Fun Play Doh Crafts with Items from Nature!

Simple Play Doh Craft with Nature Items (that are super cute!)

Play-Doh is a great building material, which is why I love it for crafting and building with items from nature!

Like most other households, play-doh is a favorite in ours. However, like most households as well, we burn through a jar every couple of days because my toddler brings it EVERYWHERE.

If you are looking for fun sensory activities for preschoolers or toddlers, try this play doh animal creation with nature items! It's a perfect craft to do outside with the kids, and the sensory aspect will be fun and challenging! This is such an easy sensory activity to introduce, as most kids already love play-doh! This play doh craft will be sure to keep kids busy for awhile!

I’m talking stuck on the couch, mashed in the carpet, and some likely even ends up in his stomach (he takes the whole “pretend” food a little too seriously).

This is all in spite of the fact I tell him it is ONLY allowed in the kitchen!

With all this in mind, I’ve started to become a fan of play-doh being used only outside.

Not only is it mess free this way, but my toddler can feel free to stick whatever he wants into the play-doh!

While he might get yelled at for trying to stick his waffle into his play-doh in the house, outside he can use leaves, pinecones, sticks – whatever he likes!


Here’s a snippet of my toddler and I working on a play-doh and stick boat!


3 Easy Steps to Play Doh Crafting with Nature!

This craft is super easy and doesn’t take much time or materials to set up.

Play Doh is one of the items I keep on hand at all times while camping in my “Camping Craft Kit”, and it’s something you should always bring when traveling to entertain your kids!

If you are super mom, you could always make your own play-doh with this recipe! I might one day, but for now, I’m busy wrangling my three under 3 😛


P.S. If you want to check out all the beneficial reasons you should start bringing a Camping (or traveling, visiting etc) Craft Kit too, check out this article!

1. Get your play doh set up

I always have to pre-select the play doh for my toddler or else he goes wild picking 5 different colors. While that may have its applications, we are going to focus on using the imagination for this craft!

That might mean a green lion, or orange house… just get your jar ready!


2. Gather your nature materials

Depending on the age of your child, this could be a totally independent activity for them, guided, or it might just be easier for you to forage around yourself for some material.

My guy, being two, gets distracted pretty easily so I tend to find the nature items for him.

What are some good building materials for use with play doh?

I look for items that won’t fall apart (IE no small delicate flowers), are dry, and don’t have any residues such as sap.

Here are a couple of nature items I love to craft with!

  • pinecones
  • sticks broken into little pieces
  • leaves
  • stems
  • bark
  • rocks
play doh craft ideas for toddlers using items from outside
Some of the materials we used for crafting with Play Doh at one of our campsites! I usually hate flowers because they get too stuck in the play-doh, but my toddler insisted we use them!

3. Craft to your heart’s desire!

I like to ask my toddler what he wants to make and go from there.

For example, if he says a turtle, I kind of guide him to what materials we could use to make it look nice.

I try to be as non-intervening as possible – kids need to make mistakes, solve problems, etc – but I do guide him a little bit!

“A pinecone would make a good shell! Let’s find a pinecone” or something like that. Then he gets to pick the size and shape he wants.

I could then ask him how many legs a turtle has, and to pick something that is skinny and leg like.


stingray craft with play doh using leaves
“Grandma Stingray” from Moana. Most of the parents of young children who are reading this are probably over familiar with this movie. I still love it after 60 or 70 times though!

Why craft outside with your toddler?

Crafting has HUGE sensory benefits that include

  • Cognitive Development – This happens as they see the cause and effect of what they are doing. If they try to put a stick that is too big into the play-doh, it will fall down. They then need to problem solve and find a different stick that will work better!
  • Language Development and Increasing Social Skills – My toddler was a late talker, so I always tried my best to narrate EVERYTHING! Crafting outside is an easy way to do this that is out of the norm (we all get tired of narrating the laundry, dishes, and other familiar items). I can tell my toddler that we should find some more leaves and skinnier sticks to make his play doh dino, and that it would be faster to each find one thing. I could say “OK, I will find some sticks. Can you find some leaves you like for your dino?”
  • Increases Fine Motor Skills – It takes a lot of focus and skill to mount each rock in the play doh body of a cow, or the googly eyes onto a snake! Crafting outside is a super fun way to use different kinds of materials to create something unique!
  • An increase of Creativity – While toys bought at the store have a definite, obvious purpose, it takes a lot more imagination to figure out what a rock, a funky curved stick, or some moss could be!

There are tons more on the benefits of sensory play here! I also really love this in-depth guide to the Science of Sensory Activities!

What’s your coolest play-doh craft using items from outside?

I’d love to see them!

I have shown you some of mine – feel free to post or email yours so I can include them on this post!

cute play doh crafts for preschoolers
A turtle that turned more into a lizard, and a dino made from playdoh, sticks and leaves!


If you love crafts, you may be interested in these articles as well!

Pin This for your Bored Toddler Later on!


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