Make: Paper Bag Mushrooms

A brown lunch bag and a stick are all you need to make these sweet, sculptural paper bag mushrooms. This charming nature-inspired craft is a wonderfully simple project for kids (or adults!) that can be used for small-world play, classroom displays, or even a kid-made Thanksgiving tablescape.

Three of our paper bag mushrooms sitting in front of a light pink background

With their wild and wonky, naturally misshapen forms, mushrooms make fantastic subjects for sculptural investigation. Recreating natural elements with common supplies is a favorite preoccupation of mine, and I found a gem of a crafting material in paper bags!

Believe it or not, a brown paper lunch bag, scrunched and softened, can create the most amazingly expressive, graceful structures. After some up-close mushroom observation and a bit of sculpting experimentation, we were able to bring a whole glade full of spongey, organic fungi to life!

Play the quick tutorial video below to watch the easy process!

From snowy, showy flat-tops dotted with bright spots of color, to petite cone-shaped toadstools, you can create an incredible variety!

A close-up of one of our paper bag mushrooms

I plan on using these lovelies to decorate our dining room table this November, so warm, earthy harvest-inspired colors seemed just the ticket, but you can pick a palette that speaks to your season.

Whether you’re creating mushrooms that mimic specific species found in nature or coming up with your own funky fungi, you’re guaranteed to make some amazing discoveries (and impress yourself with your mushroom-making skills!) as you work through this charming little sculpting project.

For another woodland paper bag craft you can make alongside these for a full forest floor, drop by the tutorial for our paper bag acorns.

To make your own paper bag mushrooms you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • A Paper lunch bag
  • Scissors
  • A Stick
  • Craft glue or a glue gun
  • Air dry clay/playdough, or…
  • Scrap fabric, pebbles/rice, and twine

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

  • Tempera/acrylic paint or gesso
  • A paintbrush or foam brush
  • Sticker dots
  • Paint sticks or paint pens

How to Make Paper Bag Mushrooms – DIY Instructions:

  1. Roll up a paper bag

    Open your paper bag, and starting from the top, gently roll inward until you get to the bottom.
    rolling up a paper bag to make a paper mushroom cap
    Note: to make this easier for little hands or to make smaller more delicate mushrooms, you can trim off a quarter or even half of the paper bag before rolling.

  2. Form the rolled bag into a mushroom cap shape

    I think the secret to great pillowy mushroom caps is to really dig into the crunching up of the paper bag (and who doesn’t love a good crush)! Knead around the end of your rolled-up bag until it’s been shaped into a mushroom cap form.
    crunching a paper bag to make a paper mushroom cap
    Mushrooms come in all shapes in sizes – some caps are flat, while others make a deep dome. You can reference pictures or just play with the shape until you get something you like the look of!

  3. Paint the mushroom cap (optional)

    You can add some variety to your cluster of mushrooms by painting a few of the caps with acrylic paint, tempera paint, or gesso (a thick white paint).

    Once you’ve made the basic form, paint the top of your mushroom cap, then let it dry. You can speed up drying time by using a hairdryer if you want to keep the project moving along!

  4. Find a good stick to use as a stem

    Fat sticks and branch cuttings from small bushes make wonderful mushroom stems. Pick out a good one and trim the edges to create a flat end if necessary.

    Hard to find sticks where you are? You can use a wooden craft dowel instead. Or twist 3-4 pipe cleaners together, fold them in half, then wrap them with another paper bag (or the trimmed scrap).

  5. Add a bottom to help your mushroom stand up

    We created a couple of different types of bases for our mushrooms and you can use either depending on what you have around or the style you prefer.
    adding a base to our paper bag mushroom stick stem
    You can form air-dry clay around the bottom to make a base that will allow your mushroom to stand on its own. Or stick them right into a mound of playdough.

    You can also use a square of scrap fabric to make a weighted bundle. Put a handful of small pebbles, rice, or similar on the fabric, then pull the sides up around the stick and tie it with twine.

  6. Glue the paper bag mushroom cap on

    Using craft glue or a hot glue gun, add a dab of glue to the top of your stick and pop the mushroom cap on.
    gluing the cap on our paper bag mushroom stick stem

  7. Add details

    Finish up your mushrooms with details to give them a bit of character. We added spots of color to some of our mushroom caps using round office supply stickers and small sticker dots.
    adding white sticker dots to the cap of our paper bag mushroom
    You can use paint sticks or pens, scrap paper, or other decorative art and craft supplies you have around.

Like stumbling upon a magical corner of an enchanted fairy forest, aren’t they?

If you and your kiddos are into tactile stuff, the making of these mushrooms is going to be RIGHT up your alley. From scrunching and crumpling the paper bags into mushroom caps to molding or mounding up a base, this is a totally satisfying (yet fairly simple!) process. And I remain astonished at how expressive and elegant a brown paper lunch bag can be!

A group of our paper bag mushrooms sitting on a wood slice in front of a white background

For a mammoth mushroom variation, you can use a brown paper grocery bag and the cutting from a branch. Or go COLOSSAL with a roll of kraft paper or a brown paper leaf bag.

Three of our paper bag mushrooms sitting in front of a light pink background

Our mushrooms ended up being the perfect size to use with our set of handmade fairy peg dolls, and would make a wonderful kid-crafted play accessory for any woodland small-world theme.

One of our peg doll fairies standing among a group of paper bag mushrooms and leaves

Using these for a miniature play setup or on a nature table? Learn how to prep outdoor nature supplies for indoor play (and why it’s important) before you sit down for your next nature play session. For more fall nature-inspired activities, visit our collection of loose parts leaf play ideas, or make a cardboard toadstool gnome home from recycled supplies.

Three of our paper bag mushrooms sitting in front of a light pink background

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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