With Earth Day approaching, it’s a great opportunity to engage your preschoolers in an activity that not only builds their fine motor skills, but also teaches them to appreciate and take care of our precious planet. What better way than with a playdough invitation to play for preschoolers?
By combining sensory and science activities for preschoolers, you can create a playdough invitation-to-play perfect for celebrating the planet. Read ahead to discover more about our tutorial on how to make easy eco-friendly playdough while building lasting memories with your little ones!
Earth Day Play Using a Playdough Invitation to Play
When my kinder son was a young preschooler, he became a little obsessive about the Earth.
You see, we had been wandering through Costco after a doctor’s appointment so it was just the two of us since the younger boys were at their cousin’s house.
We walked leisurely. I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to my brother’s house to get my youngest two. It was nice having it be just the two of us. So, we looked at the new sandals that had come in and talked about going to the lake. We looked at the giant flats of strawberries and grabbed one to make pie.
And then we came across the small toy section that Costco has, and we found a globe, and my almost four-year-old son decided right there that he wanted a globe for his birthday.
Initially, I brushed away the thought, thinking the want for a globe would quickly work its way out of his system. But for the next two months leading up to his birthday, he kept talking about it. And at bedtime, he started choosing the First Earth Encyclopedia.
And then it happened.
Mom, can I have an Earth themed birthday party?
My immediate response was, “Oh, sure! Let’s feed into this newfound fascination with the Earth.” And then after actually saying yes, I thought, “What was I thinking? What kind of a birthday theme is that?!”
So I spend the next six weeks thinking and planning and that’s how this playdough invitation to play for preschoolers can about…along with a few other Earth themed activities.
But let me tell you since preschoolers love all things playdough, an Earth themed playing invitation to play was definitely the right way to go. My son and his friends had a ball!
Earth Day Activity Pack$5.00
What is a Playdough Invitation to Play for Preschoolers?
Simply stated, an invitation to play is the arrangement of an open-ended playdough activity that “invites” preschoolers to come to the table and explore exterior materials within the playdough activity. These extraneous items might include:
- various craft supplies
- items from nature
- small preschool toys
- other loose parts
A playdough invitation to play allows for preschoolers to explore the use of non-traditional playdough tools within a playdough activity. It fits in well with the Reggio Emilia approach (or Reggio philosophy) to early learning.
Why Set up a Playdough Invitation to Play for Preschoolers?
Because invitations to play for preschoolers are open-ended, their design encourages children to:
- examine participate
A well thought out and designed playdough invitation to play will result in lengthy independent play. The materials should be such that they will capture a child’s curiosity. But an invitation to play is not a teacher-directed learning activity. The teachers serve as a facilitator in learning.
How to Set Up an Earth Day Themed Playdough Invitation to Play
You know a playdough invitation to play is successful when it keeps your son’s birthday friends busy playing and engaging for the better part of a three-hour birthday party. In fact, I had to put an end to the playdough activity so that we could move on to cake and presents before parents started arriving.
Setting up an invitation to play is simple, and one of my go-to preschool learning activities. This was such a success, it will forever be in my Earth Day activities for preschool.
- playdough in blue, green, and white (Use this quick recipe)
- small toy animals
- plastic tree cake toppers
- polished rocks of various sizes and colors
- sticks and leaves (optional)
The Set Up
I used a vegetable dip tray to arrange all the playdough and accessories. They are such an inviting way to offer a set of loose materials, and that’s rule number one in creating a playdough invitation to play with preschoolers — make it inviting!
Having the materials organized also allows preschoolers to immediately imagine how they could use the materials, too.Organization allows them to be more creative.
I offered three colors of playdough — green for land, blue for water, and white for the sky. Since my fail-proof playdough recipe can be done in small batches, I used that recipe and whipped up the three colors of playdough in a matter of minutes. And since it lasts so long, I made it several days before the birthday party, too.
Since I had a bunch of plastic trees in our sensory supplies from our dinosaur small world, I added those to the tray as well. They are actually cake toppers, but they work perfectly in playdough as well. I included come polished rocks and some small toy animals, too.
This post offers all the tips and tricks for making playdough at home, including how to make playdough more eco-friendly.
The Earth Themed Playdough Invitation to Play for Preschoolers
Right away, my son and his preschool friends got to playing with the playdough and materials. Who knew an Earth Day preschool theme would be so popular at a birthday party!?
When I offer an invitation to play, there is only one rule:
- Use the materials respectfully (no throwing, breaking, ruining, etc)
So, as with all invitations to play that I offer, I sat back and watched my son and his friends to play with the materials as they pleased. A good playdough invitation to play is only limited by the materials offered, and preschoolers should be allowed to engage to the full extent which the materials allow — and in their own way.
This is the Earth playdough. I love the Earth!
That’s what my son immediately said as he grabbed a chunk of playdough and started flattening it into a pancake. He used the white playdough to make a sandy beach with palm trees and the green to create a grassy area along the beach, like he had seen in his First Earth Encyclopedia book.
Some of the preschoolers grouped like animals together in what they thought were natural habitats. Others (my older son) created an island where “a zoo of animals were dumped.” The birthday boy was appalled.
That’s not good for the Earth! You have to take care of your animals.
Many of the children created play scenes like in small world play and showed them off to one another. Eventually, all the small worlds became one when all the preschoolers combined their materials.
I loved seeing that collaboration in play. I mean, what more could you ask for? Read all about the benefits of play here.
Not that this is important at a birthday party, but as an early childhood educator, one reason I use so many playdough invitations to play is because they also double as a sensory and fine motor activity. One of the benefits of playing with playdough and adding different materials to it is that it is a much more fun way to work on that pincer grasp than by pencil work.
Earth Day Printables
Looking for more Earth Day preschool activities to add to your preschool lesson plans? Try these.
Earth Day Activity Pack$5.00
Picture Books About Earth Day
I have since added this playdough invitation to play to my Earth Day repertoire. The following are some of the Earth Day books I read my preschoolers in preparation for Earth Day.
Try Another Invitation to Play for Preschoolers
Invitations to play are one of my all-time favorite activities to offer my preschoolers. They teach kids so many important skills, even social and emotional skills. Here are some other ideas for you.
Get 45 Playdough Recipes!
This eBook of playdough recipes was designed with preschoolers, kindergarten and early first graders in mind featuring a 45 unique recipes for making playdough. From the classic recipe your grandmother made to modern recipes that provide undeniable texture, this playdough ebook is a must have in very early childhood classroom or home.
PLAYDOUGH ACTIVITIES WILL HELP PRESCHOOLERS DEVELOP:
- hand muscle strength
- fine motor skills
- literacy and numeracy
- science concepts
Not to mention the therapeutic value playdough has for children!
All the playdough recipes in this eBook are unique. They each vary in texture, fragrancy, and consistency.
>>> 45 Playdough Recipes <<<
45 Playdough Recipes$10.00
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I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.