Nature Walk: Painting with Natural Materials

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Monday, March 20, 2023 marks the first day of spring! As the weather warms up, new leaves are emerging and flowers are blooming. This week’s activity takes us outside on a nature walk to collect grasses, leaves, sticks, rocks, and flowers to use in colorful, springtime art-making!

What We’re Learning & Skills We’re Building

  • Fine motor skills — using the small muscles in the hands to pick petals and grasp art utensils
  • Appreciation of nature — noticing changes in the outdoor world as spring arrives
  • Color & shade identification — identifying colors in nature, learning that colors come in several shades
  • Experimentation  working with a variety of materials to see how they’re different

Nature Walk Materials

Art Materials


Collecting Natural Materials for Art-Making

Humans have collected plants, rocks, and sticks for pigments and art-making materials for thousands of years. Natural materials are all around us in our neighborhoods, parks, in sidewalk cracks, and even right outside your doorstep. Head out on a nature walk to hunt for moist grass, leaves, and brightly colored wildflowers. Dandelions and weeds work well too!

(Note: Please ask for permission to collect from private property [that’s not your own] and remember: no collecting is permitted in regional parks. Here’s a list of endangered plants in CA that may not be collected. Interestingly, there are no laws prohibiting the collection of California poppies [the California state flower] as long as they are on private property.)

On the nature walk, try using all five of the senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting — yes, even tasting edible weeds. See Habitot’s Kid-focused Nature Walk Guide for more suggestions.



Painting & Making Art with Natural Materials

Once the natural materials have been collected, here are some ways you and your child can use them to make art at home: 

  • Smudge fresh grasses, flowers, leaves, and other materials across the paper to see how their pigments (colors) transfer. (The picture to the right was made by rubbing grass, dandelions, and small, bright, purple flowers onto the paper.)
  • Experiment with using flowers, leaves, sticks, and grass as paintbrushes for tempera and/or liquid watercolor paints. 
  • Paint directly onto the flowers and leaves, then press the painted sides onto the paper to make stamps and imprints. 
  • Create non-toxic, natural paint from flowers and grasses! In a bowl, crush and grind up brightly-colored plants using a stone or a stick. (Adults only): Add 1-2 teaspoons of boiling water and stir. Use a paintbrush to add the homemade paint onto the paper. (Note: Natural paint isn’t as bright as store-bought paint. Here’s a chance to discuss how colors have many different shades!)
  • Leaves and flat flowers can be used as negative-space stencils. Put tape on their back sides, then press them onto the paper in any arrangement. Use liquid watercolor paint, tempera paint, crayons, or chalk to color on top of and around the leaves and flowers. Once they’re dry, remove the leaves and flowers to see the shapes they’ve left behind!