Arboretum News

Kids Activity: Nature Painting

Use natural elements as a paintbrush in this process-based art.

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By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

This nature painting activity is a fun way for little hands to play with nature and to get a little bit messy. It’s a form of “process art,” which means that the process of creating is more important than the finished product. These unusual paint brushes might not create a detailed masterpiece, but they will give young children the opportunity to make something all their own in whichever way they choose.

Leaves, sticks, pinecones, and other found materials 
Paper bags or butcher paper
Tempera (washable!) paint
Dish(es) for paint


1. Head outside to collect your paint brushes. These might be flowers, leaves, grass seed heads, dried flower heads, sticks, or whatever you dream up!

2. Set up your workspace. Cut up a brown paper bag or roll out your butcher paper. Pour your paint onto a plate or other palate. Dress your artists (and their workspace) for mess!

3. Get creating. Let your kids explore their materials by dipping them in paint in whatever way they choose and using them to paint.  

Extension: Older kids might like to do a more careful study (like I did) of the kinds of marks different plant parts can make. They might even figure out multiple techniques to use the same material.

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