Using Natural Materials in Play

Using Natural Materials in Play

Looking for some activities for February half term? Why not head outdoors with the family and then make some wonderful pieces of natural art with materials from your local park or woodlands.

We asked Forestry England to share some ways you can support your child to use colour, pattern, texture and sculpture to develop creative artworks using natural materials. These activities work best for children aged 5 — 11 but really, anyone can join in.

Animal art gallery

Discuss the different types of animals that might live in your outdoor setting. What animal does your child want to focus on today? Work together to collect four (or more) sticks to make a picture frame. Then, choose the perfect spot for their picture. Your child can prepare the ground by gently sweeping any leaf litter to one side. Then, lay the sticks on the ground to make a square or rectangular frame. Using natural materials collected from nearby, encourage your child to make a picture of their animal inside the frame. Use only what is on the ground already – don’t pick fresh plants or leaves. Older children can be encouraged to select materials that capture the characteristics of the animal they have chosen. Which materials would work well to express a fox’s bushy tail or a hedgehog’s prickly spines?

Exploring leaf shape

Next, see what different types of leaves you can find together. Once you’ve got a good selection, it’s time to record different shapes by making leaf rubbings. Place leaves with the veins uppermost between a piece of a paper and a clipboard. Hold a wax crayon flat on its side and rub it over the leaf. Cover the whole piece of paper with colourful rubbings. You could try bark rubbings as well. Leaf lacing is another great activity to try with your little one. For this, you need fresh leaves and small twigs. Overlap two leaves and push a small thin twig through both leaves at one end where they overlap. Then push the twig back through the other side. The twig will now hold the leaves together. Repeat with lots of leaves. Encourage your child to try different ways of arranging the leaves; in size order or varying colours. When you’ve got a string of leaves, hang them from a tree for others to enjoy.

Celtic circle

Ask your child if they’d like to work together to make a beautiful piece of art, in the style of Andy Goldsworthy, made from things you can collect. Find an attractive tree section or object to place in the circle centre. Can your child suggest something to make the first concentric ring around the object that you have placed in the circle centre? You’ll need several of the chosen items. Once they have placed their objects down, they should start thinking about the next layer. How about using scarce materials for the first few rings and more readily available materials for the larger outer rings? Build up contrasting rings for maximum effect.
The best thing about natural art is that it leaves no trace in the outdoor setting. As it’s not permanent, remember to take some photos to record your creative efforts! For more great ideas on learning activities to do with your children outdoors, visit Forestry England’s free resource hub.
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