We all know it’s good for our kids to be outside in nature. And today, I am excited to share one of the most addicting nature activities with you.
Earth Art is one of my go-to activities with the children in my nature classes and camps as well as with my own two kids (2 and 5).
Children are mesmerized as they watch me transform a pile of items from nature into marvelous pictures and designs. Their hands begin to fidget and their eyes wander in search for their own materials.
I have learned to keep the introduction short and share only three important rules:
- Children are allowed to gather materials that are laying on the ground.
- If they want to pick a flower or leaf, they may take some if there are lots of flowers or leaves.
- We never pick anything of which there is only one.
If you don’t have enough materials in your own backyard, head out to a park or nature preserve to gather your nature treasures.
Wondering what exactly Earth Art is? Let me explain…
Earth Art is the creation of images and structures using only materials from nature. Andy Goldsworthy is one of the most well-known artists and his work is simply awe-inspiring. It’s one of those things you never get tired of looking at.
When I introduce children to the concept of Earth Art I show them a few pictures of Andy Goldsworthy designs and other artists to get the kids inspired and the creative juices flowing. I have found that it works best to limit either the number of materials (e.g. only rocks and sticks) or the number of design ideas to 1 or 2. More than that and children get too overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
The beauty of earth art is that you can do it almost anywhere in nature…your yard, the playground, the beach or hiking at a nature preserve. AND you don’t need to do any preparation or buy materials. What mom doesn’t love that, right?
Ready to get started?
6 Earth design ideas your child will love
1. Caterpillars, Snakes and Worms
This basic form is ideal for toddlers but also a good way to get started for older children. Use any materials you can find. Rocks, sticks, pine cones, seashells, nuts…you name it. Some toddlers love the gathering of materials more than creating the snake or worm, while others could sit there for hours adding rocks to their caterpillar. Wind them around trees, along paths or see who can make the longest.
2. Faces and People
For this variation, I like to use as many different materials as possible. Flowers and grasses add a colorful touch, while pebbles and sticks are ideal for creating the basic shape of the face. Before you know it you will have an entire family and your child may even want to add a body, arms and legs.
3. Pizza and Pie
This works well for multiple children. Gather 3 or 4 longer sticks and cross them in the middle or use 6 or 8 shorter ones that meet in the center. Then ask everyone to find one item from nature and fill one section of the pizza with it.
4. Letters and Words
Older preschoolers and school-aged children enjoy this variation a lot. It is best done with smaller items such as twigs, pebbles, nuts, or seashells. Design only the first letter of a name or the entire name. Older children can also spell out entire messages.
5. Pictures and Stories
Toddlers will delight in simple designs such as flowers, animals or even a snowman. Older children often start with a simple object and then continue adding more elements weaving everything together into a story. Storytelling is powerful skill to have for children of any age (and adults) and doing it in nature gives your child a major brain boost.
You may be familiar with mandalas through drawing and coloring but they are also a beautiful foundation for working with nature. Start with the center and work outward in a symmetrical pattern. Everyone can create their own design or you can work together as a family, taking turns adding more and more layers.
Now, it’s your turn.
Gather. Imagine. Create.
Noreen Greimann helps parents take the stress and guilt out of modern parenting with her Back-to-the-Basics approach. Download her FREE guide “The 5 Non-Optional Elements of Childhood” at Entangled Harmony, which encompasses 20 years of her experience coaching families to successfully live the lives they truly want. Noreen runs a nature program for children in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, two kids and several colonies of honeybees on an acre filled with gardens, tree forts and fairy houses.