Arts & Crafts

Make Nature Paint

By: Tinkergarten
Nature art hanging on clothes line
Ages 0-8
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills

Making nature paint is a great sensory activity to teach toddlers, preschoolers and elementary age kids a host of things from creativity to problem solving to fine motor skills.

How can we create colorful art without paint? Fortunately, nature is full of color and with a few simple tools, kids can transform an ordinary sheet into a vibrant display of Nature’s Tie-Dye!  It’s good, productive, messy fun -- creative and gratifying for all involved.

What You'll Need

What to Do

  1. Invite play.

    Head outside with an old bed sheet or pillowcases (the types you won’t mind donating to the cause) or a plain white sheet of paper. Wonder with kids how you can take this ordinary fabric/paper and turn it into something festive and colorful. Ask kids, “Where could we find color out here?”

  2. Collect colorful stuff.

    Walk around together, keeping your eyes peeled for colorful plants and other features of your landscape. Give each child a bucket and carry your own sack to collect items. Announce, “Let’s gather as many colorful things as we can!” Then snip berries (reminding children that these do NOT go into mouths), small tree limbs, flowers, and other greenery. Even if the colors aren’t vivid, herbs like sage and basil can be especially stimulating on a sensory level -- the smells are fantastic. (If you feel like you need a few more colors, toss in couple of pantry items -- turmeric, paprika, and beets are great examples of natural pigments.)

  3. Experiment with your found materials.

    Bring your stash back to your sheet and ask, “How can we get the color from these objects onto our sheet?” Now is a great time to introduce a little bit of water and model how to use it -- a spritz or sprinkle will help the pigment from flowers, grasses and other plants stain the sheet. Magical! Let kids get creative and find their groove with this.

    A child using their hands to make nature paint
  4. Stomp, roll, mash!

    Place some berries under a corner of the sheet, and use a mallet, stick, or your hands or feet to smash the berries into the fabric, oohing and ahhing as you do. Once you’ve got the kids intrigued, welcome the group to tuck their berries and other plants under the whole sheet, throw off shoes, and stomp away. If you are into singing, sing and stomp to make this even more joyful -- and make use of just about every one of the senses. Talk about extrasensory perception!

    Using a mallet to make nature paint

Extend The Play!

Want more activities like this? Transform a bed sheet into a starry night sky with our Paint the Stars DIY or explore the rainbow of colors in nature with our Deseo de Arcoíris (Rainbow Wishes) DIY.

Why this is Good for Kids

This activity is sensory stimulation without actually being overwhelming. Because the ingredients are natural and the project is low-key (it’s just an old bed sheet, after all), kids can engage their senses of sight, smell, and touch as they work. It’s also a surprisingly physical activity for what’s essentially an art project. Kids also learn a lot about cause and effect as they turn natural materials into pulp (not to mention a clean sheet into a tapestry). The very act of transforming objects is an engaging brain-building behavior pattern that children exhibit in all cultures. Finally, kids are building a foundation for creative, flexible thinking when they confront an open-ended “problem” and come up with a (very messy) way to “solve” it. All this -- plus plain old fun -- from an old bed sheet!

This activity was featured in Tinkergarten’s July Activity Calendar. Click here to get a new, free calendar each month.

Tinkergarten Team
By: Tinkergarten

Created by experts and loved by kids, families and teachers, Tinkergarten gets kids learning through purposeful outdoor play. Tinkergarten is also part of the Highlights for Children family of organizations! Learn more at