Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit: Play Dough River Model

This fun, hands-on activity in our Lakes, Rivers + Ponds Unit will let your child explore rivers layer by layer while sparking their creativity through imaginative play. Plus, it’s super simple to create and modify again and again! We’ve listed recommended materials below, but we strongly encourage making the most of items you already own or can whip up with supplies you have on-hand.

What you need:
  • foil baking sheet (you can often find them at dollar stores for cheaper)
  • blue and brown play dough (if you did our Canada Unit, you can mix your maple syrup doughs to have enough brown)
  • real or artificial leaves, sticks, rocks, and grasses
  • animal figurines (optional, but if you are doing our Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit, you’ll have plenty of options to add in to your model!)
What to do:

Start by using your blue play dough to create your river down the middle of your tray. It can be straight or curved–whatever your child prefers!

Fill in the outside edges of the pan with brown play dough.

Use your leaves, sticks, and rocks to create your river banks. There is no wrong way to do this, so let your child’s imagination flourish! (You can also add the cattail craft from our Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit once you make those.)

If using, add your animal figurines to bring your river to “life”!

If your child is like ours, now is when they will want to play with their riverbed. Let them! If they need a little prompting, here are some ideas for play:

  • Talk about where different animals live in and along the river. Have your child put their figurines in their habitats.
  • Using the animals, create “tracks” in the play dough and see if your child can identify which animal they came from.
  • Review what you learned from our Ecosystem Cups Activity and talk about which animals are primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers.

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