First bend one end of the pipe cleaner over about 2 inches. (Older children will have fun doing this.) Wind the rest of the pipe cleaner around the length of the bent section. Tah Dah, a caterpillar!
Cut 2 to 3 inch pieces of pipe cleaner. Let the children figure out how to wind the pipe cleaner around the stick themselves (and they will).
Display pictures of caterpillars on branches and leaves around the art table. Do not tell the children what they are making. Let them discover and design freely. Maybe put a jar of live caterpillars with twigs and leaves in the middle of the table. If you have seen caterpillars in the trees, go for a caterpillar hunt.
Have the children place the play-dough on the plate in a clump where ever they want.
Show the children how they can push the leaf over the stick at different heights, if they need instruction. Most children can figure this out themselves. Let the children use as many leaves and caterpillars as they feel are needed for their creation. If there is a limited supply, only set out the number allowed for each child, but give them several of each item.
Use smaller pieces of pipe cleaner to attach caterpillars to the stick or glue on to leaves.
When dry, if glue is used, let the children arrange the sticks in the play-do.
Some children may want to put them in the play-dough, or glue them to the plate, that’s awesome. Let them create their own sculpture.