Amazing Outdoor Art Projects

Plaster Plaques
Take advantage of a summer's day by inviting your kids and their pals to get wildly creative. Read on for simple ideas that offer an artsy afternoon in the great outdoors. Rinsing off with the hose afterward only adds to the fun!
Gretchen Easton
Gretchen Easton

Pop Art

Make a big mess and get a MoMA-worthy art project in the process. Splatter paint never looked so good! Splats, dribbles, and drips of color are what abstract expressionism is all about. This style of art was founded in the United States in the 1940s as a way to convey emotions without relying on a specific subject or object. Artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline painted with energy and seeming randomness to put their thoughts and emotions onto canvas.

What You'll Need: Drop cloth or old sheet, blank canvas, nontoxic craft paint, plastic cups, 5-inch balloons, turkey baster, balloon pump, painter’s tape, bamboo skewer or plastic fork

What To Do:

1. Dress the kids in goggles and either old clothes or smocks, and head to an outdoor workspace. Lay down a drop cloth or old sheet; place the canvas in the center. Slightly thin the paint with water in plastic cups, using a separate one for each color.

2. Stretch the balloons as if you were about to blow them up. Using the baster, suck up the paint-water mixture, and insert the tip into the balloon. Squirt in as much paint as you can in one squeeze. Remove the baster.

3. Pinch the neck and insert the balloon pump. Pump quickly to fill the rest of the balloon. Tie closed.

4. Repeat with additional balloons. Using small pieces of painter’s tape, randomly attach the balloons to the canvas to vary the colors.

5. Invite the kids to pop the balloons with a bamboo skewer or a plastic fork. (Warning: This is messy!) While the paint is still wet, remove all the balloon pieces and the painter’s tape. The kids can swirl together colors to make different hues and brushstrokes if they’d like!

6. Let the canvas dry completely. Hang as art, or add another layer of popped balloon splatters to complete. 

Tip: Color-code your balloons so you know which paint color is in each!

Photograph by Kim Lowe
Photograph by Kim Lowe

Pool Painting

This activity lets you turn the kiddie pool into an impromptu art lab. Kids can experiment by working with balls of different sizes, textures, and heft, from golf to playground.

Tape a large piece of white or kraft paper to the bottom of a plastic kiddie pool. Dip a ball in a bowl of washable tempera paint and drop it into the pool. Have the artists hold the edge of the pool and tilt it to roll the ball. Add more balls dipped in different colors. When the artwork is considered finished, remove the paper and let it dry. Fill the pool with water and add a few squirts of hand or body wash, then let the kids climb in and get clean.

Good Tip: Use the kids' artwork for collage projects or wrapping presents.

Photograph by Kim Lowe
Photograph by Kim Lowe

Mega Collage

After the kids make this kaleidoscope of colors, hang it in your home as a reminder of the lazy, creative days of summer.

Start with a piece of poster board or a large stretched canvas. Mix a solution of 1/2 cup craft glue and 1/4 cup water. Have your child draw a large, simple shape in pencil on the poster board, then brush some glue mixture on part of the drawing, attach tissue paper squares, and brush a coat of glue over them. Repeat until the shape is covered. To avoid drips, dry the collage flat.

Good Tip: Choose a windless day for this project (unless you want to decorate the whole neighborhood!).

Photograph by Kim Lowe
Photograph by Kim Lowe

Drip Pots

Filled with flowering plants, these colorful pots make charming gifts for friends and family. Plus, the process is simply mesmerizing.

Prepare clay pots by covering the drainage holes on the inside with masking tape. Place each pot upside down on a protected surface. Have kids use squirt bottles to drip different colors of acrylic paint onto the pots until it trickles down the sides. After the pots have dried completely (allow at least 24 hours), remove the tape. For a more finished look, paint each pot's inside rim.

Good Tip: Acrylic paint is vivid and water-resistant, which makes it great for painting pots -- but it's not washable. Try not to get it on clothes and shoes.

Photograph by Kim Lowe
Photograph by Kim Lowe

Spatula Splatterfest

For pure tactile fun, this project can't be beat. Just hand over the spatulas and watch your children wait, spring-loaded, to smack the paint-soaked sponges.

Cut kitchen sponges into small pieces (about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches). Scatter them on top of poster board sheets laid on a drop cloth or the ground. Squeeze different colors of washable tempera onto the sponges and give each child a spatula. Have the artists whack the sponges to create paint streams and splatters. Let the finished artwork dry flat.

Good Tip: You don't have to sacrifice your spatulas for this project -- they'll clean up fine with dishwashing detergent and warm water.

Photograph by Kim Lowe
Photograph by Kim Lowe

Icy Art

This is one cool activity. As the ice melts, the paint drips away, leaving a fresh blank canvas.

Fill plastic containers (we used food-storage boxes) with water and freeze. On a hot day, bring the containers outside, let them warm up, and release the ice. Using brushes and cups filled with washable tempera, kids can have chilly fun swirling and blending colors on the blocks until the ice has all melted.

Good Tip: Put the ice blocks on the grass and hose it down afterward. The washable paint won't harm your lawn.

Watch how to make plaster relief plaques, as featured in the June/July 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

For open-ended, hands-on fun, nothing beats messing with plaster. Kids will love the process of pressing cool doodads into clay, using foil to create a simple mold, and pouring in plaster of Paris.

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