Australia Unit Study: Cactus Toothpick Fine Motor Activity

A few months ago, one of my mommy friends did a activity at a playgroup co-op with play dough and toothpicks. It was so much fun that I thought it would be fun to incorporate into an activity for our Australia Unit.

Cactus are not indigenous to Australia, although they are plentiful there today. They actually were introduced there years ago from America.

To do this activity, I made my own play dough, but if you want to, you can purchase some or use whatever you have available.

Basic Play Dough:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon oil

Combine the above ingredients into a saucepan and stir over medium heat until it becomes play dough (2-5 minutes). I add my coloring to the cold ingredients before I heat it – adding it after the play dough is finished is much messier.

I created a small oval of play dough and placed it on a playtray I bought at the Dollar Store last fall. I cut toothpicks in half because you don’t want to push them too deep in.

My kiddo had to be reminded to not put all the spines in one spot. It was good for her to make sure she pushed in the cut end and have the sharper end sticking out.

Of course I had to do one too. As we worked on our cactuses, we discussed how we had to space the spines. What does a cactus feel like? Are our play ones hard or soft? Sharp or dull? It was fun discussing the sensory side of this activity.

One of my followers on Instagram did this activity with us and they placed it in a little terracotta looking pot. I think I need to go get one because it looked so cute!

We also discussed the kinds of plants we have near our house. Living in Colorado, we have cactus here too, and we discussed what they looked like. Maybe if it’s warmer one day we’ll go find one on a walk.

Such a simple activity that made for a fun morning with my little one.

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