Pumpkin spice is in the air and it is that magical time when fun fall activities fill our preschool classrooms!
Do you teach a multi-aged preschool class? Are you looking for preschool activities that will meet the needs of a wide range of abilities? I’ve got you covered. Today I’m sharing with you one of my all-time favorite autumn activities for early years.
A fall playdough invitation to play!
With just a few fall-tastic materials you can effectively engage your preschoolers through autumn play.
Teach a Range of Ages with Autumn Playdough Invitation to Play
Teaching preschool can be challenging if you teach a multi-aged group of children. I can say that because I’ve been there.
It overwhelms some preschool teachers to have a multitude of skills in a single class, while other teachers thrive with it. If you are one of those preschool teachers, I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments!
In a multi-aged environment, it’s important to have an assortment of preschool activities to meet the needs of all your students. Whether you have a class of eight or a class of eighteen, your preschoolers depend on you to write your preschool lesson plans with their individual needs in mind.
If you can find a single preschool activity that organically accommodates for all of your students’ skill levels, you’d want to know about it, right?
Enter, this autumn playdough invitation to play!
It’s one of the best autumn activities for early years. From toddlers through kindergarteners, it works! Plus, at the end of this post, I’ll share with you my expert tips on how to meet the needs of all your young
scholars with this fantastic fall play activity.
Hibernation Preschool Centers$10.00
Apples & Pumpkins Preschool Centers$10.00
Farm Preschool Centers$10.00
FAQ About Doing an Invitations to Play
An invitation to play is a way of setting up materials or toys for a play session and inviting your preschooler to manipulate and play with the items as desired. Children are allowed to play with the provided materials in the way they see fit, which might not be conventional.
There should be no rules in an invitation to play, with the exception of being kind, respectful, and safe.
An invitation to play should be open-ended, which means that they should not be designed for a specific outcome. Set up an invitation to play by taking the following steps:
1. Select a well-lit, comfortable space for the invitation to play.
2. Select a range of items, manipulatives, or loose parts.
3. Arrange them in a pleasing manner.
4. Invite your preschooler to come and play.
There are no rules with what an invitation to play should look or feel like, so there is a wide range of what kind of invitation to play that can be presented. Playdough invitations to play are always popular, as well as small water bins, and activities using natural or recycled materials.
Autumn Activities for Early Years – Playdough Invitation to Play
This is one of those autumn activities for early years that your little ones will beg you to keep out in your art center, or on the kitchen table. The fall loose parts provide engaging fine motor skills practice that will become a favorite part of your autumn theme.
My favorite thing about this playdough invitation to play is the assortment of autumn activities for early years that are packed into one single activity!
Materials for Play dough Invitation to Play
- leaf table scatter
- pumpkin table scatter
- acorn table scatter
- pine cones (a range of sizes is helpful)
- party tray
- playdough mats (optional)
- favorite play dough recipe (This scented playdough recipe doesn’t call for cream of tartar! Also, we suggest adding pumpkin pie spice to make pumpkin pie playdough– yum!)
How to Set Up an Autumn Playdough Invitation to Play
Organize your materials into a party tray, like the kind you would use for veggies and dip. You can find them at the Dollar Store in an array of colors!
Now, invite your preschoolers to come and play! Will they make a fall tree? Will they count, sort, or stack? I bet you can’t WAIT to discover what their blossoming minds will create!
The Autumn Playdough Invitation to Play
Your preschoolers won’t waste any time in getting down to
work play. They will want to jump right in to these fall playdough activities.
This is also a fantastic fall activity to teach creativity. Every once in awhile I get a preschooler who doesn’t know how to play with loose parts, so this is always a fun way to introduce how to creatively play.
Exploring prints and textures
Most preschoolers began by using the pine cones to make prints. One noticed that the print looked like a flower. Some of the preschoolers made print after print, and then tried to match the pine cones back to the prints.
Early math skills
One preschooler lined up the leaves to make a “fall forest”. When she did, I asked her to count the leaves, having her point to each one so that I could informally assess her one-to-one correspondence skills.
And then when she pulled the leaves out she noticed they left holes. The exact same number, even!
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Fine motor exploration
One preschooler noticed how some of the pinecones got stuck in the playdough while making prints, and decided to explore what else would “stick to the playdough”. He made sure to stuff a leaf into various segments of the playdough. Great fine motor work and great counting opportunities, here!
These imaginative children also made faces because the acorn table scatter made the perfect eyes and the leaves looked like “extra spikey teeth”. What creativity!
Some preschoolers chose to work the playdough with their hands, pushing it into pancakes with their palms and then squeezing it between their fingers.
It may just look like a wad of playdough with some table scatter pushed into it, but all this is very effective fine motor and hand strengthening work.
Learning about STEM
Admittedly, my favorite outcome of our autumn invitation to play . . . a tower of playdough and pumpkins!
There were a few lessons that had to be learned here. The tower needed something “to stick to”, like a base of playdough. And the pumpkins wouldn’t stack without some playdough in between each one.
The preschoolers also learned that if there was too much playdough in between, the tower would tumble. They also observed that it needed balance and eventually got too tall!
How to Teach Mixed Ages with Fall Playdough Invitation to Play
As you can see from the images above, an autumn playdough invitation to play can be chock full of learning opportunities. For preschool activities like this one, though, I prefer to be what I call a facilitator, taking the children’s guidance on how they want to use the materials to learn.
Here are some questions I asked the preschoolers as they played. Notice how any of these questions can be used for toddlers and older preschoolers, alike.
When making pinecone prints
- Do all the pinecones make the same print?
- What does the print look like?
- What happens if you roll the pinecone on the playdough?
- How do the different sides of the pinecones make different prints?
When counting leaves in the “forest”
- How many leaves make up your forest?
- What happens if you add one more?
- Can you make the same amount with the acorns?
- What other materials can you use to add to your forest?
When stuffing pinecones and making sculptures
- Why don’t you need playdough in every spot?
- Which materials stick the best in the pinecone?
- Can you figure out how to make this ____ stick?
What does your sculpture look like? Would you like to make your sculpture taller? How would you do that?
When making faces
- What other materials could you use to make the ____?
- How else can you roll the playdough?
- How many ____ does your face have?
- Who is your playdough face supposed to be?
When building pumpkin towers
- What happens if you put a big piece of playdough on top of a smaller piece?
- What do you think is making your tower lean/fall?
- How can you fix that?
- Which materials will make the tallest tower?
The key to differentiating the learning is to keep the questions mostly open-ended. I think you will be AMAZED at the multitude of connections your little learners will make!
I invite you and your preschoolers to explore, discover and LEARN with our fall playdough invitation to play!
Looking for More Autumn Activities for Early Years?
You’re going to love this page! It hosts all my best autumn activities for preschoolers, and it’s an ever-growing page, which means I keep it up-to-date with all my latest activities, too!
Be sure to grab my free printables for fall while you’re browsing, too!
Looking for Autumn Preschool Centers?
Your preschoolers will love these printable activities! No worksheets, just hands-on fall-themed fun!
Cozy Fall Preschool Centers$10.00
Hibernation Preschool Centers$10.00
Apples & Pumpkins Preschool Centers$10.00
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.