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Todays blog post is the first of a series that will provide an introduction to understanding how your child can explores, creates and enjoys activities! I hope to give you some ideas for activities you could do at home with your Little Squigglers. I will explain an activity from setting it up, to exploring it with your child. I also want to give you some insight into what your child is learning and how you can help to extend their learning.

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For our Autumn adventure we went on a scavenger hunt at Fineshade woods. The girls each had a bucket and were tasked to collect leaves, pine cones, acorns and twigs. This was a really free activity and the girls spent a long time skipping and jumping through the woodlands carefully choosing items for their buckets. When we got home I followed the Autumn dough recipe (included at the bottom of the post) and let them do the mixing with the cooled mixture and add the spice!

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All three girls then explored the dough on it’s own first as a sensory experience.

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We then added the natural  items we had collected to the dough to inspire their imaginative play and as an opportunity to explore their understanding of the world.
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Whenever I am planning activities for my girls or for Little Squigglers session I have a list of questions today I am going to focus on these 3:

  • Where are we going to play to get the most out of the activity?
  • What ‘learning’ might I observe?
  • How can I extend their learning?


Where to play?

For this Autumn invitation to play it didn’t seem right to do it inside. The weather is still mild so I chose the garden. The choice of where in our garden includes the mud kitchen, in the playhouse, on a mat on the patio or grass, in a builders tray, in a tuff spot, in a water table or on a table! (I think I will need to do a separate blog post about tuff spots, builders trays, mats and tables, lol!)

For this activity I decided to use a tuff spot. In our garden we have 2 tuff spots set up: one on the grass and one on a stand. This activity best suited the one on a stand. I also chose chairs as I wanted this to be a more focused activity for Serafina (47 months) and Lorelei (33 months)

Learning and extending their learning?

My background as a teacher means that I can’t ignore my internal version of the EYFS framework (Early Years Foundation Stage) That’s a separate blog post too! For today’s post I will give you a little overview.

By making the dough together I can see how the girls are listening and paying attention. I can check they are understanding by asking them simple questions as I explain about making the dough. Asking them open ended questions like: ‘How do you think the dough will feel when you put your hands in?’ means I can also listen to them speaking.

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Once we have done our ‘talking’ I consciously try no to say too much as they first explore the dough. I want them to be able to focus on their sensory experience. Me asking them questions can distract from that… As they first explore I can see how they use their hands. Are they showing a preference for being right or left handed? Can they roll a ball or roll a sausage?

Then it’s time to introduce some equipment, tools or other resources. Today we are using the natural ‘loose parts’ we collected in the woods. There are lots of ways I can now extend their learning. Some children may be more imaginative with this type of play, for example building a stick man. Other children may be more interested in exploring the natural materials.

Serafina was very interested in the variety of colours of the leaves. We took it in turns to says all the different colours we could see. This then meant I could talk to her about why the leaves fall from the trees. I made sure to include the words: seasons, Autumn, weather and changing.

Lorelei wanted to make a hedgehog with her dough. We used leaves to make the spikes of the hedgehog and I showed her how to use a pinecone as a tool to make a spikey imprint. Lorelei asked why hedgehogs have spikes, which led us to a quick conversation about them trying to protect themselves and hibernating.

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After some focused/led play I took a step back and left the girls to explore the dough more independently.

I hope this post has given you an insight into playdough activities and explained some of the ways your Little Squigglers can explore, create and enjoy. I would love to hear if any of you set up your own Autumn invitations to play…


How to make your Autumn dough:

2 cups of plain flour

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil 

1/2 cup of salt

2 tbsp of cream of tartar

1 cup of boiling water (I added food dye to the water)

1 tbsp of cinnamon or nutmeg


  1. Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a mixing bowl
  2. Add food colouring to the boiling water then add to the bowl
  3. Stir until it becomes a sticky, combined dough
  4. Allow the dough to cool down then take it out of the bowl and knead for at least a couple of minutes until it is no longer sticky.
  5. If the mixture is still a little sticky then add a touch more flour, if it is a little dry add up to ½ cup more of boiling water.
  6. Finally add your spice!

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