Sticks and Stones: Nature’s Craft Materials

| Elizabeth Willenbrink

Using nature as inspiration for crafts is one thing, but using natural materials in your crafts and activities is just as much fun! Sticks, rocks, and leaves can be used for just about anything. While using natural materials may seem difficult, for kids with great imaginations, it opens a new world of amazing ideas!

Here are some craft and activity ideas that rely solely on natural materials to get you and your kids started:

  1. Fairy House: These miniature houses can be built anywhere from really any natural material. They use miniature architecture to build quaint cottages and villages. Gather sticks and rocks in your backyard, or go to a park and make a fairy house there! You can encourage kids to use new skills such as weaving grass or stacking sticks, expanding their imaginations while improving fine motor skills. And, in the end, you get a cute little home that is a great addition to any tree stump, yard, or forest ecosystem.


2. Building Challenges: This is a great way to engage kids whose imagination may have outgrown fairy houses. Using natural materials, kids can practice their engineering skills to build a boat, an eagle’s nest, a fort, or really any sort of construction. Without realizing it, kids are working on their physics and geometry skills by putting sticks and other natural materials together in different formations to see what works best. This sort of challenge is great to do at The Parklands where there are many sticks to use and a creek nearby where kids can test boats they build!


3. Mandala: This is a craft for the truly artistic kiddos! Mandalas are circular shaped art projects that feature patterns. To create their own mandala, encourage kids to gather materials of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Then challenge them to create a unique circular pattern using those materials. In this activity, kids will explore the creation of patterns, how to find similar and dissimilar materials, and the importance of colors.


Nature crafts are not always just about nature. Each type of craft can expand on social and emotional skills important for a growing child. Finding materials, learning about angles, gaining confidence outdoors, and learning from mistakes are all outcomes of creating nature-based art!

About the Author

Picture of Elizabeth Willenbrink

Elizabeth Willenbrink

Elizabeth joined The Parklands team in March of 2019 as an Interpretive Ranger. In this position, she specializes in outdoor education experiences for school groups ranging from Kindergarten – 12th grade. She also works on curriculum development for The Parklands Outdoor and Virtual Classrooms, creating content for field trips, in-school outreach programs, and online learning that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards. Elizabeth attended Western Kentucky University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Geosciences, with a special focus on stakeholder communication in UNESCO-designated National Parks. Before coming to The Parklands, Elizabeth worked as a high school science teacher in Las Vegas. Elizabeth makes it her goal to be outside every day, either on a long run through the city or a hike in The Parklands. She also loves to bring the outdoors inside, with a family of four pets and a collection of over 100 houseplants!

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