Make: A Play Dough Fairy Forest Nature Play Invitation

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 friend’s “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.

Our kids fairy forests made with playdough and flowers sitting in front of a light pink background

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 plants from our own garden, then came back in to experiment with this natural playdough project…

Looking for more fun ways to get creative outside? Recycle your into hammered nature art (a crazy fun process!) or make your own DIY sidewalk paint potions for a downright *magical* sidewalk art experience. Or visit our epic collection of outdoor summer play ideas!

To create your own playdough fairy forest nature 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.
Flowers, pinecones, and leaves collected from the garden for a nature play invitation.
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.

Layout 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 supplies needed for our playdough fairy forest nature play invitation.


The process of pushing the paper straws into the playdough and filling them with foliage comes so naturally to kids.
Kids will have fun making these lovely play dough and paper straw forests with supplies from the garden! A naturally wonderful way to practice fine motor skills with sensory play.
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!

Our kids fairy forests made with playdough and flowers sitting in front of a light pink background

More garden and nature-inspired playdough play ideas…

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 enchanting DIY fairy greenhouses – whimsical, dressed-up egg carton seed starters for kids!

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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