Playdough Provocations: Treasure Maps!


Treasure Maps!  The book in the background is My Map Book by Sara Fanelli.

This provocation combines three of my favourite things: play dough, loose parts, and maps! Children often have a natural interest in map making – and why not? Maps are often associated with fantasy and appear frequently in children’s books. They also appear in many electronic games, are used in many vehicles (I had a student lecture me on the benefits and uses of GPS recently), and can help children make sense of their environment. Map making is also an accessible way to engage beginning writers as they can include any combination of pictures, symbols, and words.

For this provocation we were aiming for “treasure maps” as these were the kind of maps appearing in the children’s play at the small building centre and sand table, but the materials were open ended enough that the children could really create whatever they wanted with them. It is important to me that although we have an idea of what we think the children might do with the materials we set out, there is always room for the children to use the materials creatively.

First, the children rolled out their sandy play dough. Then, they used the loose parts to create a map on the dough – blue gems for rivers, stone walkways, flower gardens, forests, stick bridges, etc. The children were encouraged to draw their maps and landmarks on a treasure map recording sheet (you can download a copy here: My Treasure Map). We had gold coins that the children hid under their playdough maps. We talked about marking the location of the treasure on their maps with an “X” and had great fun trying to figure out where the coins were hidden by reading the maps the children had created.


We continue to be impressed with the children’s ability to record their creations on paper. The children put a lot of detail into their maps – looking carefully at the shape and location of their landmarks and choosing coloured markers to match their loose parts exactly. Here are some pictures of the children’s work:


S.E.: My island has a fire, a tent, a garden, a forest, a river with a bridge going over it, and a house. Can you tell where the treasure is hidden? I marked it with an ‘X’!


B.B.: I made a treasure island. The guy is guarding the treasure. I put an ‘X’ to show where the treasure is.


C.G.: I hid two coins! I made a river with a bridge, a house, a forest, and a garden. There’s a jungle too!


F. M.: I’m making people on the sticks so they can look for the treasure.





Have your students shown an interest in map making? What are some of the ways you’ve responded to this interest in your class?

2 thoughts on “Playdough Provocations: Treasure Maps!

  1. You are amazing! I subscribe to a number of early childhood blogs but when one of your emails pop into my inbox I get excited! You are a real talent and you truly inspire me. Thank you. Nonie x


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