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Explore the Seasons with an Apple Tree Play Dough Mat

Sep 30, 2016

We’ve been all about apples in our house recently! After making a big batch of our delicious easiest homemade slow-cooker apple sauce last week, we’ve visited an apple farm, read all sorts of apple books, and most recently, explored apple trees throughout the seasons with this hands-on play dough activity that incorporates science, art and sensory play. 

Here’s what you’ll need to try it with your kids:

  • our apple tree printable (multiple copies if you like — click to open as a printable PDF)
  • self-adhesive laminating sheets (plastic page protectors and clear contact paper work too)
  • play dough or plasticine in multiple colours (green, red, pink, and white for sure)
  • a brown crayon (optional)

The supplies needed for this activity, piled up and ready to go.

First off, prepare your play dough mat by printing off our apple tree template and either laminating it, covering it with clear contact paper, or slipping it into a page protector. (You can find what you need for each of these options at dollar stores.) We actually chose to print four copies so we could have one for each of the seasons, but you can do as many as you like. Before you laminate your mat, you can invite your little one to colour in the tree trunk if you wish. If not, this part can also be filled in with brown play dough later on.

Colouring in the line drawing of the tree trunk with a brown crayon.

Before getting started on the actual activity, we took a look at some apple-themed books in order to review what an apple tree looks like during the different seasons. This ‘research' part of the project could also be done by pulling up some images online, watching a simple YouTube video, or making a fun trip to the local library.  

Four books about apples and seasons laid out for reading: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; Amazing Apples from Scholastic; Apples by Welcome Books from Scholastic and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson.

When you’re ready, pull out your play dough and let your little one get creative by adding leaves, blossoms, apples, snow and icicles to the bare trees. My daughter decided to start with winter, working her way through the seasons and referring back to the illustrations in our books every now and then.

Adding white play-dough icicles to the tree trunk play dough mat.

While your little one is creating, it’s a great time to discuss each season and why apple trees look as they do throughout the year. One interesting thing we discussed is the fact that apple trees can look a number of different ways during fall. At the beginning of the season they’re full of green leaves and big apples that are ready to be picked, come mid-season, the leaves are brightly coloured and beginning to fall, and by the end, the trees are bare or nearly there.

Adding green to the top of another tree!

When it came down to it, my daughter decided to create an apple tree in early fall — full of big red apples and just a sprinkling of yellow leaves — the most important stage in her eyes. 

All four play dough mat trees have been covered to represent each of the seasons.

The best part thing about this activity? It can be taken out and played with time and time again. Simply place the dough in an air-tight container, wipe down the mats with a damp cloth if needed, and tuck them away until next time.

Happy creating!

Article Author Jen Kossowan
Jen Kossowan

See all of Jen's posts.

Jen is a teacher, blogger, and mama to a spirited little lady and a preemie baby boy. She's passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores travelling, and can often be found in the kitchen creating recipes that meet her crunchy mama criteria. You can follow Jen on her blog, Mama.Papa.Bubba, and on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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