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Practical Life Original Project: Hammering Nails into Play Dough (of Clay)

Lori Wallin, UMA student and teacher at Briarwood Elementary in Bowling Green, KY, shares her Practical Life original project. Enjoy!

Title: Hammering Nails into Play Dough (or Clay)


1. Wooden tray 
2. Child sized hammer
3. Home made Play dough in airtight container with dots on the side to indicate where nails go:
4. Roofing Nails
5. Small basket to hold nails
6. Sponge

Steps in Presentation:

1. Ask child “May I show you Hammering Nails?”
2. Remove tray from shelf with two hands
3. Place tray on table 
4. Pull out chair using two hands
5. Sit in chair
6. Use two hands to pull chair up to the table
7. Point to next chair to indicate where child will sit, left handed children to your right, right handed children to your left.
8. Wait for child to sit
9. Hold container with one hand, pull on lid top with dominate hand to remove the top 
10. Hold the top in two hands and place on the table to the right of the tray 
11. Pick up hammer by placing one hand under the head & the dominate hand around the middle to lower section, and say “hammer”
12. Place hammer back to original position on tray (this action allows the child to feel the weight of the hammer prior to actually using it, with one hand)
13. With dominant hand, point to first dot on left side of container, facing you
14. Point to dot on the immediate right of the first dot and continue pointing from left to right, to the end of the dots
15. Point to first dot on left one more time
16. Using your dominant hand with a pincer grasp, remove one nail directly below the head 
17. Hold the nail by the first dot on the left side of the container to emphasize placement 
18. Place the nail in the play dough in using a pincer grasp matching the first dot on the left on the container and change grasp to non-dominant hand
19. Carefully hammer the nail into the play dough leaving head sticking up slightly for easy removal
20. Repeat with the other nails, moving from left to right across the container in same manner
21. After hammering the last nail, lower the hammer into the open hand while maintaining grip with the dominate hand
22. Replace hammer onto tray in it’s original position using two hands
23. Starting with the left nail point to each nail & the corresponding dot on the container fashion to emphasize nail placement 
24. Place one hand on container to stabilize while using your dominate hand and a pincer grasp remove the left nail by placing two fingers directly below the head & pulling up on the nail
25. Place the nail in the basket
26. Repeat going from left to right until all nails are in the basket, 
27. Using one hand hold on to the container, poke holes left in play dough with the dominate hand to smooth out play dough, moving from left to right 
28. Using a pincer grasp, pick up any play dough that may have fallen from the nails or container & replace it back into the container
29. Using two hands pick up the container lid
30. Flip your hands over to place the lid on the container
31. Hold the container in one hand and use your dominate hand to seal the container
32. If a new child say “Watch where I place The Hammer and Nails on the shelf, so you can find it.”
33. Using two hands scoot chair away from table
34. Stand up
35. Using two hands scoot chair back under table
36. Using two hands pick up tray and replace on shelf

Exercise Variations

1. Use wood board 
2. Use Clay
3. Screws and a screwdriver

Age Level

2 1/2 to 4

Point of Interest

1. Hammer
2. Nails
3. Colored play dough
4. Nails in the play dough

Control of Error

1. Nails sticking up out of play dough 
2. Hammer hitting fingers
3. Arrangement of items when finished
4. Dots on the side of the container
5. Consistency of the play dough to keep nails upright
6. Size of the nail heads for aim with hammer
7. Equal number of nails to dots


1. To increase fine motor skills
2. To increase print directionality from left to right and top to bottom
3. To increase eye-hand coordination
4. To increase respect for the environment by cleaning up when finished
5. Self confidence
6. Independence
7. To learn to use a hammer and nails


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    Montessori Teacher Training, Montessori Teacher Certification - Blog - Practical Life Original Project: Hammering Nails into Play Dough (of Clay)
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