Tasha Smith is an artist and a mother of three, and as such, time outside is important to her. She loves making art on trail with her kids, and she shared some of her favorite activities that can easily be done on or off trail.
There are so many textures and interesting shapes in nature. All you need is a small sketch book (or any paper really) and your pencil of choice. You can use charcoal, colored pencils, or crayons to create your rubbing. This is a great activity for a small child to help with, as you can ask them to collect leaves. Look for leaves in your yard or on a walk around your neighborhood. Try these ideas:
- Make each leaf into a “Leaf Person.” Add features and details to your rubbing!
- Grab a dice and play cooties with your leaf rubbing. (Instruction on the game.)
- Make the leaves the border and draw a landscape in the center.
- Use crayons for the rubbing, then add watercolor over it.
Teachable moment: Why does the watercolor paint resist the wax?
Parent tip: Help small fingers hold the leaf and paper while they rub.
Have your youngster find leaves and other items with texture (sticks, rocks, etc). Then, you can use an ink stamp pad or paint and let them play with printing the items in their sketchbook. Try these ideas:
- Leaf fall: Let the leaves fall and land randomly on the sketchbook, then print.
- Once the print is dry, use colored pencils or crayons to fill in the spaces with color.
- Try rolling or moving the item to make a different mark.
Teachable moment: What do the veins in the leaves do for the plant?
Pull out your sketchbook or paper and pencil(s) and have your older child draw landscapes or natural elements. (Find inspiration right outside your door or even in books or movies.) Try these ideas:
- Do it together! Choose a focus and each team member can draw one aspect. For example a towering cedar tree can have many perspectives. Your son may want to draw the bark while your daughter looks up at the sky. Maybe you can work on the branch. Put it all together for a family compilation.
- Make it graphic! Take a shape like a mountain or a tree and fill in the inside with doodily mark-making. Should your mountain be miles of triangles? Maybe your tree should have vertical lines and your branches should be full of circles or hash marks!
- Make a landscape drawing with multiple layers. Landscapes are just horizontal lines with the details diminishing as they get farther away. Discuss the concept of perspective. Why do the trees far away look so small (like a triangle) and the ones over here have so much detail? Challenge your kiddos to bring that into the drawing.
Teachable moment: Practice! Practice! Practice! Drawing is a work in progress that is not going to be perfect the first time. Remind your child that every artist has to work hard to become better, and it’s okay to use an eraser!
Add some color to your drawing with a watercolor set. Try these ideas:
- Use the above ideas to render your sketch/composition. Use the watercolors to add color and detail to your drawings.
- Go abstract! Young and old can enjoy the fun and play of getting wild with watercolors. You do not need to have your work be representative to have a great outcome.
- Pen and ink with watercolor. Use black pens to create a realistic nature piece or an abstract doodle, then fill it in with bright, colorful watercolor. Now, try it the other way. Play with watercolors, then once they are dry, go back and add ink details.
Parent tip: If you don't have watercolors at home, get creative with your kids. What can you use as paint? Strong coffee? A bit of water with food dye? Experiment and see what works.
Photography can take patience and practice. Allow your child to play and just take photos. You can give them a few pointers, but allow them to find joy in the learning experience. Also, depending upon how old your kids are, this is likely a time they will remember forever. In years to come, it may be a valuable way to look back together.
Teachable Moment: Add to the experience by teaching your child how to upload the photos when you get home. This allows them to see the rewards of their efforts. They can even make a book or a slideshow to share with others digitally!
Parent tip: Kids don’t need a fancy camera. If you have an old digital camera hanging around, now is a great time to dust if off. Or show your kiddo how to use the camera function on your phone.
Tasha Smith is a mother, hiker/backpacker, and artist living and working on Camano Island, Washington. She uses her time on the trails and in nature to inspire her work.