Sticks & Stones: 5 Outdoor Craft Ideas for Kids

Crafting with natural materials provides a wonderful excuse to get outside and explore. (Plus, the supplies are free!) These rustic projects will inspire plenty of fresh-air activity as your kids search for the perfect rocks and branches to paint, wrap, weave, and arrange just so.

  • Mark Mantegna

    Tree Tapestry

    This weaving project looks lovely as a mobile, but you can also use it as a net for catching fairies. (Note: Results not guaranteed.)

    You'll need a sturdy, Y-shaped branch. To make the loom's warp (the strands that act as the foundation of the weaving), tie the end of a ball of yarn near the base of the branch's fork. Wrap the yarn once around one leg of the fork, then cross to the other leg and wrap the yarn once around it. Repeat, keeping the yarn fairly tight, until you reach the ends of the fork. Tie off the yarn.

    For the weft (the yarn you weave through the warp), thread a piece of yarn that's about five times the length of the branch into a plastic yarn needle. Tie the end of the yarn to the bottom-most thread of the warp. With the needle, pull the yarn in and out of the warp. It will seem a little strange at first because half the warp threads will be higher than the others -- just treat them as though they were flat. When you've used up the length of yarn, tie another piece to the end and continue weaving. When you're done, tie the yarn end to the warp or just tuck it into the tapestry.

  • Mark Mantegna

    Pebble Plaque

    This project starts with a trip outdoors to collect a basket of small, beautiful stones for an all-natural mosaic. Make sure the pebbles are clean and dry before you press them into the dough.

    When you have your pebbles, mix up the salt dough. Our recipe makes enough for three 6-inch-round plaques.

    You will need:

    3 cups flour

    1 cup salt

    1 1/4 cups water (plus up to an additional 1/4 cup, as needed)

    Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the ingredients together until a ball forms. If the mixture is still crumbly, add more water.

    Knead the dough until it?s smooth. Divide the dough into three balls. Place each ball on a piece of foil and flatten it into a disk. Press pebbles into the dough to create a design.

    Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Transfer the foil and dough onto a baking sheet. Bake the plaques for two hours, then let them cool completely. Check to see if any pebbles are loose; if so, remove them, add a drop of tacky glue, and replace them.

  • Mark Mantegna

    Stick Figures

    The designs of these wild creatures were partly inspired by animalitos, brightly-painted sculptures made in Oaxaca, Mexico.

    Find a fallen branch or stick with distinctive features, such as knots or forks. Clean the stick, and if the bark is loose, remove it. Cover the stick with white acrylic paint and let it dry. (The base coat will make your final colors much brighter.) Paint your creature. Add yarn hair and tails with tacky glue.

  • Mark Mantegna

    The Yarney Stone

    Wrap colorful yarn around smooth rocks to make artful objects that are satisfying to stack or simply to admire.

    Brush a ring of tacky glue around the middle of a clean rock. Starting from the center, wrap yarn around the rock, spiraling toward one end. Add more glue as you go. Repeat the process to cover the other half, again wrapping from the center to the end.

  • Mark Mantegna

    Rocky the Hedgehog

    You'll want just the right rock for this spiky guy. Ours is oblong and about 6 inches long. To protect your table from scratches, glue felt to the bottom of the stone. Brush a generous amount of tacky glue around the middle and press dry pine needles in it. The needles should point toward the tail of the hedgehog. Glue a second row of needles in front of the first, leaving a blank space for the face. For ears, glue on small pinecones or pebbles. Add a face with either black acrylic paint or a permanent marker.

    Originally published in the August 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine.