Arts & Crafts,  Creative Play Ideas,  Imaginative Play,  Learning through Play,  Nature Play

Easy Nature Crafts For Toddlers Who Love To Explore

Does your child love to collect things?

As a child I loved walking along the beach collecting shells for my sandcastle building efforts (Not that I was very good at it!)

My children love collecting stones in their pockets…

And we never quite know what to do with them – they generally end up in a pile in the garden!

But what if your little explorer could put their finds to good use?

These toddler nature crafts are inspired by all those items children collect and put them to good use and make beautiful creations along the way!

Become Nature Activity Explorers

All these activities are great to get kids exploring nature – toddler nature crafts are great for little ones to encourage them to take notice of their surroundings – these toddler nature crafts are made using just pine cones and shells which you can go and find for yourself

Where possible take yourself to the beach and go find the shells, or go for a woodland walk and collect a selection of pine cones – you don’t have to stop there though, things like acorns, twigs, leaves, sticks, wild flowers, pebbles, are all make for great nature play activities – perhaps go armed with a basket your child can carry to fill the basket up for later in the day – the more involved the child is in the collecting the more engaged they are likely to be with the activity!

Play dough Toddler Nature Crafts

We love using play dough and there are so many loose parts that can be used to enhance play (for a full list checkout this post on playdough loose parts)

These ideas use just shells and pine cones to create some really simple and fun play dough creatures

Play dough Snails

What you’ll need:

  • Shells – we chose to use shells shaped like a snail shell but you could try using lots of different shapes! As we created this during COVID we weren’t actually able to get to the beach to find some shells to we got a package of Mixed Sea ShellsΒ from Amazon.
  • Googly Eyes – because every invitation to play need these -And they really do bring playdough creatures to life!
  • Small twigs – These make for the perfect snail antennae
  • Play dough – Brown play dough is not something we have a lot of and I really wanted a more natural pale brown colour, so I grabbed some of our white playdough that we already had, and added a very small amount of cocoa powder to it! And I absolutely love how it turned out! (Don’t add too much as from experience when making play dough it tends to make it a bit sticky)

These are so easy to make and are great for developing fine motor skills

– Roll the play dough into a sausage

– Flatten the head a bit between the thumbs

– Pinch the tail to make thinner at the end

– Add facial features – we chose to add eyes and antennae as the most obvious

– Add the shell to the sails back and there you have it, your very own snail!

– Maybe get him a leaf to sit on too πŸ™‚

Toddler Playdough Creatures

Play dough Hedgehogs

What you’ll need:

  • Pine cones – We used large pine cones to make our hedgehogs that we picked up on a walk, but we have seen lots of mini pine cones that would make very cute miniature hedgehogs (although a bit more tricky for very small hands)
  • Googly Eyes – again, bringing little creatures to life!
  • Black Buttons – We found that black buttons made for a great little nose, but maybe look out for something on your nature walk that you could use instead?
  • Play dough – again we used the same method as above with white playdough and a very small amount of cocoa powder

Again these are really straightforward to create, making them the perfect nature crafts for toddlers and preschoolers

– This time roll a ball of playdough for the head and then roll thinner at one end to create a sort of cone shape and add this to the flatter end of the pine cone

– Roll 4 small balls of dough for the feet – and then roll them into mini sausage shapes and sit the pine cone with head on top

– Add facial features – we added googly eyes again and a small black button nose to finish the face off

– And just like that your little one has made a hedgehog friend for their snail πŸ™‚

Alternative Playdough Toddler Nature Crafts

The toddler nature crafts we have created are just two examples of how you can use nature with playdough but there are lots more ways to play, here are some other ideas:

Playdough nature creatures


Bumble Bee – Using a black pebble you could add yellow strips of play dough to make a fun bumble bee and add some petals for wings and of course a googly eye!

Butterfly – We made a simple butterfly using a twig as the body and added some symmetrical patterns to the wings

Teddy Bear – We used a mini pine cone to create this cute little teddy bear using some tiny twig pieces for features and some different colour playdough for the paws

Leafy Tree
– We also created a playdough tree using a chunky twig which we planted in a ball of dough and then we used play dough to attach leaves to the tree πŸ™‚ It was quite effective and something I think would work great for small world play areas!

Toddler Nature Crafts : Painting Nature

These next couple of ideas just involve shells, pine cones, and some paint!

Some of the simplest crafts are often the most beautiful and these toddler nature crafts ideas are super simple but so much fun for little hands, and pretty too!

Shell Painting

Shell crafts

What you’ll need:

  • Shells – For these we used the Mixed Sea Shells from Amazon again and used a mixture of different shells for different effects
  • Glue Gun – we could not manage without our Mini Hot Glue Gun – it makes so many crafts quick and easy which is a big bonus with little ones!! (Obviously this is for you to use and not them!)
  • Log Slices – We love using these Fuyit Log Slices for many crafts and activities and they seemed like the perfect base for our shell painting (you can used any piece of wood or thick piece of card instead)
  • Paint – You can use whatever paint you have to hand – we used some blues and golden colours to replicate the seaside colours, but you could go wild and do a whole rainbow of colours if you wish!
  • Glitter – this is of course completely optional, but we love the added sparkle and finish the glitter gave to these

I love how these turned out – this is very much about the process but you can’t really help but create some beautiful designs!

– Let your little one choose the shells they want to use and then glue them on using the glue gun read for painting

– Invite your little one to paint how they wish πŸ™‚ Mix colours to create some lovely patterns!

– If you want to add glitter be sure to do this whilst the paint is still wet

– Leave to dry and then you have some lovely shell art that would make lovely decorations or gifts!

Pine Cone Painting

Pine cone crafts

What you’ll need:

  • Pine Cones – We collected of these on a recent walk and have been suing them for all kinds of activities since, but this has to be one of our favourites!
  • Paint & BrushesΒ – We used some acrylic paint for these but any paint is fine (use what you have) and a thick and thin paintbrush
  • Paint – You can use whatever paint you have to hand – we used some blues and golden colours to replicate the seaside colours, but you could go wild and do a whole rainbow of colours if you wish!
  • Glitter – again, optional!

This is probably one of the simplest toddler nature crafts to do, but it was so much fun and the effect is beautiful!

– Let your child select their pine cone and paint colour

– Put paint into a bowl big enough to dip the whole cone in (this really reduces the amount of mess and means less paint is wasted!)

– Use the big brush to cover the cone in paint (as well as rolling in the paint!) and the use a fine brush to get paint into the grooves

– If adding glitter you could do this when the paint is wet, or alternatively you could add some glue using a glue stick on the edges where you want the glitter to stick

– Leave to dry and then either hang up on a tree outside (if doing this you may want to spray some sealer to make them last longer) or use them as decoration in a bowl or as part of a small world play area πŸ™‚

Toddler Nature Crafts are a great way to encourage the exploration of nature – the above painting ideas only use shells and pine cones, but there are so many other natural items you could use – just take a look around your garden, or keep an eye out on a walk for nature with great potential!

We also love using leaves for toddler nature crafts ideas, check out this post on Leaf Activities for Toddlers for lots more ideas on nature play activities with your little ones

Toddler Nature Crafts Recap

  • Toddler Nature Crafts are a great way to encourage your little one to take notice of nature around them and to explore their surroundings
  • Playdough paired with natural loose parts make for great playdough creatures, including shell snails, and pine cone hedgehogs!
  • Painting pine cones and shells is also a really simple but fun toddler nature craft
  • Nature is full of opportunities for play, these are just a few examples, the possibilities are endless!

I hope you have lots of fun creating some nature art! Be sure to share your creations by tagging @MumsCreativeCupboard on social media!

Go be awesome nature explorers!

Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard