Make this Christmas tree play dough tray for hours of creative, sensory play fun and lots of sneaky fine motor skills strengthening too! A perfect Christmas themed activity to keep preschoolers and school aged kids during the holidays.
As my littlest is now 3 I am having fun re-visiting a lot of activities I used to set up for this three older sisters when they were small. And as I do so the older ones are rediscovering them all over again and playing with them just as enthusiastically as before, although now at a wholly new level which is also really fun for me to watch!
This time I’ve used our Ikea tray that I am loving so much for activities recently, especially small world play and setting our play dough invitations to play. The shallow edges and many compartments mean everything is viewable at once and kids access it really well.
Our Christmas tree play dough tray contains:
Bright red and green play dough (find our super easy, 4 minute, no-cook recipe here! This is two batches)
Red, green, gold and silver pipe cleaners cut in half
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I set all of these out in the tray ready for discovery! Mr 3 was able to play first and his big sisters joined in when they were home from school.
He spent a lot of time exploring all of the individual materials and was SO keen on the bead strings and candy canes in particular.
He heaped up piles of play dough and tried out pushing each item into it to see what would happen.
I rolled out lots of green play dough and started cutting out tree shapes for him to decorate (yes, I play too- can’t always resist!)
He loved the buttons and added the ones he liked best to each tree along with a mini rosette on the top of each!
With slightly older children this is a great time to talk about numbers and count out each button as it’s added. You could find out which tree has the most decorations, which has the least. Or set out little numbers next to the play dough tray and see if they’d like to try matching the correct number of decorations to each one.
He made a big mountain of candy canes! All of the pushing in and pulling out again into the play dough with loose parts is fantastic for fine motor skills as it focuses the pincer grasp repeatedly.
When he tried pushing the bead strings into the dough his eyes popped when he pulled them out and saw the pattern that they left behind! This of course then became his big mission, to push as many bead strings into the play dough as possible and to see how many bumpy holes he could create!
There were more beads than dough at one point and the resulting effect was awesome!
He then combined materials to push into each one of the holes he had created with a candy cane! Again, this is a great time to practise counting skills and 1:1 correspondence.
All of this type of play naturally encourages vocabulary development too, much of it mathematical, such as “this goes IN here, ON top of that, BEHIND this, NEXT TO that” etc.
It is also a lovely way to prompt conversations about Christmas traditions, trees, ornaments and holiday time with the family.
There are so many more ways that the kids played with this tray, especially the older girls who loved to pretend they were giving gifts by filling the little boxes and decorating their play dough with intricate pipe cleaner designs!
I am a BIG believer that this type of play is suitable for ALL ages and you may be surprised at how engaged they aer by it as an after school, wind down play time. I’d say my 10 year sensory-seeker was the most engaged of all and it gives them a lovely way to relax after a long day studying!
Check my whole CHRISTMAS ARCHIVES for loads more similar invitations to play and learn.
And here are my PLAY DOUGH ARCHIVES which contain a myriad of recipes, scents, themes and loose parts combinations! You’ll never need a new idea after visiting these!
I hope you loved this Christmas Tree Play Dough Tray Activity for kids. Please pin it, share it and comment as it really encourages me when you do! Boxed up this would make an amazing DIY gift idea too!!
Want to start a better, kinder and more magical Advent tradition with your kids this year?? Find my Kindness Elves tradition here!
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