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Nature Based Art Trays - at Three Years

Nature based art trays for a three year old at How we Montessori

There are lots of good reasons to include items from nature in our art trays. Nature items have different textures and smells and provide a different experience to using paper or other stationary items. Using items from nature also:

  • demonstrates resourcefulness - using what is readily available in the environment
  • promotes creativity and out of the box thinking
  • promotes learning about seasons and seasonality - what resources are available and when
  • respects our natural environment
  • leads to further exploration and new ideas/discoveries in using nature in art 

Here are eight nature based trays we've used recently.

  • Drawing on Paperbark - Paperbark has a wonderful soft texture and here I've presented it with oil pastels which are soft and go on smoothly. 
  • Leaf Rubbings - as I've prepared this for a new three year old I've taped the leaf to the tray. I've also presented this with tracing paper as the child can see the leaf underneath and the result is clearer compared to white paper. Here we've used the wax block crayons, the straight sides are good for shading/rubbings. I've also pressed the leaves before using them so they are flat and easy to use. 
  • Hole Punch Leaves - we've used nature themed hole punches with some leaves of different colours. I've pressed all the leaves in these trays so they are flat (pressed under a heavy chopping board overnight). The cut out images can be used for pasting and the leaves can be used outdoors for a garland.
  • Nature Weaving - the child could collect the items or you could take the weaving card on an excursion or on a nature walk and weave while out in nature. I made the base of weaving board with recycled cardboard packaging which is nice and strong. 
  • Nature Play-dough - this is a reminder that young children don't need complex arts and crafts. Out of all the trays this is the one my three-year old will use the most and for the longest time. I presented the play-dough like this as it wash fresh but when the child had finished the play-dough was stored in an air tight jar. Here we have some simple play-dough and lots of bits and pieces we've collected on our nature walks including small gum-nuts & seed pods for fine motor work. 
  • Drawing on Wood Discs - these wood discs have a small hole in them so they can be used as a garland or banner. I love presenting wood discs for drawing as it provides a connection between the material and the natural resource. Here we've used crayon pencils which go smoothly and have rich colours.
  • Nature Collage - you could present this with a basket of nature items but I like to take this one outside, you don't have to go far perhaps you can find some items in your yard. I've made these with card from recycled cardboard packaging and double sided tape. The child needs to remove the white backing off the tape before going outside. The tape is strong enough to hold small sticks, leaves, petals and small gum-nuts/seedpods.
  • Painting with Bottlebrush - these bottlebrushes are everywhere at the moment so this is a reminder to use what is in season! These make a nice pattern on the paper. Other dropped flowers, seed pods or leaves may also work well.

We only have one or two or these trays out at one time. We use all of these trays in our outdoor deck area which is fine for messy play including using paint. We only use items from nature that are plentiful in supply, are found locally, are dropped or found on the ground and are not from a national park or other protected areas.

Leaf Rubbing Tray example for a three year old at How we Montessori

You can see how I've taped the leaf to the tray so it's easy for the child to use for leaf rubbings.

Leaf Rubbing Tray example for a three year old at How we Montessori

There are some examples that I've made while demonstrating the leaf rubbings. The tracing paper works really well.

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