After a long winter, getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and sun can do wonders for children and adults alike. When children spend time outdoors, they get to explore the world around them, become more eco-minded, take a break from screen time, and even sleep better at night. These are just some of the many benefits of outdoor play.
At Sawyer, our mission is to help children discover their own love of learning. We do this by connecting families with wonderful educators in their neighborhoods and online. In this guide, we outline some of our favorite outdoor crafts for kids, including nature crafts and messy activities that are best done outside.
Outdoor crafts for kids
When you bring art outside, you and your child get the opportunity to expand the canvas (figuratively and literally). Outdoor crafts can include art projects that feature natural elements as well as arts and crafts that are better done away from the furniture. Here are some of our favorite outdoor crafts for kids that you can try out with your family.
Children love splatter paint. It feels like something that should not be allowed, but when done outside with the right precautions, it’s just art! Set up an outdoor art station for your child by placing a large piece of paper on a flat surface that can get paint on it. Then, put a smock on your child and let them go wild! Bonus points if you show them some Jackson Pollock paintings beforehand.
Like splatter paint, tie dye is best done outside. Get a white t-shirt, pair of shorts, pair of socks, or even a dress and prepare for fun. There are many reasonably priced tie dye kits you can get online (like this one for $13!) that include 10 dye colors, gloves, rubber bands, and a guide. Then, you just need a couple of buckets and a clothesline to let your finished products dry.
Get out that sidewalk chalk and go to town with your little ones! You and your child can draw whatever you want with a multitude of colors. You can also use your chalk to play games like tic-tac-toe and hopscotch or create obstacle courses for your child to tackle. Check out our full guide with sidewalk chalk ideas for families.
Pour bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add a few drops of food coloring. Do this with a few different colors so you have bowls of green, blue, yellow, red, etc. Then, lay out a piece of paper and have your child blow colored bubbles over the paper. When they pop, they will splatter beautiful colors. Your child will have the best time blowing bubbles and creating art at the same time!
Sometimes, you can’t beat the oldies. Painting rocks and making them into pets, people, flowers, tic-tac-toe pieces, and so much more can be so fun for children (and adults!). Get outside and paint some rocks with your family!
Nature crafts for kids
We have so many great nature-based providers on Sawyer like Brooklyn Trails and The School of Wonder in Brooklyn, Always Learning & Growing in the Bay Area, and HAWKs in LA that run nature adventure classes and camps for children. But, sometimes you just need to break out the craft box at home! Try these nature crafts for kids next time there is a beautiful day that cannot be wasted inside.
Twig picture frame
One of our favorite nature crafts is the twig picture frame. Ask your child to walk around the yard or park and find small but strong sticks. Then, working together with your child, attach 4 similar shaped sticks together and then put your picture in the middle. You can use yarn or magnets to hang or stick the picture frame to the fridge.
Pressed flower or leaf bookmark
Collect beautiful flowers and leaves with your children and then place them inside a heavy book for 3-4 days. Once your flowers are pressed, you can glue them to cardstock that you have cut into the shape of a bookmark. Then, your child can decorate how they want before you laminate or cover the bookmark with clear contact paper. Using a bookmark of their own creation will surely encourage your child to read this summer!
Ask your child to draw a self portrait or, if they are too young, draw a picture of them yourself. Then, let them use leaves for their hair, sticks for arms, grass for their eyelashes, and whatever else they want from nature to add to their portrait! Learning mixed media art is a great way for children to explore textures and foster creativity.
With their veins and texture, leaves make great stamps! Explore with your child to find beautiful leaves and flat rocks. Then, dip the leaves into paint and use them as stamps on the flat rocks or on paper.
Make sand slime
If you find yourself at the beach during the warmer days, you can use sand to make slime! Children love slime, so this activity will definitely be a hit. You can use this recipe to make blue slime from beach sand and then fill a plastic bag or container with it so it looks like water. Then, throw in some plastic fish, turtles, and other sea animals to create a little ecosystem. Much easier than getting your child a pet fish! Check out our guide with more beach crafts for kids.
Nature activities for preschoolers
Toddlers like the idea of arts & crafts, but they can’t always sit still for the entire time. That is why we recommend pairing your crafts with activities for preschoolers. Letting them move around and explore is a good way to tire them out a little and get them excited for the craft! Try some of these nature activities for preschoolers to get started.
- Make the leafy and hungry caterpillar
- Collect and count
- Work in the garden
- Catch and release bugs
- Go on a nature walk
Make the leafy & hungry caterpillar
This activity combines a few different elements. First, read one of the best books for toddlers: The Very Hungry Caterpillar together with your child. Then, go out into the yard or park and find green and red leaves to recreate the iconic cover or make your own version with your toddler! While you craft, retell the story together.
Collect and count
As a parent, you know it does not take too much to entertain your toddler. Sometimes, all you need is to give them a “task” and they are fully entranced. This activity is like a scavenger hunt but for preschoolers. While in the yard or a park, ask your child to bring you some number of leaves, sticks, pinecones, rocks, etc from the surrounding area. This will help them practice counting and keep them busy looking for each item. They will feel so proud of themselves when they see their bounty lined up at the end!
Work in the garden
Planting and growing your own garden is a great way for children to become more interested in nature and science. Plus, it will get them more excited to eat fruits and vegetables! While you work in the garden, give your toddler their own (age appropriate) tools and ask them for help. Use our guide for helpful tips on gardening with kids, including safety considerations and more.
Catch and release bugs
If your toddler is not afraid of creepy crawlies, then running around and collecting bugs, butterflies, frogs, and other small creatures can be a great nature activity for your toddler. Just remember to impart the importance of releasing the bugs and animals as well as keeping their natural habitats safe and clean.
Go on a nature walk
Nature walks: Hikes for small legs! You don’t need to climb a 14er to enjoy spending time outside with your family. Start small by exploring local parks and trails on nature walks, then as your children grow, add hiking to your family’s routine when traveling and exploring new places.
We hope this guide has provided you with lots of inspiration on your outdoor crafts for kids and nature activities for the whole family! If you are looking for more art activities for your children, check out what our wonderful educators are offering on Sawyer! Here’s to getting outside and discovering together!