School will be out soon and that’s a great time to get outside with kids and gather materials for a few crafts using items from nature. Here are 5 ideas:
1. Pressed-leaf coasters. Gather a few thin leaves. Try fern fronds or English ivy leaves. You also can try blossoms of winter-blooming pansies. Press the leaves or blossoms in a heavy book until flat and dry.
Using inexpensive ceramic tile – we chose 4-inch-square white porcelain from Home Depot for just 16 cents each – glue felt or cork to the bottom. Hot glue guns work well here. Then paint a thin layer of Mod Podge on the top of the tile, lay on your leaf, and paint a second coat over top. Let this dry, and paint again. Last, spray the surface with clear acrylic sealer (we used Mod Podge glossy). Four of these, tied with ribbon, make a nice set for gift-giving.
2. Cranberry wreath. Here the produce aisle is your natural-materials source. Using heavy craft wire or a coat hanger that’s been unwound and stretched straight, thread on fresh cranberries. Small kids may have a bit of trouble with heavier coat hanger wire, but older ones shouldn’t have a problem. We bent our coat hanger into a circle first and threaded the berries around. Tie on a ribbon. The berries will eventually dry and shrivel, but should last a long time that way, too.
3. Dream catchers. If you’ve got English ivy in your yard, here’s a way to keep it under control and let the kids have fun at the same time. Pull long, slim vines of the ivy from your yard and strip off most of the leaves. Loosely wind the vine into a circle, tucking the loose ends under. Weave a free-form web across the circle with yarn, knotting it along the vine occasionally to secure it. Tie strands of yarn or thinner cord from the bottom and thread them with beads or other decorations. Young children also may enjoy making “nature crowns” to wear from twined ivy vines.
4. Treat tree for the birds and squirrels. Decorate an existing small tree in your yard or, just after Christmas, snag a tree someone’s put out at the curb. Decorate your tree with edibles wild creatures love. Older kids can string popcorn with needle and thread, or fresh cranberries.
Or make an ice ornament. Put an empty aluminum can in the center of a small plastic bowl and pour water into the bowl. Kids can drop birdseed or berries into the water. Then freeze the container. Run it under warm water to release the ice and you should have a rough wreath shape. Hang with yarn onto your outdoor tree. You can also make one big ice-treat wreath by freezing water in a bundt cake pan.
5. Nature-stamp wrapping paper. Kids can wrap gifts to teachers and friends in paper they made themselves. Gather thin butcher-type paper, ink stamp pads or tempera paints and objects from outdoors or the vegetable bin.
Ink stamp pads work well with stamps carved from half a potato or mushrooms cut in half, while leaves (vein side out) and feathers look good lightly brushed with paint.
And a few more ideas:
- Plant a terrarium. Tiny plants growing inside a bowl can create a minature garden of wonder for a child. Check with home improvement stores and nurseries for indoor plants. The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is hosting at least one seller of terrarium plants and supplies.
- Young children may enjoy making bark rubbings. Put a piece of paper against a tree trunk and rub it with the side of a peeled crayon. Compare the bark patterns of different trees.
- More an activity than a craft: Get kids outdoors with a nature scavenger hunt. Write down a short list of things for each child to find – like “something round,” “something with six legs,” “an abandoned bird nest,” “a mushroom” – and see who can discover the most. You can draw pictures of scavenger hunt items for children who aren’t yet reading.
- Create temporary outdoor art a la Andy Goldsworthy. This renowned British artist creates stunning ephemeral art outdoors using stones, leaves, ice and other materials. Go for a walk with children and try your hand at your own versions. Click here for inspiration.