Turn Nature’s Treasures into Art Masterpieces {by Kathy O’Neill • Guest Post}

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

Children love to explore and bring home treasures. Maybe your children come home every day with pockets loaded down with rocks they can’t live without. Or on a hike in the woods, they stuff their backpacks with spiky pinecones and curls of birch bark. And when your children hop in the car after a day at the beach, their pails of shells and driftwood may also harbor sea creatures hitching a ride home.

Summer is a great time to turn children’s love of collecting into fun art projects made from nature. These 7 projects will help you and your children or grandchildren turn treasures from God’s creation into art masterpieces everyone will love and treasure. 

  • Mobiles: Choose a sturdy branch and attach pine cones, shells, feathers, and other treasures with yarn or glue some things on the branch. Paint the branch or leave it natural and help children experiment to distribute weights so the mobile balances when hung up. 
  • Sculptures: Gather shells and driftwood for a beach theme, sticks and pinecones for a woodland theme, or lots of different rocks. Starting with a cardboard base, glue the items in a pleasing arrangement. Glue sand, moss, or pebbles to the base. Suggest little creatures to make or paint to go with each sculpture.
  • Dioramas: Paint sky and water on the inside back of a shoebox. Glue sand, rocks, shells, and driftwood on the inside bottom for the beach. Make and add a beach ball or sandcastle. Ask children what other dioramas they could make.
  • Weaving: Find several similar sticks for a loom. This is a good project for partners—one holds the sticks together as the other weaves a row; then they switch places. Use different colors and textures of yarn and cloth strips. Find feathers, flowers, etc. to poke or weave in.
  • Rubbings: Gather leaves of various shapes. Place a piece of paper over the vein side of a leaf and color over it with crayons until the leaf and its veins become visible. Use different crayon colors to make a design. Cut out rubbings and make cards to send to friends and family.
  • Drawing: Make a picture of animals and birds. Glue leaves and grasses over the animals so they look like they’re peeping out of a forest. On the back, help children list the creatures they drew and ways God cares for them.
  • Painting: Dip the ends of twigs, feathers, or a spray of pine needles in paint and paint with them. Or tape paper on an incline and roll painted rocks, pinecones, and shells down the ramp. Vote on which marks everyone likes best.

Like Jesus, we can use these small, ordinary things children collect to teach spiritual truths. As you and your children or grandchildren create, help them see that all God’s works are wonderful (Psalm 139:14) by encouraging them to notice colors, shapes, and patterns. Have them run their fingers over bark or rocks, and make a list of words to describe textures. Try to catch a whiff of salt when you use sand and shells for the sea sculpture or diorama. Share your favorite outdoor smells and ask what theirs are. When you paint with natural materials, encourage children to listen for the scratchy sound of a twig compared to the swish of pine needles. Ask what they might hear in the woods or at the beach. 

Best of all, as we admire the masterpieces they create, we can help children realize that each of them is a masterpiece (Psalm 139:14), made by God to love and treasure forever.


As we admire the masterpieces they create, we can help children realize that each of them is a masterpiece made by God to love and treasure forever. #create #parenthood


Kathy O’Neill grew up in Maine. She loves the Lord and His gifts of family, pets, and walks on the beach when storms send waves crashing against the rocks. As a teacher, writer, and speaker, she enjoys engaging children’s and adult’s hearts and hands to discover God and their own creativity through art, history, and nature. Kathy has taught all ages in Christian schools, as well as church and homeschooling groups. She has written for The Quiet Hour, Light from the Word, Refresh Bible Study MagazineHighlights, and Appleseeds

Enjoy more of Kathy’s work through her website and blog, and connect on Facebook and Pinterest

10 thoughts on “Turn Nature’s Treasures into Art Masterpieces {by Kathy O’Neill • Guest Post}

  1. Kathy, I love your creative ideas and your suggestions to teach children about God while enjoying nature. What a perfect way to share biblical principles in an area where children have natural interest. Your activities are adaptable for multiple ages and interests. Thanks, Kathy.

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    1. Thank you, Jeannie. God’s creation is so beautiful, and as you show in your writing, too, it’s a fun way to help children see His wise and loving touch.

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  2. Such a creative mind God has given you Ms. Kathy. To create such beauty can only come from a beautiful place in your soul ma’am. Thank you so much for this post. I was pleasantly surprised to find you here this week. 🙂 God’s blessings my friend.

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    1. Thank you, J.D. In the Quiver is such a great blog with encouragement from Scripture and fun ideas to do with children, while teaching those lessons, so I’m honored to be able to post here. I hope all is going well down on the Cross Dubya, and blessings to you, too, my friend!

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  3. Leaf rubbings! How cool 🙂 And the idea of creating a diorama is downright doable. I’ve never made one, and my granddaughter will squeal with joy to use her paints. Thank you for reminding us that we are His masterpiece.

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    1. Thank you, Charla! I wish I could be there to hear her joyful squeal! Grandchildren are sure one of God’s wonderful gifts!! I know you and she will have a special time you’ll both treasure!

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