Your elementary homeschool children will love these spring nature study play dough mats. Playing with dough is more meaningful than you might think!
Sculpting with play dough sounds like a preschool activity, but older children can benefit, too. You’ll be amazed at the ease of practicing important science and artistic skills through a motivating hands-on activity.
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What is a nature study play dough mat?
In general, play dough mats provide children with pictures to use as inspiration for molding flat or three-dimensional sculptures. It sounds very basic, but there is quite an opportunity to use mats with detailed nature pictures to practice some important scientific skills.
First, when pictures like the ones on these spring nature study play dough mats are included, there is plenty of observation to notice scientific detail. Nature study is one of the best ways to train children in observation.
Second, when children mold play dough with the intent to craft as much of the observed detail as possible, they experience a unique form of “nature journaling”. While most people think of nature journaling as drawing or painting nature specimens on paper, molding the specimens with dough is just as effective.
Are play dough mats useful?
The point of creating a drawing, painting, or sculpture of a nature specimen is to recreate something observed with the senses. This is important because it literally builds a deeper understanding of the observed image as the brain notices details and crafts them. In fact, nature journaling is a way to train the brain to file away information that will last for years to come.
Additionally, the spring nature study play dough mats include specimen images that have plenty of colors, shapes, and specific details. While little ones can certainly sculpt the images, older elementary children will have the opportunity to practice plenty of artistic and fine motor skills.
For instance, when crafting the flowers, there is a great deal of rolling and shaping small parts to encourage fine motor skills. Fine motor skills, otherwise known as small motor skills, are the ones that use the muscles in our hands and wrists to do detailed work. Believe it or not, working on small motor skills with play dough can even help with things like holding a pencil better.
Of course, it’s plain to see that each of the spring play dough mats promotes plenty of art skills. Children can work on things like color blending, layering, and shading. Don’t worry if you don’t prefer to mix play dough colors, it’s not absolutely necessary to recreate the images.
Using Play Dough Mats
There’s nothing difficult about using the mats. Let your child choose a mat, provide him or her with play dough or clay, and allow plenty of time to play. You can use the mats during a science lesson, free play, or when you need to keep hands busy.
Can I reuse a play dough mat?
Yes! Once you print a spring nature study play dough mat, slip it into a clear sleeve (as seen above). Kids can build directly on the wipeable surface, making the mat useful over and over again. If you prefer, laminate the mats instead.
Play Dough Mat Supplies
Download the spring nature study play dough mat printables below. Provide your children with play dough or clay. The more colors and the more freedom to mix colors will make the activity more fun and the sculptures more realistic. I’ve included some other fun supplies that you might want to have around the house, too, for creating extra details.
- Play-Doh in various colors
- Desktop Laminator
- Reusable Plastic Sleeves
- Popsicle Sticks for sculpting
- Sculpting Tools
- Crayola Dough
- Modeling Clay
Download the Spring Play Dough Mats
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