As the season changes, it’s the perfect time to bring the wonders of fall into your preschool classroom. And what better way to do it than with a delightful fall playdough activity?
In this hands-on exploration of nature, preschoolers enjoy a sensory table filled with fresh leaves from nature and squishy playdough. Leaf impressions in playdough—a fantastic addition to your repertoire of preschool activities for autumn.
So, gather your little ones and have some sensory fun together! This is a go-to sensory activity for fall.
Studying leaves with preschoolers is the best way to bring the changing seasons into the classroom, and making playdough leaf impressions is a fantastic way to get preschoolers interested in a preschool leaf theme.
As preschoolers create leaf impressions in playdough, they engage multiple senses.
They feel the cool, pliable texture of the playdough and experience the tactile sensation of pressing the leaves into it.
They also observe the intricate details of the leaves – their veins, patterns, and edges – enhancing their visual perception skills.
Furthermore, this activity promotes fine motor development. Rolling out the playdough and carefully pressing the leaves require precision and control of the small muscles in their hands and fingers. These fine motor skills are essential for like skills tasks.
45 Playdough Recipes$10.00
Fall Playdough Recipe
The easiest way to make a fall playdough recipe is take your favorite playdough recipe and turn it into a scented one. This post explains all the best and easiest ways to make scented playdough.
You can make fall scented playdough by using food extracts or spices, and you don’t even have to change up your favorite playdough recipe, either.
Leaf Impression Activity
I like to introduce my fall preschool theme by teaching my preschoolers about leaves. Leaves changing color is always a tell-tale sign of autumn! I find that starting with leaves is a good way to tune them into how the leaves will change during the fall season.
Start by going on a quick nature walk to collect leaves. This time, we collected leaves from the backyard, but in the past we have collected leaves from the walking path by the lake.
Collecting leaves is one of my favorite fall activities for toddlers, so invite them to join you.
Place the collected leaves in a tote or bin of some sort. You can just pile the leaves up on top of one another. I love using these shallow wooden trays.
Put out some playdough colors, or better yet – fall scented playdough – and a child sized rolling pin and invite your preschooler or toddler to join you in the fall playdough activity.
How to Make Fall Leaf Impressions with Playdough
Show the children how to smoosh down the playdough onto the table and pat the playdough into a pancake. Then, use a rolling pin to smooth it out.
A smooth surface on the playdough is important so that when you lift the leaves you can see the veins imprinted in the playdough.
Place a leaf or a few leaves onto the playdough pancake and then use the rolling pin to roll over the leaves, thus pressing them into the playdough.
Gently lift the leaves and examine the leaf impressions left behind.
I offered my son a child friendly magnifying glass so the veins would be amplified. That was a fun addition to the activity and opened up lots of conversation about the veins in leaves.
I am impressed at how long my son played with the playdough, continually rolling out new pancakes to make new leaf impressions. It didn’t seem to matter if the leaves got crumpled or ruined, he kept on making leaf impressions.
Fall Sensory Play Idea
Nearing the end, my son began using the leaves and the playdough in alternate ways, which is to be expected.
Don’t plan on saving your playdough after an activity like this one. My son began tearing the leaves and smooshing them into the playdough. That’s why I rely on cheap homemade playdough to sensory activities like this one.
This actually didn’t bother me because both tearing and smooshing are fantastic fine motor and hand strengthening activities. While it might make the playdough unusable for another activity, it does prepare his little muscles for formal writing.
Autumn Playdough Ideas
I love that these leaf impressions focused only on leaves, but you can add so many other fall nature items to it. Here are some ideas. Try adding:
- pine cones
- sycamore seed pods
- mini pumpkins
- dried corn
- maple seeds (helicopters)
- small sticks
Playdough Activities for Fall
There are so many creative directions to go with the idea of making leaf impressions. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
- Fall Nature Stamps with Playdough
- Fall Playdough Invitation to Play
- Autumn Spice Playdough Activity
- Fall Nature Playdough
- Nature Walk Fall Playdough Activity
Why Playdough Activities Are Important
Playdough activities remain a classic “tool” in a preschool teacher’s closet for a reason.
Here are some of the benefits of playing with playdough.
- Spatial awareness – experimenting with shape and space
- Creative thinking and concentration skills
- Pretend play skill development
- Oral language development – practicing and experimenting with new words
- Building up hand strength, fine motor skills, and coordination
Just follow my mantra — When in doubt, get out the playdough!
Books About Leaves for Preschoolers
You didn’t think I’d let you go before I shared my favorite books with you, right? These leaf books and fall picture books are the perfect accompaniment to your playdough leaf impressions!
More Fall Resources and Activities
- Child-Sized Rolling Pin
- Various Real Leaves
- You can also add a child-sized magnifying glass for closer examination.
- Start by going on a quick nature walk to collect leaves.
- Set out the collected leaves, playdough, and small rolling pins. Invite your preschooler or toddler to join you.
- Show the children how to smoosh down the playdough onto the table and pat the playdough into a pancake. Make sure they get a smooth surface!
- Place a leaf or a few leaves onto the playdough and then roll over them with the rolling pin, pressing them into the playdough.
- Gently lift the leaves and examine the leaf impressions left behind.
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.