At Nature Makers we see nature art as three fold:
Creating art about nature/the natural world
Creating art with nature
Creating art in nature
You don’t have to combine doing all three nature art elements at the same time, though often it can involve this, but rather decide on what/how you will be creating through nature art and just have fun, there are no rules, so just see where it takes you.
Let's explore those elements further and discuss their benefits for you and your children.
Creating art about nature/the natural world:
This is how we bring an educational element into our classes and make it fun! Most children learn and retain information better if they process it through all of their senses. Art can enable this sensory learning to take place. I don’t just mean messy play either but most forms of art involve some degree of touch, sight, sound and even smell and through creating art children are developing other skills too such as fine motor, hand eye coordination and creativity. When they do this their brain is working hard, creating new connections and so when linking it with a natural world topic, such as space, insects or ponds, then the learning communicated about those natural world topics are also retained easier. If this knowledge is retained easier the result is a child that knows an amazing amount of information about nature. I know from our classes and from my own experience with my Son just how true this is when a 2 year old can tell me all about evaporation, or the butterfly life cycle. In knowing about the natural world you are also creating children that will care about the natural world, wanting to protect it and make it better because it becomes real for them and they can see the consequences of human actions. Often months later my Son would ask a question about something else and I might relate it to some art work that we did and he instantly remembers, it is a visual reminder of the learning that took place, whether you keep it on the fridge for years or not.
Creating art with nature
Sometimes referred to as ‘nature craft’ it involves finding objects from nature to create art with. This often involves being in nature also but doesn’t have to be as it could involve collecting items such as stones, sticks or leaves to bring home and create art with at a later date. We have all seen painted rocks, stick wind chimes or leaf printing, all are nature art involving creating art with nature.
Creating art with nature has a few benefits that include:
Being a cheaper way to create art as you don’t need to buy specific materials.
It can be spontaneous - you can go into your garden or to a wood and just decide to create the art there and then.
It is fun and stimulates creativity - it teaches children to see everything as a creative opportunity, that you don’t need to be in the classroom or have a piece of paper and paint brush to create art and it can involve creative problem solving.
It is a mindful activity - it brings the mind back to the present moment with a focused task such as finding the perfect stone or stick and art and craft in general are known as very mindful activities. In a world where stress for children is increasing and mental health is suffering, teaching our children ways to stay mindful and teaching ourselves on ways to help them to achieve this is an essential part of parenting.
There is a careful balance between using these resources and taking too many that the natural world in that area could be unbalanced so please be responsible and sustainable if doing this and check land owners permission beforehand.
Creating art in nature
Both the first and second kind of nature art mentioned above can be created in nature or indoors. One type of nature art that has to be created outside in nature though is land art. Land art, otherwise known as Earth art, is an art created site specifically on the land, usually but not always, using natural materials. Notable current British land artists include Richard Shilling. It can take great skill, engineering and planning to achieve land art but for children again it could be something quite spontaneous that is completed on a walk in the woods or in the garden, with or without a theme, just creativity.
Again for me it teaches children that the world is a canvas for creativity and that art doesn’t have to be on paper. This in turn may open up art to those children that feel like their traditional art work is no good. In all of our classes I have never heard a child say that they can’t do land art! Again it is very mindful, task focused and children will just get on with it, trying to overcome the problems of using only the resources to hand, engineering and balancing the materials, they also develop spatial awareness and as a form of loose parts play they develop hand eye coordination and motor skills too. If you are new to land art it could seem daunting at first and you may not be sure how to do it and encourage your children to do it so maybe start with making shapes on the floor from sticks, leave or stones and see where you go or just give them the task to create some art and be amazed by their creativity!
So you can see, nature art is so much more than just leaf rubbing and nature paint brushes. It can have real depth to its learning, creativity, mindfulness and fun.
We love it so much that we are hosting the UK's National Nature Art Week from 20th-26th September 2021, for more information visit here.
We would love to see how you interpret nature art and use it as a family so please share with us your pictures on social media @NatureMakers.
* Please note that this blog is also available on Outdoor Mums website with Nature Makers permission.