Make: Creative Creature Soft Sculpture Art for Kids

It’s aliive, it’s ALLLIIVEEE…and it’s…SQUISHY! Meet the latest additions to our kids’ art project family…imaginative soft sculpture art creatures made from recycled supplies! The outlandish beasts of Hieronymus Bosch meet the soft sculptures of Claes Oldenburg with this project that invites kids to explore form and texture, while turning the ordinary into the fantastical.

From our SUPER simple plastic bag family of Bleep-Bloops, to the more elaborate painted & stuffed Xylo, a visitor from the yet-to-be-discovered neighboring planet Zaph – these stuffed creatures are showing off a variety of ideas you can use to create your own soft sculptures. Heads up: you are *absolutely* going to want to try making this painted paper bag “creature cloth” – it feels like soft canvas and looks like dragon skin and it’s already given me 101 project ideas…

Four of our soft sculpture art creature kids projects standing in front of a white background.

Like almost ALL of the projects, I share here, our creatures are pure inspiration to help you re-envision ways you incorporate everyday objects in art processes with kids (or for yourself…or as a family!). So rather than go through all the steps to help you recreate these specifically, I’ve laid out the *foundational* processes for both of these sculpture sets, along with a list of every supply used to make them.

Speaking of supplies, this project presents a wonderful opportunity to go on an at-home art supply scavenger hunt. Take a tour of the house with a fresh eye. What do you have laying around – in a box, in a drawer, on a shelf – that’s ripe for a creative repurpose? For years, I have kept a “bag of bags” and as you’ll see, they came in handy when making our Bleep-Bloops.

One of our soft sculpture art creature kids projects standing in front of a white background.

Beyond the supplies, this art invitation is an exploration of texture and form. And every result produces scads of creative fantasy world-building + character storytelling opportunities. You better believe the first thing I did after finishing up Xylo here was ask them for their backstory. Turns out, they love astronomy, the sound of hiccups, playing Mario Kart, Icelandic film, and eating tennis balls. Truly an absolute DELIGHT of a creature.

If you’ve been looking for a unique kids sculpture project that’s literally *stuffed* with imaginative creation, media exploration, and texture investigation, you’re going to love this one!

For more Halloween-ish recycled art fun, collage scraps of paper on upcycled plastic containers to make a set of fab (and functional!) monster treat pails, or explore mark-making with some scrap paper ghost art.

To make your own soft sculpture art creature you can use:

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

BASIC FORM SUPPLIES:

  • Plastic bags
  • Brown paper bags
  • Scissors
  • A low-temp glue gun (like this), craft glue, a stapler, or a hole punch + twine
  • Tempera or acrylic paints and foam brushes

STUFFING SUPPLIES:

  • Polyfill or similar
  • Newspaper
  • Paper or plastic bags
  • Old dishtowels or rags

DECORATIVE SUPPLIES:

  • Googley eyes, pom poms, buttons, or feathers
  • Pipe cleaners, floral wire, or paper straws
  • Battlecaps, plastic lids or other small recycled items
  • Paint pens, stickers, scrap paper
  • Sticks, bark, or other nature supplies
  • Mesh produce bags, felt, or scrap fabric
  • Old t-shirts, tights, towels, etc.
  • Yarn, ribbons or rafiia

DIY Kids Creature Soft Sculpture Art Instructions:

  1. Gather your supplies

    Which items in your recycling bin right now are perfect creature features hidden in plain sight? Peruse your home for some of the supplies listed above, or get creative with other materials you’ve found around!
    Gather paper or plastic bags to make the soft sculpture body forms.
    We started our own soft sculptures with a brown paper bag and a variety of plastic bags.

  2. Paint a crushed and softened brown paper bag

    Here’s an incredibly handy creature-making tip: a hand-crinkled brown paper bag that’s been painted with a few colors of paint has the coolest dinosaur-like texture. Softened after a little kneading plus a coat of paint, this bag actually feels more like canvas than paper. I’m calling it “Creature Cloth” and it’s A-MAZING.
    The painted brown paper bag we used as a form for our soft sculpture creatures
    I softened the brown paper bag by wadding it up into a ball, unfolding it, wadding it again…repeating the process until it had lots of great texture and it felt pliable. Next, I laid the crinkled bag out flat, squeezed a few different hues of green acrylic paint directly onto the bag, and painted it with a foam brush – mixing the paints right on the surface. Let dry for about half an hour (or for a fifteen-minute dry time, hit it with a hairdryer).

  3. Glue three sides of the bag together and fill it with newspaper

    You can easily create a body form for your creature by hot-gluing or stapling three sides together and filling it with newspaper, more wadded brown paper bag pieces, shredded paper, plastic bags, or similar.

    Tip: Rather not use a glue gun or stapler? You can use a hole punch to cut a series of small holes along the edges of your paper bag, then bind them together by threading twine through the holes (like a large-scale sewing project).
    Glue or staple the paper bag together on three sides and fill with newspaper.
    Finish stuffing and close up the last side of the form. Once completed, the “body” form is soft enough to squish around a bit. You can turn it on a side, lay it flat – it’s completely up to you!

    OR, you can leave a portion of a side open as I did. I found the opening made the perfect mouth, but you could leave small openings to use for an eye, an ear, or other creature features!

  4. Try using plastic bags stuffed with polyfill (or more plastic bags!)

    A painted plastic bag stuffed with a polyfill-packed plastic bag is the foundational form for our second set of soft sculpture creatures. No need for scissors or glue! Just stuff one plastic bag with polyfill (or any stuffing you like) tie up with a rubber band, and stuff it into another plastic bag. This is SO simple, but totally effective and makes beautifully squishy sculptures.
    A painted plastic bag and a polyfill-packed plastic bag sitting on a white background.
    The painting process for the plastic bag was also spectacularly fun (and wonderfully messy – fair warning!). I squeezed a few colors of paint directly into the bag, squished it around with my hands until the inside of the bag was covered, flipped the bag inside out, and laid it over a shoebox to dry (paint side out). It only takes a quick squeeze of each paint color, and the feel of it squidging around in the bag…soooo wonderful.

Although the actual construction of our little plastic bag family of Bleep-Bloops is rather simple and straightforward, there is SO much fun to be had in kneading the sculptures around to change their postures. Working the soft forms with your fingers to give them their own personality really brings them to life. Beyond manipulating the soft form, moving the position of the eyes and pipe cleaner antennae totally changed the character of each of our own creatures too.

There is definitely an extremely satisfying tactile element to this project that I like to think of as “advanced” sensory play – appreciated at any age!

Four of our soft sculpture art creature kids projects standing in front of a white background.

This is an art and storytelling project process that’s replete with good instructional questions…

  • How can you move your creature to make it look timid, curious, sad, protective, confident, etc?
  • What words would you use to describe each of these creatures?
  • How can you make each of your creatures different from one another?
  • Are your creatures a family? What visual clues can you add to help to indicate that this is a family?

More than ANYTHING this soft sculpture art project is about trying something new and playing with the materials. Soft sculpture was a new thing for me, and I have to tell you…I had more fun with these than…well, honestly, just about any project I’ve made so far – totally unexpected!


*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 Amazon 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!

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Amanda E.
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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