Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Nature Art is a fantastic opportunity for children to play creatively and have a hands-on experience with natural products. Here we look at why this kind of art is beneficial and how to encourage it.
Process over product art
The benefits of artwork like creativity, imagination, and exploration come from the PROCESS of art rather than the final product. Crafts that are designed by adults and produced in ‘production lines’ by children, simply sticking or painting in set ways, limit children’s creativity. In addition, these cookie cutter crafts communicate to children that their ideas and methods are not as good or acceptable as adult-directed activities.
The mistake we often make is in instrumentalising art, or the arts, seeing it as a means to an
end rather than an end in itself. The final products of children’s art are not as valuable as the process of creating that art. So-called “process art” is where children can choose what, when and how to create and helps to increase children’s self-motivation and independence. Central figure of the Reggio Emilia approach, Malaguzzi (1993) suggested that creativity becomes more visible when adults are more attentive to the cognitive processes of children rather than the results they produce, and this is the philosophy underlying process art.
Benefits of nature art
Nature art, that is making artistic creations from items found in nature including leaves,
sticks, bark, pebbles and so on, is a great example of process art. In this kind of art, it is impossible for adults to direct children to make creations that are all the same because found items are not all the same so each creation is unique.
This hands-on, tactile activity helps children to learn from sensory experience and build a connection to nature. This helps to increase their understanding of the world and respect for the environment, which may in turn lead to greener, more eco-conscious decisions throughout life. The activity is green, sustainable and environmentally friendly in and of itself because it doesn’t use up resources but instead uses what is already available and puts the resources back at the end.
Aside from creativity, nature art also helps children to hone their fine motor skills, using small muscles to arrange and rearrange items, developing the muscles and grip needed later for writing. Mathematical skills like an awareness of shape, space and measure are part and parcel of nature process art and making patterns helps lay the foundations for recognising patterns in numbers.
How to encourage Nature art
Adults can encourage children to take part in Nature art activities by being sure not to direct or instruct children in what to create but instead encourage them to have a think for themselves, have a go, or have a try.
Resources are ideally found rather than picked and can include a whole host of different items. It’s best if they can be used where they are found rather than removed, but if they are removed then they should be replaced after use in so far as is possible.
In undertaking nature art, as a form of process art, it’s important to allow children enough
time to engage with the activity. Many children, used to the break-neck pace of modern life, may initially find it difficult to concentrate on the activity and may flit back and forth, this is fine! In fact, given time most children will create, edit, recreate and revise their own artwork.
Recording Nature art is a little different from simply adding a painting to a child’s scrapbook or learning journey, but it’s important to remember that we are looking to document the process rather than the product so observations of the child at work, quotes from the child about their creation and photographs all serve this purpose.