I'm a huge advocate for the benefits of dough play, especially for the open-ended play opportunities it can offer. Throughout the seasons, we as a family love to go out on adventures to collect sticks, stones, acorns and anything else we find on our travels which we often then use in our activities.

These treasures (when not found much later in coat pockets!), along with a healthy dose of imagination, give my children hours of entertainment when combined with their favourite colours of dough. So here are just a few ideas of some ways to incorporate pieces of nature in your play dough play...

Shiny stones

Big ones, small ones, grey ones, brown ones, perfectly smooth ones and ones in unusual shapes - stones are great to encourage sorting, counting and simple maths.

Fantastic flowers

One of the things nature does best is to make beautiful flowers. Collect daisies, dandelions, poppies and anything more exotic that grows in the wild around your home and use them to make prints in the dough.

Super sticks

Sticks and dough are a perfect combination! Can your children build different shapes, maybe a simple structure, or just use them in place of a pen to practice mark making? The opportunities are endless.

Magnificent moss

At the time of year where birds nest can be seen high up in the trees, build you own using twigs, moss and dough - you could even make some tiny chicks to live inside!

Fuzzy feathers

Feathers are great for becoming flags, adorning dough animals or decorating funny faces.

Smooth shells

Do you have a trip to the beach planned this year? Not only do shells make incredible prints, they can also be used in small world play or to make tiny dough snails.

Awesome acorns

Collect acorn cases and make your very own play dough acorns, complete with silly faces too if you'd like!

A bit of everything to make your own small world

I hope that these ideas inspire you to try something new, but don't forget that all of these items can also be used to create wonderful small world scenes. Think gardens, space, castles, seasides, forests, farms and scenes from your favourite books or movies.

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