Clay sculptures at the Just So festival

Here’s a fantastic outdoor art idea that makes great use of loose parts found in a forest: clay faces on tree trunks!

How to make clay sculptures

We’re excited to have been invited to attend the Just So festival again this year. The festival describes itself as ‘a magical weekend of creative adventures’ and one thing it does extremely well is engage children – adults too – in all sorts of art experiences out in the great outdoors. Here’s an idea from last year’s festival that you could try with your children: making clay sculptures.

The clay face workshops at the festival were run by Barefoot Ceramics, who gave all the children a warm welcome, some basic instructions and some super sensory clay – and then told them to find a tree and start creating!

The clay is a lovely, warm, tactile material which adheres to the bark of the tree and makes a great base for adding extra materials or drawing in. The children could easily squash and squeeze the clay to create a face. Some knew straight away what they wanted to make, others played with the clay until it began to form into a face of its own, and then they were away.

The forest floor provided a wealth of materials to add to the clay sculptures: sticks, fir cones, leaves, pine needles.

There must have been at least fifty clay faces on different tree trunks around the forest and every one of them was unique – children’s imaginations combining with the natural materials to create amazing outdoor art.

The clay stays malleable for a while, and throughout the weekend I saw children checking back to see that their clay sculptures were still on the tree trunks – making little changes and adding extra ingredients.

One thing I really love about the Just So Festival is that it engages everyone in creative play – from babies (who had their very own clay workshop) to adults. Here’s my clay sculpture. What to you think – friend or foe?

Do try this at home!

Of course you don’t have to be in a forest to make these clay sculptures, or even use clay – try making some with our easy play dough recipe.

If you like the idea of combining natural materials with clay or play dough, try this idea for flower play dough.

Or use the clay/dough for leaf printing. Or add sticks and make snowmen. Or raid the kitchen cupboards for natural materials and try some clay/ play dough mandalas.

More creative ways to use nature to inspire learning

Fill your year with hands-on, creative learning inspired by nature. Click through to see our Garden Classroom resource and get your free Garden Journal.

garden activities for kids cta


Disclosure: we were given free tickets to attend the Just So festival but all opinions are my own and I am happy to recommend the festival to you. You can still get tickets for this year’s festival.


  1. says

    This was certainly one of my favourite activities, and it was lots of fun looking at what everyone had created – there were some true masterpieces there!

    • Cathy @ NurtureStore says

      I don’t know Kirsty, as we’ve only ever made them and left them after a few days. Time to try them out at home I guess!

  2. Marianne says

    I love the creativity of this! Thank you so much for sharing :-). I’ve shared on my fb page and pinned. I cant wait to try it! Reminds me of a similar activity we used to offer in my reception class in the Autumn – Nature Walk pictures. We would go on a nature walk, and use what we collected to create a picture. The children always came up with such different ideas it was exciting to watch.

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