Outdoor Activity: Fun Nature Art Projects

5 simple projects transform an ordinary walk into an artistic adventure.

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Explore, Collect, Create

Alexandra Grablewski

Explore, Collect, Create

With these three words as your guide, your family can experience the outdoors in a whole new way. Making nature art encourages kids to investigate the world around them and adds an extra element of fun to a hike on the trail or a walk in the park. You'll also have the pleasure of leaving a whimsical surprise for another family to discover -- or for your kids to seek out on a return visit. On the following slides, you'll find quick tips and open-ended inspiration for an outing that ends with a natural masterpiece.

Get Set:
Before your outing, consider these helpful tips and review them with your kids.

  1. Be kind. When collecting materials, aim to minimize your impact on habitats and the ecosystem. Picking up a fallen leaf from the ground is better than plucking one from a tree.
  2. Be careful. Keep an eye out for plants that might be prickly or poisonous.
  3. Choose your site wisely. Seek out and be sure to follow the rules of public and private land. Create your installation where others can see it, but where it won't block trails or paths.
  4. Bring a camera or phone so you can snap a picture.
  5. Go back. Land art isn't meant to last forever, but it's fun to return and see how your project has changed over time.

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Creative Creatures

Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Creative Creatures

Using found materials to make animals of all sorts can be especially fun for kids. Here's a dragonfly we fashioned from fallen leaves, a milkweed pod, acorns, sticks, and more. Your crew might assemble an insect, a snake, or even a creature drawn from your child's imagination.

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Rockin' the Walk

Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Rockin' the Walk

Here's a fun scene for other hikers to stumble upon. Arrange faux feet made of stones (or other materials, such as twigs or leaves) as if they're ambling along a path or into water.

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Stick Together

Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Stick Together

Have everyone in the family make one of these natural totems, then set them up as a group. Simply thread leaves onto sticks or twigs in interesting patterns, then push the sticks into the ground.

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Art of Reflection

Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Art of Reflection

For this optical illusion, find a shallow body of water with a soft bottom, such as sand. Play with the placement of your sticks so that their reflections complete a design, as shown. No water nearby? You can get a similar effect from the shadows of sticks set in an open expanse of sand or dirt.

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Nature Mandalas

Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Nature Mandalas

Think big (a clearing) or small (atop a boulder or log) when planning this project. You can incorporate just about any material, but using a circle as your shape makes it easy for kids to form and repeat a pattern. To assemble the piece, have them start in the center and work outward. Varying colors and textures adds visual contrast and encourages investigation and discovery.

Originally published in the September 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.