Early years and childcare activities

View our latest childcare activity guide below, written by our early years experts.

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Natural Art

Explore the outdoors and develop sensory exploration by creating natural works of art!

Girl playing with sticks

Learning Aims

  • Physical development - fine motor skills
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive art and design
  • Communication and language
  • Personal, social, emotional development.


  • Natural resources collected from across the seasons; stones, sticks, driftwood, leaves, acorns, fir cones, flowers, bark, shells, rocks, lavender
  • Elastic bands, clothes pegs, string - to attach items together i.e. for paint brushes
  • Camera to record the artwork
  • Other suitable materials found in nature e.g. soft conker shells for patterns
  • Blank canvas and tape to create canvas space.

Activity Outline

Works of art can either be completed on an individual canvas or done as a whole group, in a large scale project.

  • Explore the outdoors and collect your resources
  • Remember to follow all safety procedures appropriately and observe safeguarding processes
    • For ideas and support, take a look at our visits and outings policy and procedure template for England, Scotland and Wales for support.
  • Encourage the children to look around for any fallen leaves, twigs, flowers, feathers etc. to collect
  • Provide the children with a blank canvas, an individual square canvas or framed space on the concrete floor of your setting with tape
  • Leave the resources for the children to explore and create
  • Remember to discuss why it is important to choose items that have fallen on the ground rather than pulling them from trees - try to discourage children from pulling leaves and flowers off trees and plants
  • If there is a lack of natural resources, why not hide some resources around the area for children to find?
  • Collect a range of twigs for the paint brush handles and tool tips such as leaves for the brush and create a stock pile
  • Depending on the season you could use seeds and their shells such as soft conker shells for mark making.

You can also create some natural paintbrushes as well:

  • Use the elastic bands, string or clothes pegs to attach a chosen tool tip to the wooden stick handle
    • Encourage children to see if they can attach their chosen material onto their stick. This will also help support find motor skills
  • When you are ready, provide the children with paint and ask them to create their masterpieces
    • Engage in conversation with the children about their homemade brushes and the effects they create
  • Encourage children to photograph their finished piece/s of art.


  • Link the activity to the environment - how else can we support the environment?
  • Discuss why it was important to not pick fresh leaves and flowers and only ones that had fallen/ been discarded.

Special considerations

  • Ensure that materials are safe for children to use and beware of choking hazards
  • Take a look at our visits and outings policy and procedure template for England, Scotland and Wales for support on taking children on trips away from nursery
  • Be careful of sharp objects such as conker shells or plants such as nettles which can cause harm
  • Ensure you and the children dress appropriately for any weather conditions.

Suggested products:

This activity was taken from ​the Art of Expression and Creativity publication.

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