Playdough Leaf Printing and Nomenclature


We’re clinging to Autumn not being quite over yet! It’s not winter (or Christmas yet, right? Please tell me it’s not – I’m not ready)

So instead of breaking out the snowmen crafts quite yet, we’re still being fascinated by leaves! After all this playing with Autumn materials and counting with conkers and making fabulous play dough gardens, we decided to look a bit more closely at the different parts of a leaf, their names, and how a leaf print looks in play dough!

This is an activity we all did together – 3.5 year old V-bot as well as 15 month old T-bear 🙂

Stuff We Used:

  • Play dough – any colour, we used leftover Autumn colours for ours 
  • Leaves from our Autumn Box
  • Nomenclature cards and labels, or write names out on bits of paper. Just as effective!)

We started out with a pile of leaves and a few other little things from our Autumn Play Box, and a couple of piles of play dough each.

Start by pushing leaves into a flattened patty of playdough! (‘Scuse the mess, but this was exciting!)
T-bear (16 months) really loved practising some fine motor skills in peeling the leaf off the play dough that I had shown her how to imprint:
This was a great multi-age activity that both the girls really enjoyed (Age 16 months & 3.5)

The leaf imprints were beautiful! We talked about the different parts of the leaf as we were imprinting, and the different shapes and colours we saw. This was a great opportunity for learning some new colour names, like tanand chestnut brown and forest green.

Once we’d talked a little bit about the different parts of the leaf, I said “Hey, we could look at those words we were talking about and label the leaf!” I pulled out the tags and cards.

We added the labels to the right part of the leaf, using various leaves at first, and then finally adding them all to one good size leaf.

When we do this kind of activity, it’s very low-key and relaxed: if V is busy being creative and doesn’t want to engage with the word cards, that’s totally fine. We’ll bring them out another day!


As you can see, we used and talked about our labels after we had played and already used the words quite a bit. We tried to guess what the word was by looking at the first letter (this is where V is in her reading journey, right now) and sounding out the first couple of letters.
Given it’s only six cards and she was familiar with the parts of the leaf already, this level was fine for her. She loved the Eureka moment realising which word was which.

If you are doing this for the first time, I’d suggest introducing the language first before bringing out the cards (Go for a walk and pick up some leaves!)

After we had labelled a leaf, we left them off to the side so V and T could continue creating.

Instead of structuring any of this kind of activity like a lesson , I find it works best for us when we just play, and weave in the language. We used the cards (and I picked up the name cards at the right time when we talked about a certain part of the leaf), but we tried to talk about the leaves as much as possible instead of focusing overly on the nomenclature cards:

“Wow, this one is bright yellow, and you can really see the mid-rib and the veins!” And then, look V “this card says ‘mid-rib’ “

“The petiole on this dark brown leaf is really long, look how long this is, compared to that one!” And then,  “ah, here’s the word ‘leaf’, see the ‘l’?”

“Where is the biggest blade you can see? This one is really small, where can we find a big one?”
Blade, b- b- blade – holding the card.

And while all this talking was going on, so was lots of creating!

After a while, all the wheels came off and we were in full blown imagination-mode, with bugs, trees, caterpillars and all!

All the while, T-bear was really happily poking the play dough with sticks, pressing leaves in, peeling them off, and very happily and attentively listening to all the leaf-chat!


What autumn activities are you still up to as we head into November? What was your favourite one of the season? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

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