I love when I can get more than one use out of an activity or homemade play dough invitation. We played with this fall leaves play dough invitation two ways – first exploring leaf shapes and textures, and then making our own salt dough leaf ornaments.
This fall-themed play dough invitation uses salt dough, which is a slightly tougher homemade play dough than most children are used to, making it great for exercising their hands.
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.
However, the dough wasn’t too hard for my children with weak hand muscles. They still had fun and played alongside the others for the full amount of time.
Materials for Fall Leaves Play Dough
Providing a variety of materials allows children to choose what interests them, so they can express concepts that they are interested in at that time. 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 was interested in comparing 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.
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)