These leaf impressions make an easy fall playdough activity for both toddlers and preschoolers. Try this out at your fall themed sensory table this season.
It’s definitely one of the best autumn activities for preschoolers we’ve done to date!
Study Leaves with Playdough Activity for Fall
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I’m always on the lookout for playdough ideas for preschool.
You see, I have this playdough recipe without cream of tartar that is literally fool proof. It is such an easy playdough recipe. You don’t even have to cook it!
You can easily turn it into fall scented playdough by adding a few teaspoons of spices to the batch. That makes it extra fun for any kind of autumn play at the sensory table.
These leaf impressions are one of my favorite ways to introduce leaves to my preschoolers when we are just entering our preschool fall theme. Fall leaves are icons for autumn, right? This fall leaf activity will get your preschoolers and toddler curious about falling leaves.
FAQ About Preschool Playdough Activities
Making DIY playdough is a cinch! All you need is some flour, salt, vegetable oil, water and a little cream of tartar and the ability to knead the dough.
There are literally hundreds of playdough recipes, and all of them are just as easy as your grandmother’s. My favorite playdough recipe cookbook offers 45 proven playdough recipes. Many of them are even no-cook playdough recipes, making them extra easy to whip up.
You can turn any good playdough recipe into a fall scented recipe by using a few drops of essential oils.
Don’t have any essential oils? You can also use a teaspoon of your favorite fall or apple pie spice. That might change the color slightly. My favorite way to make scented playdough for the fall is by using cooking extracts like vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon, maple, and even rum extract.
The activities you can do with playdough are endless. Popular playdough activities now include playdough invitations to play, themed playdough mats (like fall theme playdough mats), playdough crafts, and playdough math activities. You can even use playdough to form letter shapes.
Preschool teachers love to add playdough to their sensory bins and sensory tables because it is also a nice fine motor activity for preschoolers.
The Best Playdough Recipe Without Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar is used to stabilize the dough and make it last longer, but I seldom have any on hand. (I prefer to use save my cream of tartar for making Snickerdoodle cookies). Instead, just replace the cream of tartar with lemon juice or vinegar.
This is hands-down the very best playdough recipe that doesn’t call for cream of tartar. It’s a great recipe and our go-to for all things playdough!
Fall Leaf Impressions in Playdough
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 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 Playdough Impressions
Show the children how to smoosh down the playdough onto the table and pat the playdough into a pancake. Them, 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. He played for well over an hour which was plenty of time for my big kids to get their homework done.
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.
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.
Ways to Change Up Playdough Activities for Preschoolers
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
And don’t forget you can change up the playdough activity by offering different fall scented playdough, too.
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!
Leaf and Fall Picture Books
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.
1. Start by going on a quick nature walk to collect leaves.
2. Set out the collected leaves, playdough, and small rolling pins. Invite your preschooler or toddler to join you.
3. 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!
4. Place a leaf or a few leaves onto the playdough and then roll over them with the rolling pin, pressing them into the playdough.
5. 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.