What If? Animals! – Bay Area Discovery Museum

What If? Animals!

Imagine a new creature, and use natural outdoor materials and clay to bring it to life! In this group activity, children flex their creative thinking and storytelling skills to create an animal and share it with others. Creating imaginary worlds can be predictive of creative potential.

Materials Required

  • Local natural materials (acorns, flowers, twigs, leaves, pine cones, etc.)
  • Clay
  • Wooden sculpting tools
  • Wooden rolling pin
  • Small cup or pitcher of water
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Tape


  1. Start by imagining a fantastical creature. Decide on its attributes. Consider these questions about the creature: What does the creature look like? What kind of body, arms, and feet does the creature have? What kind of habitat does it live in? Does it have special powers? What does it like to do? What does it like to eat?
  2. Look for and gather local natural materials to help create the fantastical creature.
  3. Set up a clean workspace. Tape the wax or parchment paper (enough so it won’t slip) onto the table of your workstation.
  4. Lay out all collected materials, tools, and clay. Start creating the creature. Small amounts of water can be used as a glue to stick different pieces of clay together or to make clay softer.
  5. Clay naturally lends itself to storytelling. While creating the creature, tell a story about the animal to a friend. Share the creature’s name, where it lives, its habitat. Describe how it uses its features.
  6. As the partner creates a creature, ask about its features and characteristics. Be open to modifying your creature.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Document the story about your creature by writing it down. Share the story with a friend.
  • Draw a picture of the creature and share it with friends or family.
  • As a small group, create a story that includes everyone’s creatures. Take turns adding details and ideas to the story.
  • Collect new materials and make another animal.

Links to Creativity

Constraints are helpful in developing creativity when they are increased gradually. At first, found materials can seem novel and inspiring. Over time, familiarity increases with these materials and our ability to be more creative with less occurs, which helps participants to be more imaginative with what is already around them. In fact, creating imaginary worlds and companions can predict creative potential.

Supporting research includes:

Hoff, E. V. (2005). Imaginary companions, creativity, and self-image in middle childhood. Creativity Research Journal, 17(2-3), 167-180.

Runco, M. A. (2014). Creativity: Theories and themes: Research, development, and practice (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see CenterforChildhoodCreativity.org.

©2014 Bay Area Discovery Museum.

What If? Animals!

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