Nature Play: Threading and Imaginative Play for Preschoolers

Leaf Threading - The Mud Kitchen
Leaf Threading – The Mud Kitchen

There was an excellent discussion on an educator forum recently about ways to use beading and threading as a fine motor learning activity.

Some great suggestions included using natural materials for threading. Nature is an endless resource that can sometimes be overlooked with the profusion of cheap plastics available.

With Spring and Autumn nearing (depending on the hemisphere you’re in) it’s a perfect time for collecting and threading from nature.

We’ve pulled together a few ideas to inspire you:

Why Nature Threading?

As well as being fun, threading helps young children develop small-muscle control and strength in their fingers. Small-muscle control is important when learning to write.  When children become more capable in manipulating objects, they also gain confidence and develop independence.

With nature threading, there is an imaginative play element as children invent stories while making (and wearing) their creations. There’s also a sensory component in the scents of leaves and flowers which is missing with plastic beads.

Fine Motor Threading With Nature Wings and Roots
Fine Motor Threading With Nature Wings and Roots

Threading materials

Try out a range of threading materials – cord, rope, sisal, pipe cleaners (not so nature based but great for younger children as they are stiff and easier to thread), sticks, wool (see if a friendly grandparent has some ball ends to spare). Even some vines are sturdy enough for winding and threading.

Grow your own ‘beads’

Weeding or trimming your garden can provide loads of leaves for threading (herbs and leafy greens make great sensory garlands). Remember making daisy chains? – plant marigolds and other seasonal flowers that bloom in profusion then use them for making bracelets, garlands, crowns.

Ask parents and your community

homemade threading beads - minieco

homemade threading beads – minieco

Nature threading is a great activity to get parents and the community involved. Is there a staff member or parent who can drill some natural objects for threading?
Use your Educa dashboard to ask for volunteers!

Think driftwood, pumice, cones, sea sponges, cuttlefish and shells (if you’re near the beach) or nutshells, gumnuts, pine cones, dried seedpods, sticks (if you’re not!)

We’re going on a Leaf Hunt (or maybe on a bear hunt?)

Head outside (or to a local park) for some fallen leaf collecting, suitable for all ages. Get older children sweeping up leaves – great gross motor activity and fun because they can use what they sweep. Select the “best” leaves for keeping (a sorting activity).

Some leaves can be put away to dry, or, if you collect autumn leaves they’ll last a few weeks in containers.  Get the hole punches out (hand strengthening) and punch some holes for threading. If older children punch the holes younger ones can try the threading.

Dry some of the leaves and flowers to make your own preschool version of this autumn potpourri by Woontrendz – think cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lavender to thread or tie – great sensory scents for small noses to sniff.

Storytelling with Leaves

We love that creativity in early childhood education knows no bounds. Here’s a hole punch turned into a Very Hungry Caterpillar – for a nature threading activity that drew inspiration from a literacy activity that provoked imaginative play – such a wealth of learning with nature and imagination!