Let imaginations run wild with this idea by Modern Parents Messy Kids for an art project made from little bits found in nature. Fourteen legs? Six eyes? True to life or make-believe, the kids will have hours of fun piecing together their buggy friends.
2. Homemade rainbow
Bring the colors of nature indoors with this idea for homemade watercolors by Learn Play Imagine. Colorful petals placed in zippered bags with some warm water yield surprising results! You may need to buy your flowers from the market if you're doing this activity during winter, but this project is worth it.
3. Stargazing jar
Way cooler than a nightlight, this DIY constellation jar by Design Mom features a tricky way to sneak a science lesson into an art project. Teach the kids the different constellations while you draw out the patterns onto a foil cake pan. Loop the sheet and place inside a glass jar, add a click light, then take into a dark room and enjoy!
4. Nature journal
A nature journal like this one by Simple Living Mama is a great way to encourage writing, drawing and exploring! Your little Lewises and Clarks will love documenting their adventures after nature walks.
5. Weather window
Nature-Watch’s cloud identification activity kit gives us an idea for creating similar cloud “windows” for kids to use inside to identify seasonal clouds as they roll in. Make a DIY version using printed-out photos of the different formations, or buy the Nature-Watch version online.
6. Painted sticks
This simple idea by To Swoon For let’s kids turn backyard sticks into works of art with their painted designs. Whether they’re wizard wands or walking sticks, the kids will love striping the sticks with their favorite colors.
7. Paper vases
There’s just something so comforting about having plants and other nature elements around the house. These DIY paper vases by A Subtle Revelry are not only a great way to keep kids busy with an afternoon project, but also a great gift idea for any occasion. The folded paper disguises recycled jars of potted plants or water for flower stems.
8. Bug house
This project for a DIY bug house by PBS Parents really does bring nature indoors. With a small cardboard container, paints, and screen material (plus a little adult supervision for the cuts and clips), kids can make a bug hotel ready for jumpy creatures to stay awhile once the weather warms up.
9. Paper landscape
We love finding ideas that can use up all the scrap paper we’ve accumulated. We know this idea for creating a nature landscape by Mr. Printables will inspire hours of creativity and stories. How cute are those little trees? Check out the post for a closer look at the elements and links to print off all of the papers used.
10. Mini forest
Combine two playtime MVPs, play dough and nature, in this idea for a miniature forest by Sunhats & Wellie Boots. Check out the post for a homemade natural play dough recipe and ideas for forest, flower and beach themes.
11. Rolling stones
This idea for bringing nature indoors featured at Handmade Charlotte requires little prep time, but a lot of imagination. Setting up flat stepping stones in a hallway, or along a blue rug or runner, lets kids imagine they’re trekking across a stream on the best of springtime days.
12. Alphabet set
This idea for a DIY alphabet set featured at An Idea on Tuesday is a fun way to create a learning toy out of natural materials. While this example uses gumnuts (who knows about these?), a Northwest version may work better with acorns, pine cones or cross-sections of a large branch (think: little wooden coins).
13. Winter sun catchers
Here's a fun one for winter. These icy sun catchers by Ready for Ten let kids freeze nature to display close by a window. The best part? Watching them melt as the temperature warms up — natural thermometers!
Editor's note: This article was published a few years ago and has been updated for 2020.