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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Animal Habitat Playdough Sort and Rescue Activity

Playdough is one of my favourite sensory materials to use with kids {and not going to lie, I love to play with it myself}. It's such a wonderful sensory experience {and fine motor workout} squishing, rolling, squeezing and splatting playdough between your fingers. Apart from it's tactile benefits, it can also be used in a number of educational ways to teach children other skills. I created this animal habitat sort and rescue activity for my daughter using playdough and animal figurines. One quick and easy to set up activity provided so many different learning opportunities and then she even extended on it herself.


< Please note this activity is not recommended for children under 3 as some items may pose a choking risk. Full adult supervision is required >


- Colour recognition
- Animal names & habitats
- Categorising {by habitat}
- Hand/eye coordination
- Hand strengthening
- Problem solving
- Pincer grip

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- Mini animal figurines
- Playdough {blue & green}
- Wooden tray {2 compartments}
- Tongs or plastic tweezers

I set up the habitat sorting activity in a two compartment monkey pod tray so that there would be one side for the land animals and one side for the sea animals. Having blue playdough in one side and green playdough in the other makes it really easy for kids to visually differentiate between the two different habitats. I have a huge collection of monkey pod trays I've thrifted, so I pretty much have a tray for every activity, but any two compartment tray would work fine for this invitation to play.

For the animals I used some of our mini wild animals and some of our mini sea animals. Our animal figurines are CollectA brand, but you can also get similar mini figurines from Wild Republic and Safari toobs. I added some wooden tongs for some fine motor practice, you can usually find these at thrift stores, dollar stores or online at Amazon for a few dollars {plastic tweezers are also a great alternative}.

When I first set up this activity it was as an animal rescue activity to practice her fine motor skills, so I set it up with the animals already stuck in the playdough, instead of making her sort them to begin with. I deliberately put land animals on the green playdough and sea animals on the blue playdough for some added categorisation, but didn't mention it to her because I wanted to see how she'd naturally interact with it. My only "rule" for the activity was that she had to use the tongs to remove the animals not her fingers {which she loves doing anyway, she even went and got a second bigger pair of wooden tongs to add to my set up}.

She rescued the animals from the playdough and then studied the footprints and imprints left in the dough. She repeatedly put the animals back into the playdough {on the correct habitat colours} and rescued them for about five minutes. She then asked me to play with her and created new games for me to play.

She put the animals in the playdough and deliberately mixed them up in the wrong habitat and told me I had to rescue them and put them in the right habitat. Then she did it again but put some of them in the right sides and some in the wrong habitat and told me I had to rescue the ones in the wrong habitat {I love that she tried to trick me and had no idea she was actually reinforcing her own learning}. After that she took all the animals out and told me I had to put them all back in, but I had to use tongs to push them into the playdough, no fingers allowed {like a reverse of what she did}.

I seriously love how she extended on the original activity and then tried to teach and quiz me! When the student becomes the teacher as they say. This was such a great activity for the learning opportunities mentioned above, but also because of the quality time we spent together bonding over a shared interest. If you click on the Instagram post below you can go through to the videos at the end to watch part of our play. 

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