There is something SO calming about working with playdough – even as an adult I find making and manipulating it incredibly satisfying. It’s always been one of my favorite rainy day go-to’s. Inspired by a rain-drenched afternoon in the backyard and a friends’ “Feather Forest” Instagram post, we gathered the things we needed for this paper straw and play dough fairy forest play invitation.
It’s a wonderful combination of natural sensory learning, creative nature play, and fine motor skill practice for young kiddos, and the end result looks like a perfectly fairy-sized mini forest – just magical! You can combine this activity with our shoebox nature explorer’s kit DIY for a day packed with outdoor investigation and little lessons in ecology.
After a long cold winter, and a chilly spring we had a warm weekend and EVERYTHING in the yard just popped! We had a beautiful Saturday, with major plans to spend a full summer Sunday outside, but Mother Nature surprised us with an hours-long rainstorm.
I’m all for throwing on slickers and boots and heading out in the rain, but the chill in the air had us feeling like staying cozy inside instead. So as a compromise, we ran outside and collected some things from the garden, then came back in to experiment with this natural playdough project…
To create your own playdough fairy forest play invitation you’ll need:
- Playdough (we used this recipe to make our own)
- Paper straws or rolled-up paper scraps/brown bags
- Clippings from the garden and other collected nature supplies
- Feathers or similar fairy-like craft supplies to add to your forests
Playdough Fairy Forest Nature Play Instructions:
- Gather nature supplies from outside
The flowers, pinecones, leaves and other natural items used for this nature play invitation are the stars of the show! Take some quality time outside to gather up a variety of lovely cuttings and finds from outside that you can incorporate into your fairy forest play.
The wider the variety of natural items collected from the garden, the more interesting and sensory-filled this invitation will be. We cut lilacs, ferns, soft willow sprigs, pinecones, and more for a playdough garden forest full of texture, color, and scents.
- Lay out garden finds along with playdough and paper straws
There really isn’t much set up for this beyond laying out the supplies. If you don’t have paper straws, you can do what we did and roll your own using white scrap paper and cut paper bags.
The process of pushing the paper straws into the playdough and filling them with foliage comes so naturally to kids.
We included some white feathers in our invitation to add even more interest and something super-soft to the touch. We thought they gave our garden forests a lovely, enchanted quality.
I was so pleased with the way our little fairy forests looked, but the win of the day was keeping a little munchkin busy with building these forests all on her own. I could see the calming effects of quiet, focused, independent play as she carefully picked out her favorite flowers & plants and concentrated on where to put each. Whether saving this activity for a rainy day, or taking it outside to enjoy some time in the garden, this one’s a keeper for sure!
More garden playdough play ideas…
- Use a set of nature stampers with your playdough – I love this open-ended process from Danya Banya!
- Make play dough nature nests from How Wee Learn or this build a nest playdough activity from Messy Little Monster
- Create a twist on our fairy forests with this mud playdough and flowers invitation to play from The Imagination Tree – or make a whole playdough garden center for dramatic play. How cu-ute is that?!
- These free printable garden playdough mats from Picklebums are a fantastic resource to pair with this activity.
- I love the small accessories that have been added to these flower garden playdough and fairy garden playdough activities from Fantastic Fun and Learning
- If you’re more woodsy items than foliage, try out these playdough acorns from The Gingerbread House (and for a bonus, learn how they scented their playdough with calming lavender) or make a woodland playdough invitation from Teach Investigate Play
- Looking for a tropical variation to use with some lush green plants? This jungle playdough from Picklebums will be right up your alley!
For more nature-inspired activities, be sure to check out our melted crayon butterflies, these kid-made, vegetable-stamped DIY Farmer’s Market totes, and our hammered nature process art project.