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Nature crafts with clay and other found materials

Following on from the nature collections of the last few months, there are many nature crafts for kids that are a great way to encourage the observation and wonder of nature forms and materials at any time of the year!

I wanted to focus this blog post on making nature crafts with clay and other found materials. I love to use leaves and seed heads to make imprints into clay, as the shapes and patterns become easier to see once they are displayed on a clay tile.

Making creatures

Rather than bringing the clay inside, last winter we took it outside to make clay creatures in the woods. Being outside added a lovely new dimension! We ran off some before gathering sticks, leaves and pine cones for our creatures. A new calm descended on the group as each found their own place amongst the trees to sculpt with bare hands in nature. In this instance, the wonder was the extraordinary calm that working in nature brought. 

Importance of natural materials

Clay of course, is a natural product itself, in fact I have a friend who collects her own clay from a riverbank near her home. Using this self-sourced clay becomes more about the experience of children collecting it, rather than the final product.

We've also experimented with weaving grasses and twigs. Once I witnessed a young girl who wanted to make a bird's nest from twigs - I saw the compassion infused in her determination to fix the twigs in a circle, which gave way to the realisation of how difficult it is for the bird to build their nest, which in turn will lead to a wise understanding of how important it is to the bird. That young girl would leave the task with a renewed respect for that humble bird. It may not look like much, but what is gained through the making of it is invaluable.

The Head, the Hands and the Heart

In Steiner Waldorf early years education, using natural materials for crafts encourages a hands-on connection and promotes emotion in the activity.  

Traditionally, wax is used to mould figures, letting the warmth of the palm seep in to make a malleable, soft moulding material. Felting is popular too and is an easy craft process for kids! These crafts are seen as connecting the mind to the body, using your hands to develop a skill that enhances your emotions and the wellbeing of the mind.

In the example of the bird's nest; the hands learnt a new skill while nurturing in the heart a care for that bird and a sense of respect. Connecting the mind through the activity of the body: the head, the hands and the heart. 

Christmas time

Nature crafts abound, especially around Christmas! But tread carefully! One search on Pinterest and you can lose yourself in an avalanche of images - cute felted pixie, pine cone gnomes. Yes, you can make these, but do keep perspective! 

Is it about the doing? Or is it about the result? If you really want to make Christmas gifts then please do it without the kids - for everyones' sake. But if you want to give kids a hands on natural experience to nurture a connection between hands and heart, if you're not bothered about the mess and you don't care about the outcome, then get stuck in! Weave the hay, plait the grass - once you let go there is a world of natural craft fun out there.

For more info on natural craft activities that build the nature connection, go to www.thesmarthappyproject.com

Lisa Lillywhite


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