand muscles, which is essential for preparing them for self-care tasks, such as tying their shoes, and writing, which requires well-developed hand muscles.
To make your own fall leaves play dough invitation, set out whatever fall-themed materials you have on hand, or gather items on a nature hunt with your children.
In our fall leaves play dough invitation, I provided:
- double-batch homemade play dough (enough for all of the children to share)
- translucent leaf scatter
- rolling pin
- leaf-shaped cookie cutters
- real leaves gathered from outside
Check out the play dough center page for a basic play dough recipe. (Leave the play dough white for this activity.)
Adding small objects to our play dough, such as the fall leaves, leaf table scatter, and cookie cutters engages the children in the activity, while also giving them tools for expressing concepts that they are interested in. For example, my daughter pressed the table scatter into the play dough (a great finger muscle exercise) and then proceeded to count her leaves.
Another child in our group took the opportunity to compare the properties of the hard leaf scatter compared to the more fragile real leaves. He pressed them into the play dough to compare the imprints they left; he tried to insert both leaves into the play dough using their stems; and he ran his finger over the surfaces of both leaves.
This type of observation-based learning and experimentation with different materials helps build the foundation for later science work. This is also a great time to encourage children to use descriptive language to compare materials, for example, hard versus soft.
Different Kinds of Play
The children thought of so many ways to play with this simple fall leaves play dough invitation, including:
- making patterns with the leaves (an early math skill)
- covering the leaves with the white play dough “snow,” remembering that winter comes after fall
- making their own fall leaves with the cookie cutters
- using their pincer grip to insert the leaf scatter into the play dough (practicing their pencil grip during play)
I left the play dough white so that the children were encouraged to use the manipulatives in their play, and envision the play dough in different ways. We later painted the play dough with paint and created fall-themed play dough beads.
BIO: Jennifer Tammy writes at Study at Home Mama where she shares hands-on learning activities, easy recipes, and parenting inspiration. She is a single mom of one, a trained psychologist, and Montessori-certified preschool owner. You can connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.