• Features,  Nature,  Outdoor

    Treasures of the Sea

    We’ve just got back from having a few days by the seaside.  We were staying with a friend who has recently moved to live by the sea, and when I say by the sea, I mean within 100 yards of the beach, so it was a fantastic opportunity to spend lots of time there.     I especially liked being able to bob back and forth as the whim took us. The wide expanse of beach was largely sandy, with patches of pebbles, and occasional shells, driftwood, seaglass and other less identifiable objects.  While the kids played in the sand, I ended up spending a lot of time with my…

  • Nature,  Outdoor,  Projects,  Seasonal,  Winter

    Ice Lanterns

    For the last of my ‘icy’ posts I thought I would include the ice lantern which we made over Christmas.  Ice lanterns and ice bowls have been around for quite a while, and it seems the lanterns are even ‘traditional’ in some parts of the world.  A few years ago I even had a commercially made, star-shaped mould for making one, until it unaccountably got distorted so that it was impossible to remove the ice, and had to be binned. Nowadays with freezers, you can make these at any season of the year, using whatever natural materials are available: flowers in  the spring and summer, colourful autumn leaves, or in…

  • Features,  Nature,  Outdoor,  Seasonal,  Winter

    Icy Artwork

    Following on from my summer and autumn posts about Land Art, it seemed appropriate to continue with a post about Winter Land Art. This is the time to create those snow sculptures – to go beyond the usual snowmen, and create snow castles and palaces, snow animals, or even abstract forms. Or how about some ice installations. Those beautiful cold clear winter days when the sun glitters on the frost, and turns ice into diamonds, and red berries stand out like drops of blood, are particularly inspirational, and if you and the kids are wrapped up warm they provide the perfect opportunity to get out there and be creative. I…

  • Autumn,  Nature,  Outdoor,  Projects,  Seasonal

    Last of the Autumn Leaves

    They say the Autumn colours have been better than ever this year.  I live in an area with lots of tree-lined avenues, and the sight of the gorgeous colours, particularly when the sun is on them, has found me collecting stacks of leaves with the kids.  Having got them all home I then had to decide what we were going to do with them all, so here’s what we did with some of them.  You do need a laminator for these activities I’m afraid, but if you don’t have one, they’re not expensive and come in very useful for all kinds of things – not to mention art and craft…

  • Materials & Techniques,  Nature

    Experimenting with Natural Paints

    This time of year is good for experimenting with natural paints and pigments.  It’s easy to forget that in the not too distant past, all dyes and paints had to be obtained from the natural world, directly from animals, minerals and plants. The resulting colours may not always have been as bright as those obtained from chemical sources, but they have a beauty and subtlety of their own.  As a teenager I got heavily into experimenting with natural dyes – I think I was not only an unusual teenager in this respect, but had remarkably tolerant parents who were willing to put up with the foul smells from pots of…

  • Nature,  Outdoor,  Techniques

    Experimenting with Sun Prints

    For this post I decided to have a go at Sun Prints with the kids.  The proper name for these is Cyanotypes, and it is a technique first developed in the early days of photography by Sir John Herschel in 1842.  In fact they are the original ‘blue-prints’. They’re really simple to do if you buy the prepared paper, and the effect is almost ‘magical’ for children.  They are particularly effective using leaves, flowers, plants, feathers etc., but you can use cut out shapes, or any flat household objects which will leave a distinctive silhouette.  I love the resulting ethereal, almost ghostly quality that you get with them.  It’s a…

  • Nature,  Outdoor,  Projects,  Summer

    Beach Art

    There’s no reason for kids to stop being creative if you go away on holiday.  Even if you stay at home the (hopefully) long sunny summer days, and extra time that the summer holidays bring, provide the perfect opportunity to experiment with a bit of land art. Land art is the name given to the practice of creating artwork outdoors using only the natural materials you find around you. For me, land art not only comes from the landscape but also forms part of it, so is never intrusive.  At its best, it is both influenced by and gives something back to its environment in a never-ending virtuous circle.  It…