Nature doll activity: why it’s good for children with disability, autism or other additional needs
A nature doll involves making a doll or animal using natural materials like sticks, seed pods and leaves.
Natural materials are stimulating and tactile, without being overwhelming. Making a nature doll encourages children with disability, autism or other additional needs to be resourceful, creative and imaginative with natural materials.
What you need to make a nature doll
For this activity, you can use things from around your home and local area:
- sticks, gumnuts or seed pods, and leaves or flowers
- string, rubber bands, wool, sticky tape or PVA glue.
Avoid small seeds and brittle natural materials that might be choking hazards. Product Safety Australia’s free, do-it-yourself Choke Check tool can help you identify toys and other objects that pose choking or ingestion hazards. And check information about dangerous plants before using leaves or flowers.
How to make a nature doll
Your child can make a doll or animal in any way they like. Here are some ideas:
- Attach a seed pod to the top of a stick to form a head. Attach a smaller stick cross-ways to make arms. Decorate with leaves or flowers for hair or clothes.
- Use string, sticky tape, rubber bands, wool or glue to hold the materials together.
- Attach 2 Y-shaped sticks to another stick to make the body and legs for an animal.
- Arrange leaves around a gumnut to make a lion’s mane.
- Plait or weave grass to make hair or clothes.
- Try making more than one nature doll, so your child can play with them and create stories and imaginative scenarios.
How to adapt a nature doll activity to suit children with diverse abilities
For children who have difficulty with fine motor skills, you could use larger and less delicate natural objects – for example, a pinecone instead of a small gumnut, or a large oak leaf instead of a petal. You could also help your child make the doll, following your child’s instructions and ideas for how they want it to look.
For children who find it difficult to organise and plan, you could draw or write simple instructions. For example:
- Choose a stick for the body.
- Choose a flower for the head.
- Glue the flower on the top of the stick.
For children who are shy or anxious, you can build their confidence by playing and ‘talking’ through the doll. For example, rather than asking the child about their doll, you could say to the doll, ‘What do you like to do?’ or ‘Can you dance? Will you show me?’
For children with restricted mobility, it can help to collect a range of materials beforehand and then let your child choose what to use.
Looking for more play and learning ideas for your child? You might like to explore our other activity guides. Some of these have been created for typically developing children, but they can all be adapted to suit children with diverse strengths and abilities.