Nature Crafting with Children

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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Children love interactive projects and they love doing things with the adults in their lives. Engaging children in craft projects is a great way to connect with the children in your life. My personal favorites are nature crafts. They cost nothing or next to nothing, get children out of doors, encourage creativity, and help kids learn to appreciate the many different aspects of the natural world. Here are two nature craft projects that work well with both younger and older children.

Advance Preparation

For the nature collage, gather projects described below, gather the following supplies: white craft glue and/or hot glue gun and glue sticks; backing material (a rectangle of weathered wood siding or a piece of plywood suitable for display); picture hanging hardware (a simple hanger can be made with a pull tab and a carpet tack; for hefty pieces, use heavy-duty hardware); hammer; and natural materials, as indicated below.

For the seed picture, you will need the supplies listed above as well as the following: chalk or pencil and eraser; enough newsprint or butcher paper to cover work surface; spray shellac or similar protective spray, and natural materials, as indicated below.

Attach picture hanging hardware in the upper center of the back side before beginning your craft. Measure carefully so the finished product will hang straight.

Nature Collage

Grab a couple of paper bags and head out into the woods with your child. Together, seek out items that are relatively lightweight and have a surface which can be glued onto a backing: twigs, lichens, leaves, ferns, bits of bark and moss, small flat rocks, acorn caps, whatever. The more color and texture variation, the better.

Bits of lichen add textural and color interest to a nature collage.

Photo by Ron Wynn

Spread the findings on a table or other flat work surface, preferably outdoors (near an electrical outlet if using a glue gun). If items are damp, allow them to dry before working with them.

On the paper, draw an outline of the backing. Let your child arrange the nature findings as desired onto the paper. Once she or he is satisfied with the design, it can be transferred piece by piece to the backing and glued in place.

Note: Liberally applied hot glue works best for this project because of the texture and uneven surface of the natural materials. For safety reasons, if the child is young or inexperienced, you will need to apply the glue yourself. In any case, it is a good idea to hold each item firmly in place after gluing to ensure that it adheres well.

Allow to dry. The work is now ready to display.

Seed Picture

Creative placement of seeds, cones, and other natural objects results in a striking and lasting work of art. This seed picture, made by my aunt many decades ago, is still on display. Photo by Ron Wynn.

In advance of project, collect a variety of thoroughly dried seeds (corn, squash, sunflower, pea, okra), beans (different colors and shapes), grains (rice, millet, etc.), and other natural elements such as twigs, stems, lichens, and individual scales and horizontal sections of open pine cones. You can use seeds you’ve collected or you can purchase dried beans and grains from the grocery store and a variety of seed packets from a garden supply shop.

Spread materials on a table which has been covered with newsprint or butcher paper.

Let your child draw an outline of the backing piece onto a section of the paper and create a design. Consider a simple ‘floral’ arrangement, a landscape, or an animal face. The materials and your child’s imagination will be the guide.

Once the design is complete, your child can use chalk or a pencil to make a light sketch of the design on the backing piece, with your help if needed.

Now, the child can transfer and glue the pieces one by one onto their permanent backing, using a toothpick to guide them into position, if necessary. For small items like grains, spread glue onto the work surface and press the pieces into place. Craft glue is usually adequate for this project. Let dry.

Apply a coat of spray shellac over all and allow to dry before hanging.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, and modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog postshere. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


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