Explore nature from your home. Here some bright, beautiful fun and unique nature art activities for kids by Teigan Margetts, Co-Founder, Ethicool Books
Right now, parents the world over are scratching their heads, wondering how to entertain and educate their little ones, while simultaneously working from home and managing the tidal waves of uncertainty that have come with the current crisis. The task is gargantuan, and certainly not easy. Many of us feel as if the walls are closing in a little, and we sorely miss the simple joy the local park brings.
If you and your children are feeling not quite right at the moment, there’s a simple reason why. Being outside with sunshine on our faces, breathing in the fresh air of nature and enjoying the world around us is actually critical for our physical and mental health. Research has shown that it helps to reduce anger, fear and stress, as well as helping to lower blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. In kids, the effect is no different. Outdoor play helps to improve mood and concentration, as well as igniting our children’s precious imaginations.
But when most of us are only allowed out into our backyard or to exercise briefly, are we still able to take advantage of the benefits that nature provides? While of course, we can’t replicate the experience entirely, there are still a number of ingenious ways to bring the outdoors right into your lounge room. Here are five nature-based activities your kids can do while self-isolating:
1. Grow an indoor herb garden
With all our supermarkets now overrun and some items in short supply, there’s never been a better time to start some DIY gardening. And in good news for those of us who may not have the room or the skills, herbs can be grown inside!
How to make it:
In order to start the journey of your delicious new creation with your children, you’ll need some small pots that are approximately 150mm or 200mm in diameter and a saucer, to catch water run-off. Alternatively, you can use a self-watering pot or a cachepot (a decorative pot in which you can place your original seedlings). All of these options can be picked up at your local nursery or hardware store, if they’re currently operational, or alternatively, you can buy them online.
After you’ve chosen your pots, it’s time to pick your seedlings. Note, though, that some herbs may quickly outgrow their little homes. Herbs such as coriander, chives, mint and thyme are great if you want or need to keep your herbs indoors ongoing, whereas herbs such as rosemary, basil and oregano may need to move outdoors sooner rather than later.
Once you’ve selected herbs, simply plant and watch your herbs prosper. Herbs, like all plants, need sunlight and water. Place them in a sunny place, for example on a windowsill, and water them regularly, ensuring that you empty your saucer as herbs don’t like sitting in water. Herbs also need to eat, so fertilise them fortnightly to ensure they thrive.
2. Create rock art
Has all the time you’re spending indoors made you feel a little like a caveman? Us too! A great way to creatively channel your inner neanderthal, then, is to do as cavemen did, and decorate rocks.
Those of us who are fortunate to live near parklands or beaches may be able to pick up a few rocks on our daily exercise stints. Otherwise, you should be able to pick up some rocks at your local nursery, hardware store, or even online.
How to make it:
Once you have your rocks, your possibilities are endless. You can paint them any colour of the rainbow, but just make sure that you choose eco-friendly paint that is marked ‘Zero VOCs’ as paints with VOCs are fossil-fuel based and a poor choice for the environment. If you and your little ones really want to get your cavepeople on, you can also draw on your rocks with chalk, or glue on eyes and a mouth to smile back at you in these challenging times.
3. Create a leaf or flower place mat
Right now, it’s either spring or autumn in various countries of the world. This means that outside our windows, we’re either dazzled by beautiful blooming flowers, or in awe of autumn’s beguiling colours. Either way, it’s devastating that we can’t be outside to enjoy them.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them in different ways. One of the best ways to be reminded of the great outdoors is to have it right there every time we eat, which is a definite option if we make nature placemats with our kids.
How to make it:
In order to make nature placemats, you’ll need some flowers or leaves, a sheet of plain paper or thin cardboard, clear, self-adhesive contact paper and some scissors. You can get contact and plain paper from most online arts and crafts shops.
To help your children make their beautiful creation, first gather the flowers and leaves you’ll use. Then, remove any stems or excess leaves if you’re using flowers, and cut your contact paper into a placemat size (24cm x 30cm should do).
After you’ve trimmed your contact paper, peel the backing off of one side and lay it sticky-side up on the table. Now it’s time to get creative! Help your children create a beautiful arrangement on the paper. Be careful, though, as once you’ve arranged your items, they won’t come off. If you’re feeling nervous, practice on the table beforehand. Make sure you press everything down as flat as possible.
After you’ve finished arranging your leaves or flowers, lay your plain paper over the top and then carefully place contact paper over the back. And then you’re done – you’ll be eating atop your beautiful nature creation in no time.
4. Build a terrarium
With schools closing in many countries currently worst hit by the coronavirus, parents are, understandably, struggling to follow traditional curriculums when teaching their children. If this is something you’re experiencing, don’t worry – nature can teach your kids its own lessons, right from the comfort of your lounge room, with a terrarium.
A terrarium is a plant or a few small plants growing in a transparent, sealed jar, and it truly is magical in how it works. In the closed environment of the terrarium, nature mimics the processes that would otherwise take place outside, including photosynthesis, respiration and the water cycle. It is a microcosm of the world – and a beautiful one at that.
How to make it:
In order to create your terrarium, you’ll need a glass container, some gravel or stones, activated charcoal, potting soil, and of course, plants or moss. If you choose plants that are moisture-loving, you may need a lid for your terrarium (so it completes the water cycle). Alternatively, plants that don’t require a lot of water, such as cacti, may not need a lid.
Once you’ve got your items, put gravel on your terrarium floor, and put a small amount of activated charcoal on top. Then, add your potting soil and plants. Remember to prune the roots of any plants you’re putting in, and then make a hole large enough in your soil to nestle them in.
After you’ve finished planting your plants, your ecosystem is complete. If you’ve chosen a lid-free variety, you’ll need to water the base of your terrarium every two weeks. Otherwise, it’s time to step back and watch it grow and prosper.
5. Throw a nature party
Admittedly, it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate at the moment. But throughout the isolation period, many of us will have children who have a birthday, and to cheer everyone up it sure is nice to recognise the occasion somehow.
A great way to show your little prince or princess just how special they are is to build them their own nature kingdom for their birthday!
How to make it:
In order to do this, grab some leaves, sticks and flowers (if available, either from your backyard or a local park if you can). Bring your items home, and use anything you have available (a cardboard box, or even a clothes horse and a sheet) to set up a little castle. Decorate at will – add anything and everything to ensure it looks beautiful.
After you’ve done this, grab a hole puncher, punch through some leaves and suddenly … you’ll have natural confetti! For finishing touches, line up leaves to create a special bridge to your castle or create a daisy-chain crown. Your little one will have the best indoor-faux-outdoor party yet!
The little things matter
The coronavirus pandemic is devastating the world, and none of us are immune to its effects. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do what’s within our control to bring small moments of joy to our children, and nature-based activities do just that. In fact, it’s those small moments, and not the current terror that sits outside of them, that our children will remember in years to come.
Other articles you’ll love:
- The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects
- 5 Tips to motivate your kids to develop environmental awareness
- How parents can empower children with the Sustainable Development Goals
- 7 Benefits of Gardening with Kids
- How to reduce our environmental impact on holidays if you have kids!