When kids are flexing their creative muscles, all is well in the world. But some art projects heighten kids’ potential for abstract thinking, inventiveness, and resourcefulness better than others. I grew up in a home with art purists, so as a child I was given little more than blank paper and pencils to create with. Even coloring books were considered too structured, thereby—the thinking went—establishing a false sense of creativity. I may have envied the prefab art kids that my friends got to play with, but I truly believe that I’m a more creative person because I was forced to come up with the parameters of my projects all by myself.
I happened to be strolling through Target this morning and I turned into the crafting aisle thinking it might be time to refresh my children’s crayons, when I see a giant sign advertising “art projects”! In these pre-packaged kits were things like sheets of foam in wildly unnatural colors, plastic beads, and stickers. While I’m sure my kids would love to participate in the creation of any one of these projects—and I certainly don’t think they’re evil, except for the fact that they’re not very eco—I try to steer them toward more free-form creativity. Especially come summer when there are tons of opportunities to find natural craft materials in the great outdoors, I say take advantage of mother nature’s vast selection of organic art supplies—and get outside! And because most of the materials in the projects here are organic, I don’t have to clean them up if they fall on the ground. Score! Here are my top five picks for outdoor, mess-free summer DIY ideas.
1. Forever Foliage Friends
Go on a nature treasure hunt with your kids, looking for leaves, seedpods, and flowers. Then glue them to paper and draw creatures around them. Fun Family Crafts has some great examples to get you started. When you’re done creating your menagerie of organic friends, snap pictures and upload them into a fun photo book. That way, when the glue starts to crack and the leaves begin to crumble, you can put your creations right in the compost and keep the memory.
2. Brainiac Beans Mosaic
Use dried beans and legumes to create mosaics using nothing more than glue and paper. Martha Stewart suggests using them to make geometric designs, still lifes, and portraits. Kids will not only revel in digging their hands into bowls of beans, they’ll get to be creative while making repeating patterns—a great way to light up their right and left brains simultaneously.
3. Très Chic Thread-Wrapped Twigs
Go on a search for cool-shaped sticks, then wrap them with colorful yarn to create modern art-inspired objects. Something about the crisp stripes of thread following the organic curves of a twig is really captivating. Aesthetic Outburst gives step-by-step instructions for tucking and securing the string so it stays put—and also shows how this simple kid craft can become a très chic objet d’art.
4. Whimsical Beach Mobile
This beach mobile from Better Homes and Gardens is a must-make summer DIY idea for me. All it takes is some driftwood, shells, and string. I might try to incorporate some sand-polished beach glass as well because my kids have found a secret spot on what we lovingly call “Home Beach” where there’s an abundance of blue-green glass that will catch the light beautifully (if only I can figure out how to string it…).
5. Nostalgic Nature-Filled Sun Catcher
Here’s a craft that takes me back to Bear Creek Camp circa 1979. Blue Bird Lucy’s shows how to create a sun catcher using some contact paper and a collection of flowers and leaves. Kids will love hanging their creation in the window and seeing how the light shines through their project at different times of day.
Do you have any fun summer DIY ideas you can make in your backyard? Any ideas for how I can string up beach glass as a part of my mobile?