I love all of the invitation to play ideas that I've seen online and wanted to try it out with a community helpers theme. I like that invitation to play is an open ended type of play. There is no right or wrong way to use the supplies. The little ones are allowed to be creative and explore in their own way.
To set up our activity, I made two fresh batches of playdough using our favorite microwave Kool-Aid version. Then I grabbed odds and ends from around the house - buttons, corks, popsicle sticks, colored pasta and glass stones. Then I used some Educlips clipart and printed and laminated some common community helpers. I cut out each one and put them on the tray.
I gathered the girls and showed them the materials. They were a little confused at first and wanted their normal playdough tools. I explained that they could only use what was on the tray, but they could do whatever they wanted with it. We talked about the different community helpers and what they did for us and the people in our community.
And then I let them play.
And I made dinner. While it was quiet and they were engaged. It was beautiful! Once they understood that I was not getting them more supplies or the playdough tools, they were happy to play with what they had in front of them.