Kids & Nature Connections: Nature gifts for the holidays

Submitted on Fri, 03/24/2017 - 13:41

This article originally ran in The Wenatchee World in December 2017.

Holiday gifts – the source of a lot of joy, and sometimes a lot of stress. Why not turn this yearly project into some fun, nature-based bonding time with your kids?

Below are a few nature-based do-it-yourself holiday gift ideas that are great ways for kids to both engage with nature, and make something to give to a friend, classmate, or family member.

Time to get gifting!

Create a clear holiday nature ornament. This is a great craft for kids who can handle the ornaments gently so as not to break them. You can also do these in batches to give to multiple people. All you need is a clear, ball-shaped tree ornament and some natural materials as filler. The first step is to bundle up and head outside! Collect small items from a local trail or from your yard that can fit inside the opening of the ornament. Things that work well are pine, fir and cedar needles, tiny cedar cones, lichen, and tiny stones. Encourage children to look for things with different colors and textures. As always, be sure to harvest responsibly. Don’t take too much, and unless they’re from your own yard, be sure what you harvest is already detached from a living plant so as not to hurt the plant. After collection is complete, let them dry out inside in a dry place for a week or two so they don’t mold inside the ornament. Then, fill the ornaments with the collected materials. I find they look best filled just halfway.

Frame some leaf art. I have a habit of collecting frames from thrift stores. Collect some leaves or needles, then have kids make leaf rubbings – lay a piece of paper over them and use crayons, colored pencils, or charcoal to color on top of the leaves. If you’re using charcoal, you may want to use a setting spray for charcoal drawings. When using crayons, painting over them with watercolors gives even more color! Framing these paintings makes them holiday gift-quality.

Build tiny terrarium gifts. This project can also serve as a teaching tool to help younger children learn what plants need to live. Gather a glass container, soil, small gravel, and plants. Ground covers, spider plants and ferns – plants that need humidity – work well in closed terrariums, and succulents are better suited for open terrariums. First, fill the glass container an inch or two with gravel. Then take the plant out of the container and loosen up its roots. Arrange it in the container and fill the area around it with potting soil. Water and give as a gift! 

Whether for homemade gifts or others, kids can help decorate the gift with natural materials they’ve gathered as well – small pieces of fir needles or little pine cones work well!