Playdough Animals

playdough animals easy kid activityI love when I set up an activity with one child in mind and the other ends up completely into it. I love the addition of small items to playdough not just for the extra kick of fine motor development ( playdough all by itself is great for it) but also for the extra kick of creativity. My toddler took to this activity very literally decorating her butterfly but my son experimented with decorating as well as using the materials as tools.  I love watching the gears turn in their heads!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some playdough ( I love the commercial stuff but have some great recipes if you want to make your own) , animal shaped cookie cutters, googley eyes, beads/bits of straws/buttons and other embellishments.playdough animals 2
  2. Start by choosing a color of playdough and pressing it down flat.playdough animals
  3. Choose a cookie cutter and cut out. playdough activity for kids
  4. Start decorating. playdough animals 7I love how a simple googly eye transforms the playdough. My daughter was totally into it but it was my son who surprised me. He was far more focused than I expected him to be. playdough animals 8He quickly discovered that the beads made cool prints and that he could make it look like scales and fur. playdough animals 10
  5. After she was done her butterfly my daughter found our plastic scissors and joined us at the table to do some playdough cutting.playdough animals 5
  6. My son just kept creating. playdough animals 22He couldn’t wait to show his dad what he made and his new techniques when he got home from work. playdough animals

Footprints in the Snow {Playdough Play}

winter play dough play for kidsMy daughter adores playdough and cooking so last week we made some simple white playdough and added snowflakes ( that promptly melted of course – duh! Add after it cools…) and then had fun playing pretend with some forest animals. This is about as simple as it gets but there are so many wonderful lesson possibilities packed in this simple play.

First we made the playdough. The recipe we used is my favorite .

Something I do with my daughter ( or the toddlers I taught when my own kids were only imaginary) is to play Simon Says before doing someting where I may have to say ” Don’t touch!” a lot. Instead of turning this activity into a negative one when I need her to not touch I simply say ” Simon says touch your nose!” As it turned out I didn’t even have to use this but we still had fun with our pre playdough making game.

simon says

She helped me mix the dry ingredients, foot prints in the snow play dough for toddlersI  kneaded the dough while it was too hot for her to touch and gave her some extra flour to explore on the counter.  I slipped in some glitter too. footprints in the snow playdough activities

This playdough is best after it’s chilled so we made it before nap time. Then after nap time it was ready to be played with.

I love these animal toys. They leave real footprints. We sat across the playroom table from each other and just started making prints.  snow playdoughWe looked at them, at which were bigger than the others and how many we could make from one side of the playdough to the other. footprints in the snow playdough play Soon a storyline emerged the raccoon was saving the other animals from a “Snow bump” <– which is 2 year old speak for a snow bank. It was hilarious to watch her narrate a whole complex story line including some negotiation during the various rescues. footprints in the snowwinter  play dough play for toddlers

At this time of year with so much sparkle and wow and rush it’s a blessing to sit and be and take things slow and easy with a toddler . We’ve played this exact activity over and over and each time felt calm and connected after. Something I know most all of us can use right now.footprint in the snow playdoh play

This post contains an affiliate link.

Pretend Play – Vet Clinic

Pretend Play Vet Clinic

Pretend play is probably my favorite part of early childhood education because there are countless lessons hidden in every pretend play scenario. We turned our playroom into a vet clinic simply by mixing a few stuffed animals with our trusty doctor kit and rearranging the furniture. It was fast for me to set up and both kids enjoyed taking care of their animals. Along the way they learned about body parts, empathy and my son and I had a nice chat about prescriptions and why it’s important to only ever take medicine the doctor has specifically prescribed for you .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some stuffed animals, a play doctor kit , some paper, a clip board, marker , and a bench or table to use as an exam table. I added a basket for my daughter who wanted to tuck her patients into bed after she examined them.
  2. Set up a waiting area with furniture and books – our books were all about dogs and cats, you can check out our reviews after the tutorial.
  3. Set up an exam room. I labeled each area and encourage you to as well, it helps deepen the play as well as adds some reading to the activity. Pretend Play Vet Clinic
  4. Make a check list for older kids who are reading and either have them write or circle answers. Can you tell I did this in a hurry? It was almost time to get my son from school. Best thing is he didn’t care, as long as he could read it no need to be perfect!
  5. Play! My daughter examined her cat trying out each instrument and having just had her own 18 month old check up she was familiar with many of them. I chatted with her as she played but didn’t intervene unless she interacted with me. I did pretend to nurse the cat as per her request.
  6. She loves her patients!
  7. With my son I pretended to be the dog and cat’s owners but followed his lead.
  8. We worked in measurement and gave the pup a little oxygen.
  9. The puppy got a clean bill of health!

Books About Cats and Dogs

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (If You Give… Books) by Laura Numeroff is one of the newer “If You Give…” series. I like this one , I mean any book with a cat in a bathing suit is worth a look. I am a big fan of these stories not only because they have just the right amount of text for young preschoolers, but also because the illustrations by Felicia Bond are so detailed you can spend ages talking about what your child sees in the book after the words are read. I love the cause and effect , and after a few readings your child will have fun telling you what’s next.

Otto Goes to Bed by Todd Parr is a really fun and positive book. Otto is a dog who doesn’t want to go to bed, he wants to play, chase his tail and a bath and brushing teeth don’t help. Instead he figures out that there is something he likes about bedtime, dreaming! I like that this book addresses that going to bed feels like missing out on things for kids, I know I felt like that for years. Instead of blankly saying “Sleeping is great” or “You have to go to bed” this book finds something positive about going to bed . The illustration of Otto as a super hero dog makes my son howl with laughter every time.

Otto Goes to the Beach by Todd Parr was a steal of a deal at the Goodwill ! I got a hardcover in perfect condition for 70 cents. My bargain hunting aside, I really enjoy this book as did my son. Otto is a dog who goes to the beach but no one wants to do the same things as he does, even the fish swim the other way! In the end after feeling very sad Otto finds a new friend and all his misery is forgotten. I love Todd Parr books, I love the insanely bright colors, the cute simplistic illustrations and I love the messages they send. This book followed his other books perfectly and provided a great final message about not giving up finding a friend who will like all the same things you do!

This post was shared on Nurture Store’s Play Academy

Animal Track Painting

I can’t even remember what inspired this, I know my son thought of it but I can’t remember now what preceded me saying ” How about making animal tracks?”. All I remember is that he bounded to the table, which is not always the case . This is a fast project, to stretch it out introduce new paint colors , new animals and more paper one at a time.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some fun toy animals, a plate, paper,markers and paint.
  2. If you want you or your child can draw some scenery.
  3. Spread some paint on your plate and dip your animal in.
  4. Start making some tracks.
  5. Add the next paint color and more paper if you want and keep going.
* After we painted we went for a walk outside and pretended to look for and follow animal tracks. We tippy toed for mouse tracks , hopped for bunny tracks and stomped around the patio when we “found” elephant ones. *Books !



Animaliaby Graeme Base is iconic in teaching circles, you can loose yourself for hours in the detailed illustrations. The book is an alphabet book on steroids! Each page had a wonderful paragraph in each letter such as for the letter L ” Lazy Lions lounging in the local library.” The pages are filled to the gills with pictures of things that start with that letter as well. Parents and kids a like will fall in love!

“Peek-a-Zoo!”by Marie Torres Cimarusti is a vibrant lift the flap book that goes through sounds different animals make while playing peek a boo with the reader. What I like about this book is that the flaps offer a chance for your baby or toddler to anticipate what animal it hiding as well as the sound , so it grows with them. Also the flaps are large enough that little hands can grab them and won’t get frustrated.
“Is Your Mama a Llama? “ by Deborah Guarino is a classroom favorite, I don’t know many preschool teachers who can’t recite most of this book . Readers follow Lloyd the llama as he riddles his way through a bunch of animals until he find the one he calls mom. I like the mix of animals in this book, a little different than your average zoo or farm collection.