The weather is finally starting to look and feel like spring! I teach outdoor education and everyone was eager to get outside today and explore, and be in, the fresh air. We decided to do some easy outdoor nature art for kids and this activity was perfect!
I teach over 100 3-6 year olds every day and love doing hands-on activities with them. They are always engaged and excited when our activities are active and especially when they are outside.
I wanted to get the children outside and enjoying nature. So, we started these outdoor art ideas by going on a nature hunt.
You don’t need a lot of materials for this nature art. The main thing you will need is modeling clay. There are lots of different kids of clay available, I suggest using air dry. (Link to air dry modeling clay available at bottom of post.)
- Modeling Clay
- Paint Brushes
Outdoor Nature Art
We walked around our school yard and everyone found a few natural items that they loved. You can use anything from pinecones and pebbles to leaves and twigs.
I then handed out a cube of clay to everyone and they made it into a flat, pancake like shape. Ideally, the clay will be about 1cm thick (1/3 of an inch).
If your clay is a bit dry and has cracks, you can use a bit of water to create a smooth surface without cracks or prints.
Smoothing with a bit of water before doing the print is also a great idea in order to simply start with a smooth surface.
You could also use cookie cutter would also work to create a beautiful shape. I suggest placing the clay on a small sheet of paper because when you press the nature item into the clay, the clay may stick to whatever it is set on.
You can use one or many items from nature to make your clay art. Some children used the natural items to create a picture by stamping lots of items onto the circle.
Once you have your pancake like piece of clay and items from nature, it is time to press your nature items into the clay.
It can be tricky to get a great print. It is best to press the nature items hard enough that they leave an indent, but not too hard that they go through the clay.
Sometimes leaves are challenging to be able to get a print from. If you flip the leaf so that the ‘veins’ press into the clay, it will leave a more defined print.
Once you have pressed the item from nature into the clay, remove the item. If the print does not seem deep enough, try to line the nature item up to where you first pressed it and press it again.
My young students did an amazing job! Everyone’s print was different and unique because they used items that they chose from nature.
Some children even selected a favourite stone and then created a border by pressing their stone into the clay.
This outdoor art idea was a perfect opportunity to be outside and incorporate nature into our activity and learning.
After Creating Your Print
Once you have pressed your nature items into your clay, you are done for the day. The clay needs to dry overnight so that it is hard.
One thing that is not ideal with the clay is that it is a bit fragile once it is dry and will need to be placed in a safe spot. Making sure that they clay is at least 1 cm thick would have prevented a lot of the breaks.
Part of me really loves the natural clay look for nature art; however, several of my students mentioned that they really wanted to paint it, so we got out the paints.
You choose if you want to add paint to your prints!
I love when an activity leads in a different direction based on children’s ideas and interests. They loved using the colourful paints.
Children took their time painting their clay prints and adding details how they wanted.
If I were to do this activity again, I would aim to create this nature art just before a special occasion, such as Mother’s Day and use it as a homemade gift. They all turned out so beautifully.
Children were really excited to share their creations with their parents and they were so proud of their nature art.
Another nature art idea that I later tried at home with this art project, was creating a small hole in the top of each clay circle. A straw works really well for making the hole.
Once you have the hole in the clay, and it dries, it becomes almost like an ornament. You can hang a child’s creation in a window or a special, safe, place. Imagine having a class set hanging in a classroom! Beautiful!
To add a bit to this nature art, you could challenge children to find 3, or more, different nature items to press into their clay circle. This encourages them to carefully chose materials that work together and create a great picture.
Another option, is giving children a larger piece of clay. Again, since the clay is fragile when it dries, you have to be careful, but a large plate sized clay with prints would create an amazing piece of nature art to have on display.
The clay also works well for activities inside. You can create fossil like prints when learning about dinosaurs, or even stamp letters of the alphabet that children can paint, to create a beautiful alphabet line.
For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you are looking for more hands-on activities to do with kids, either inside or out, below are some of my most popular and favourite! Kids will love the sensory experience as they learn and explore.