finished product of a stamped leaf on paper

By Kristen Gillis

Do you ever just stop, drop, and start creating? There is so much to explore with the world around us! Here is another fun lesson you can do with your child to create and continue exploring all the ways we can integrate art with nature! In this lesson kids get to explore how many different ways we can use the same materials. First, we started out letting the kids explore with the clay. Squeezing it in to a ball, flattening it like a pancake, rolling it in to a long strand, pulling it a part and pushing it back together. Allowing students to explore with the clay gives them sensory and tactical experience while stimulating their imagination. For the lesson, introduce the concept of clay printing by relating it to something students might already know/have used: stamps! By relating a new concept (like an imprint) to something they already know (stamps) helps every student build cross connections between their brain and the curriculum, and makes the content more meaningful and memorable for students. This style of learning also prepares them for the elementary school classroom where teachers build on cross-curricular instruction.

boys working on their art together

Materials:
Clay
Paint (Tempura)
Paintbrushes
Paper
Items from Nature
Optional: Bin of water for students to wash the paint off the clay.

kids working in our art studio at our daycare

Steps:

  1. To get students to start thinking about all the lines, textures, sizes, shapes, and features of nature, read a story or have a discussion about what we find in the world all around us! Focus on an item, “What are all the different things we can do with leaves? How about sticks?”.
  2. Let students know they will get to explore nature and find what speaks to them. They can select as many items as you/they want!
  3. Give each student a ball of clay. Give them a few minutes to explore and play with the clay before having them follow your directions to make a stamp. After they have play time, have students flatten the clay (try to make sure it is at least ½” to 1” thick) in to a “pancake”.
  4. Have students search for nature items they want to use to make their print. Discuss what works well, what might not work, etc., before students search. For younger students, gather items and have them on the table and discuss what works best.
  5. Students press their nature item in to the clay to create an imprint! Demonstrate how to push down on every part of the item to make sure each detail transfers.
  6. Remove the item and have students observe their imprint. Ask questions like “What do you see?” “Are there lines, bumps, grooves, holes?” “What makes your print unique?” .
  7. Give students paint and paintbrushes. Let them know they get to paint right on to the clay! Tell them to make sure to get paint in to all the spaces in the print! (When it comes to paint, demonstrate how less paint creates a clearer print).
  8. Leave the clay imprint on the table. Give students pieces of paper and have students press the paper gently on to the clay! Show them how to get it in to all the grooves of the clay.
  9. Gently peel back the paper to reveal your Clay Nature Print! Have kids try multiple times without repainting so they can see the print change with less and less paint!
  10. Repeat as many times with different colors on the same print, or with as many pieces of nature as you’d like!

Wash off the paint from the clay as soon as possible.

imprint of a leaf in clay

Extension: Have students sculpt the item from nature out of the clay and use that to make a print as well! This helps students with fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and the concept of an imprint vs a 3-D creation!

child playing with clay at our art studio
boy pushing leaves into clay