When my children were little, one of our favorite things to do was to go outside and create “nature houses.” These would consist of sticks, bark, leaves, and rocks—or whatever other interesting materials caught our eye. When we lived in Bellingham Washington, we spent a lot of time on the beaches of the Puget Sound, so those houses would be built out of driftwood and shells. It doesn’t really matter what materials you use, it’s just a fun way to spend some time exploring nature and enjoying the outdoors.
If the smoke is keeping you inside, stop by the Ashland Library, and pick up a Take & Make kit with supplies to get you and your child started creating your own nature house. If you can’t make it to Ashland, wait for a break in the smoke and collect some of your own materials. Here are some of the things I picked up with just a quick 15-minute wander around my neighborhood.
Ideally, this would be a project that you and your child work on outside. It’s a lot easier to get everything to stand up when you’re building on dirt or grass. If, however, you’re going to do it inside, I recommend using some sort of box.
Cut an opening in the front, and leave a two-inch border on the bottom.
Making sure the bottom of the box is secure, find some dirt and add a little to the box.
I had some packing paper left over from a recent delivery, so I used that to give the back of my box a more uniform background. Tissue paper would be a good option as well, or you can just leave it as is.
Now it’s time to create your nature house! The easiest way to get it to stand is to make a kind of lean-to that fans out from the back of the box. I’ll admit, I got very adult when I was making my nature house. I started getting really fussy about what stick would go where and worrying about things like “structural integrity.” I guarantee if you leave your child to it, they’ll have a grand time building the perfect nature house… (that may fall down in five minutes), but that’s all part of the experimentation, fun, and trial and error of the process.
I’ll show you the steps I took in creating my structure, but please don’t hold your child to them. This is just one example of how it can be done.
Once I had the basic structure, it was time to make it a home worthy of a garden gnome or nature sprite. Anything can work for this: dried flowers, leaves, seed pods, pinecones, acorns, lichen, and moss, just name a few.
As I was decorating, I got fixated on the idea of a front entrance, so I spent another 15 minutes roaming the neighborhood looking for just the right thing to create it. The same may happen to you and your child; as you build and create your house, ideas will come to you that you never even considered before.
After I had the front door figured out, the rest just all came together.
If, like me, you end up doing this project inside, it’s still a great opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. Take some time with your child to really examine everything you’ve gathered. One of the sticks I found showed the signs of a visit from a Sapsucker woodpecker! That was a pretty neat discovery.
Every branch in the Library District usually has some craft or activity for you do with your child. Visit the event calendar to see what’s happening in your community. In the meantime, check out the storytime short below, featuring the book You Are a Beautiful Beginning written by Nina Laden. For more children’s books that explore the wonders of nature take a look at the booklist Celebrating Nature.