Introducing children to new forms of art mediums and natural art ideas, can be a very simple way to begin the transition into creating a more natural environment for them to feel comfortable in. An environment that is conducive to quality learning experiences for all children.
I would like to share some of my own ideas and personal experiences around this topic, while challenging others to step outside their comfort zone and long term conditioning to be adventureous.
The natural art experience
The space: your environment can have quite an impact on your outcomes.
- How is it set up?
- What message does it send to children?
- Is it noisy, or too busy?
- Are the workspaces cliuttered?
- Do children feel rushed or distracted?
Think about the type of experience you are wanting for children and then consider things such as:
- Does the child feel empowered?
- Do they have choices?
- Is everything available, have you thought the whole process through to avoid distractions/interuptions?
- Does it look appealing and inviting?
- Have you chosen a peaceful, quiet location, indooors/outdoors?
I would also recommend working in small groups, so set the area in a way that it caters to the amount of children you feel is managable or will benefit from having your attention.
I often find setting four chairs or cushions if sitting, to send the message that there is room for only four at one time. Others are invited to join in once there is a space available. No child should be excluded.
This is a time where children can explore materials and experiment at their own pace, pose questions contribute to discussions and be creative.
We do not want them to feel rushed and need to make ourselves available to assist without interfering in their work, to support their thoughts, ideas and to help extend their existing knowledge and problem-solving skills.
We want this to be an enjoyable and positive learning experience.
Collecting and choosing materials: use the opportunity to take children on a excursion to collect some natural items and plant materials of their choosing that they may like to include in their own creations.
You may already have a great collection without having to venture out.
Gather or make your own. there are many options, have a look around to see what you can covert from what you already have access to and try something new.
Check out your herb garden and add some aromatic herbs into the mix, or some flowers, this is always a lovely sensory experience for children. The vegetable garden is also a good option for all sorts of little treasures.
I enjoy making paint brushes from a local flax (harakeke) They are not only practical but organic so they can be returned to nature when they are no longer useful. There will be similar type plants to this in your local area that you may want to experiment with.
A local form of porice volcanic rock called pumice is something I use as a chalk substitute.. Because it is very light and has a chalky consistency, I cut it
into cube type sticks for use on concrete or chalkboards.
Charcoal in the form of sticks, is another alternative to pens, pencils and crayons.
Make and use your own recycled paper with the children.
This is something that could turn into a long term project, another entirely different subject, so we will return our original subject.
One of the most interesting things about painting is you dont have to use paint! There are many other alternatives, but if you are looking at the natural ones, you might like to consider:
- crushed leaves, flowers and bark mixed with a little water.
- There is the food dye option of beetroot, or berry juice, onion skins(brown and purple) and tumeric.
- Clay is also a great medium and comes in a variety of colours. Mixed with water it becomes a wonderful addition to the art experience. It can also be used as a replacement for play-dough.
Look at some creative natural options for brushes:
- Flax or banana leaf brushes
- natural sponges
- Leaves, twigs and sticks
- thin bamboo (if it is hollow can be used like a straw to blow bubbles of dye, or paint).
Manipulative play and construction:. clay, is great for moulding, sculpting and manipulating into almost anything. It can be added to with other natural material such as twigs, nut shells, seashells and small stones and pebbles.
The sensory properties alone can be a wonderful experience for little hands, and tools can be added for those who want to get a bit more creative.
Ephemeral art is temporary art and could be but not limited to such things as drawing a picture in sand, or arranging natural items in patterns, and chalk on concrete.
Pieces of wood and a collection of natural treasures become masterpieces in the hands of a child with unlimited imagination.
Collage is an interesting way of using some of the smaller pieces to create or construct some amazing three dimensional artwork.
I would like to finish with how this impacts on children’s learning
Apart from having fun and exploring new ideaas and concept children can develop deeper respect and understanding of the natural world, and their immediate environment, and will be able to role model this to others.
Often a play experience is packed away and forgotten about immediately. Have you considered just tidying up and resetting the same activity?
If children are returning to it they often want to explore further and will add their own materials or take the experience in a whole different direction,thus building complexity into their own learning.
Remember that you are creating an environment for children to use their imagination and creative abilities to express themselves. There is no expectations on what they produce from this.
There is no right or wrong way of doing it and is their work/play, not ours. Guidance should be limited to what the indivual child needs and we need to be invited into their play.
I am looking forward to hearing from some of you about any exciting changes you have made to your environment that children have enjoyed. Please feel free to share your ideas and experiences.