Painting Sticks: Nature Process Art | Cleveland East Side Moms

Painting Sticks: Nature Process Art

by | Dec 5, 2018 | Crafts


Nature makes amazing art materials – for free!

Children are naturally curious about the great outdoors. Providing ways to connect with nature sparks creativity and promotes discovery. Found items from nature make amazing art materials. (And, they’re free!) The possibilities are endless when it comes to sticks, branches, bark, rocks, shells, leaves, pine cones and more. Giving children the freedom to explore outside and collect materials helps the project feel meaningful to them. Supporting children, instead of directing them, strengthens creativity and independent thinking. Process Art is the philosophy that the process is more important than the product. It is rooted in the idea that providing materials and opportunities to explore, opposed to following specific directions, will foster a passion for art and creating.


Process Art

In Process Art, the setting up is just as important as the doing. Organizing materials in an inviting way helps attract children and ignite ideas. Mason jars, ramekins, silicon muffin liners, and small bowls are perfect for setting up paint. Covering the table with Kraft paper or newspaper helps big time with mess and clean up! It also looks pretty, so it’s a win-win.



Take a walk outside to collect sticks or branches. Talk about what you notice, how the air smells, what sounds you hear. Using your senses is a simple and fun way to engage in nature.


Nature Process Art - before paint is applied


Place sticks on table. Add containers of paint, I like to use Colorations Tempera paint with preschoolers. It easily washes out of clothes but shows up really bright! I often mix my own colors to get the shades just right. Pro tip–adding white to a color softens it a bit and makes it opaque, which helps it show up on sticks! When giving children the freedom to explore, sometimes there’s a lot of color mixing (which is fun but doesn’t always yield the result they were looking for.) When choosing paint colors, stick with warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, golds) OR cool colors (blues, greens, purples, silvers). This will help the process feel carefree AND the product look beautiful!


Actively painting


After the paint dries, children can add yarn or pom poms. Set out a container of Elmer’s white glue and a paintbrush. Attach materials to the stick. Leave the stick for a few hours to make sure the glue dries and the items stay secure.


Adding pom poms


Decorated sticks make beautiful additions to your home! Hang with twine or lay on a shelf in the playroom or kid’s bedroom and they will be so proud of their hard work!

About the Author

Meet Courtney – process art enthusiast, children’s book lover, play-based preschool teacher.

With a background in early childhood education, childrens yoga certification, STEAM-based workshop design + facilitation, eBook publishing and years of preschool experience, Courtney has discovered working with children is what comes most naturally to her. 

Courtney is passionate about creating opportunities for children to become their favorite versions of themselves. She feels strongly about fostering a love for learning through exploration and play. Courtney teaches preschool full time. In her free time she likes to discover new restaurants with her wife, Liz, and play in the backyard with their pup, Berkeley. She lives and works on Cleveland’s East side.

Follow her on Instagram (@little_explorations) or check out her eBook, Little Explorations, for some other great craft ideas!

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