Friday, December 16, 2011

Eight Creative Nature and Forest Activities to do with Kids

We are huge fans of Rashmie Jaaju's blog and when we were thinking of guest posts related to the conservation campaign we are running currently, her name was on the top of that list. Here's Rashmie's list of eight creative nature and forest activities to do with kids ...

It's a huge pleasure for me to share some creative, nature- and forest-related activities - to do with kids - with all you lovely readers of Pratham Books blog and books!

Thank you, Pratham Books, for inviting me to share ideas for your campaign - "Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow".

We at Mommy Labs, are big lovers of nature-related art and activities. Here are some of the ideas that we have done and enjoyed thoroughly. Some of these are great for all age groups. A couple are wonderful for kids five years and older.

Land Art:

Land Art basically means doing art with 'finds' from nature when you are out and about - in the middle of a forest, on a beach or even in your own garden/backyard. Land Art is ephimeral, meaning - its life is short-termed. It may be washed away by the waves or blown away by wind. But, that's the beauty of it. You don't take it home. You enjoy it while it's there and let others enjoy too. It's also a beautiuful act of kindness in that - you're leaving things better than you found. We absolutely love this thought and idea and never let go of a chance to do some land art. Check out a few ideas and resources for Land Art.

Nature Journal:

nature journal ideas with kids

Nature journals are a wonderful way to record your observation about nature and even save/paste your 'finds' from nature. During a forest walk, encourage your child to carry a nature journal to stick different types of leaves, bark etc that he/she finds on the way. They can also draw and colour leaves by observing and you can help them write down what they observe - the colour, shape, size, veins etc. Your kid's nature journal can be very basic or elaborate, given the age or aptitude.

My daughter was five when we first made an 'official' nature journal. To make one, I bought a basic folder with punched holes through which goes a twine to hold the papers in place. We chose papers that were ruled on one side and blank on the other. This gave us the flexibility to draw as well as write. Besides, you can choose to remove any page later on if you wish to and add as many pages as per requirement. Here is a list of resources to start your Nature Journal.

Nature Walk Kit:

It's a good idea to carry a bag that can hold a water bottle, magnifying lens, water-colour pencils (to draw then and there), wax crayons (to do leaf rubbings) and a folder to save the leaves and a few blank white sheets. The bag comes handy to collect any other 'finds'.

Leaf and Bark Rubbings:

nature art and craft with kids

This is something even a toddler can indulge in. Collect leaves with prominent veins; place them under a chart paper and rub with wax crayons. Choose deep colours like maroon, dark blue or dark green to get great impressions. Your child can then apply a coat of lighter tone water colors to make it even more pleasing visually.

This same activity can be done with bark too. Kids' crayon leaf rubbings can be converted into greeting cards, diary cover, place mats (by laminating them) and so much more. 

Encourage Nature Photography:

A camera in small hands can bring them close to nature in so many amazing ways. The child instantly feels the inclination to observe the nuances and details of the natural world - such as the glistening dew drops, tiny critters, wild mushrooms on the forest floor, veins of the leaves, ant hills and such.
Seeing through the lens has a magical effect on their aesthetics, ability to compose, take note of light and shadow play etc. If your child constantly grabs at your camera, all the more reason to buy one for him/her to be able to peacefully click your own. (wink) Mine has been a camera snatcher ever since she came to notice the sound of it. I got one for her when she was two and have breathed light ever since. You can buy them a basic point-and-shoot or a sturdy kid-friendly camera.

Feed the Birds: 

There's something instantly healing about the act of feeding our feathered friends. Whether you feed the birds during a nature walk or in the balcony/patio of your home by setting up a bird feeder, you will feel instant love and peace by doing this act of kindness.

Once you come back from your forest/nature walk, there are a gamut of ways to use your collection in a creative way. 

Using the 'finds' from nature to do some art/craft reinforces the kids' love for nature and its place in their lives.

Nature Table:

nature table ideas

We love collecting all sorts of things from nature and then bringing them back home to create a nature table. Leaves, river stones, pine cones, feathers,  twigs, shells - you and your kid can collect all these and arrange them beautifully on a small table or even a tray. A corner like this in the home radiates peace and beauty and reminds us of our bond with the natural elements.

We recently made an elaborate nature table that we use as our meditation and prayer corner and source for creative inspiration.

Nature Art:

You can make photo frames and leaf buntings, convert shells into wind chime. You can press the leaves and later use them to decoupage and beautify old glass jars, lamp shades or old tin boxes. You can involve kids in making suncatchers or embellish your glass window pane. or, just doodle with markers on those pressed leaves.

How about turning them into invites, gift tags, book marks, book covers or cards! Gosh - there's no limit to what you can do with leaves. You're only limited by your imagination! 

Going by the amount of fun, joy, peace and creative and scientific learning that forest walks have to offer, every family should undertake at least one forest walk a month, if not more.

Above all else, it's the most frugal way to spend a weekend as compared to visiting malls and indulging in retail therapy. Your 'shopping' in forests doesn't cost a paisa!

I strongly recommend schools to take this up on a regular basis. Especially for city-based families and schools, it's the most holistic way of learning and providing natural experience to our kids.

What nature-related outdoor activities and art do you do with your kids?

Rashmie Jaaju is a homeschooling mom to a beautiful 6-year old girl. She writes on Mommy Labs about creative learning for children with focus on open-ended art, integrating art and fun in literacy and connecting our kids with nature. She loves photography, traveling and spending time in nature. You can connect with Mommy Labs on Facebook and Twitter.

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