There is nothing young children love more than creating art for their friends and families. As an educator, I have a collection of drawings, potholders, paintings, and small sculptures children have created for me out of things they find around the house. One way I’ve found to take this creative side of children into the woods is by having them create nature bracelets while we hike.
This activity requires only one material–one very “Maine” material–duct tape! In Maine, there is a common belief that duct tape fixes everything! Even though duct tape comes in an assortment of exciting designs now, you can stick with the plain stuff since your designs will be completed on the sticky side.
Before you head out on your hike, wrap a strip of duct tape loosely around your child’s wrist, sticky side facing out–this will become your young artist’s canvas. (You may also want to wear your own bracelet for your child to decorate with you.) In my experience, the younger the child, the faster the bracelets fill up with the first things they see, so bring along the roll of tape and a pair of scissors–handy if your hike outlasts your child’s wrist circumference!
As you hike along the trail, look for small items to add to your bracelets. Some ideas include wildflowers, pine needles, maple seeds, clover leaves, hemlock cones, acorn caps. You can use the same rules as fairy-house building–try not to disturb plants that are alive (like ferns and mosses). A good rule of thumb for using wildflowers is to be sure you leave plenty of untouched blooms for our friendly pollinators to use in their honey production. (If you encounter a field of violets, I am sure the bees will understand if you pick a few blooms here and there.)
Your child may decide to create a pattern using the natural materials they find, or they may choose a more collage-style for their bracelet. Anything goes when it comes to young children’s creativity!
Upon returning home, you may want to use a field guide to look up any unknown plants that you encountered along the way. You could also use an app such as PlantSnap to do your detective work for you, either while on your hike or back home.
After you have identified all your findings, discover a way to use the nature bracelet in another fashion. Maybe your child will use it as a bookmark to keep track of the newest book they’re reading while spending a lot more time at home. (If you use it as a bookmark, be sure all the sticky parts of the tape are covered!) Or you could include it in a care package sent to an out-of-state relative with a sweet note from your child about their hiking adventure. Would your child like to send it to their teacher? Maybe it joins the many drawings on your refrigerator?
However your child uses their creation is up to them, but the thing we can all be sure of is that they may want to make more nature bracelets soon–and that is a great excuse to go for a hike!
~Karen Jones, Summer Camp Coordinator