Using our Imaginations to Create with Nature!

children painting at our daycare center

By Kristin Gillis

For this lesson, students get to explore their imaginations and see how objects that are all around us can be used in a variety of ways! For instance, we can use a stick and leaves to create our very own paintbrushes! By sparking a child’s creativity it allows them to engage and view the world around them through different lenses. Students also get to participate in class discussion, work on predicting text, practice their fine motor skills, and are giving the opportunities to seek and explore what materials in nature speak to them and engage their imagination! Teachers can also extend the lesson by challenging students to work on color mixing as they paint and explore with their Nature Paintbrushes as well. Who knew nature could be so fun? We did!

children learning about painting


Book – This is Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Paint (my favorite for this project is watercolor!)

Nature – Sticks, Leaves, Flowers, Bark, Rocks

Brown Twine

8’’ x 11’’ paper


  1. Discuss with students what it means to use their “imagination” and what it means to pretend.
  2. Read the book, This is Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis and have a class discussion asking your students what they think they are pretending the stick is next in the story. Reinforce the word “imagination”.
  3. After finishing the story, talk with students about what they are going to get to do today! I recommend having only the paint out on the table and asking students, “We have paint and paper, but what else do we need to paint a picture?” and hopefully students will recognize that a paint brush is missing! Ask them what we can use from nature to make our own paintbrush and discuss what they can find to use for the handle (stick) and for the brush (flowers, leaves, bark, rocks, etc.).
  4. Have students collect materials and come back to the table. Tape the materials together and add a string. Hand the brush back to students and tell them they will wrap the string around the handle to help tie the materials together (extra motor skill/hand eye coordination practice).
  5. Once the paint brush is done, have them start painting!


Extension: Ask students to choose a color that is not on the table, and practice color mixing and exploration!

girl painting at our daycare center

girl holding a stick in our garden

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