Artfully Outdoorsy Montessori: Let the Children Draw Us Back to Nature!


Welcome to the Wings, Worms & Wonder Draw Yourself Back to Nature Blog Hop! LEAVE A COMMENT AT THE END OF THIS POST AND YOU MAY JUST WIN MY FABULOUS "OUTDOORSY BOX" GIVE AWAY! 

I recently got "drawn" back to nature by taking Kelly Johnson's eCourse, Draw Three Herbs.(find that link at the end of this post) I had not really drawn a picture in something like 5 years! And, my favorite subject to draw has been flowers ever since I lived in the mountains of North Carolina (in the 1980's) where the wild flowers are spectacular. 

So, I was very grateful to get drawn back to nature by Kelly! One of the herbs we drew & painted in the course, was Echinacea. That herb has the most dazzling flowers, the bristliest leaves and is just a feast for the senses. A pleasure to create with!

I didn't happen to have any Echinacea growing in my garden, but some little flower fairy must have been guiding me because a few days into the eCourse, I found a big pot of Echinacea (flowers & all!) at my local garden store. It just happened to be the last Echinacea plant available AND IT WAS EVEN ON SALE!

All photos by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company unless otherwise noted.

So, I quickly got to the process of making art. I put on the first video and found myself drawing along with Kelly, just as if she were sitting right at my kitchen table with me, drawing away! 

Then, she guided me through the painting process with video # 2 and my drawing came to life. My art medium of choice over the ages has been inks, since my days of making stained glass renditions for our clients. But, I got out my water colors and learned how to apply them to my drawing using Kelly's tutorial. A new art avenue for me that was very satisfying!

Then, of course, I got to thinking about how this " art making"  could be done with children.

I have offered children water colors in tubes as well as cakes. Older children love the professional quality of tubed colors, and younger children have a fuller experience with water colors in cake form. I found some nice big cakes of water colors at Michaels a few months ago, so I set up this art tray for a child to explore the two techniques that Kelly described in her videos at the Monday post for this Blog Hop: Dry Brush Technique and Wet on Wet Technique.

The Montessori-style tray is set up with the following:

  • 2 cakes of water colors (or tempera) in 2 different colors
  • 2 child-size triangular paint brushes: one with a rounded  tip and one with a flat tip
  • 2 bowls for water: one for rinsing off paint and one that stays clean & clear for activating the water color paints 
  • 2 chop stick holders for the paint brushes to rest upon
  • Thick paper towels
  • Sheets of water color paper
The first experience for the child would be the dry brush technique set up on a tray with 2 water color cakes.
You can show how to make "lines" on the dry art paper that each look different according to how much water is on the brush, how fast or slowly the brush is moved across the paper, and whether the rounded brush or the flat brush is used.

On another day, the child can explore the wet on wet technique for water colors. (the paper is wet: use the flat brush and the clean water with no color on the brush) With this tray, I added a third water color cake, but was careful to keep them primary colors (NOT complimentary colors!) so that the child can blend but not muddy the colors.(I also learned that from Kelly's Monday blog tutorial!)

Then, the child can also make curved and zig-zagged lines as well. This is another variation on the "lines" that Montessori children practice when learning to cut with scissors.

Using a paint brush can become a frustrating experience for a young child, and this is where guidance from the adult is a big help. I found a lovely chapter in Ann Pelo's book, The Language of Art, that gives a very thoughtful way to teach a child about the finer points of using a paint brush. I really like this book and it comes in both eBook and paperback form. ( I have both!) 

Ms Pelo helps the child maintain control of the paint brush by explaining  it this way:

Triangular brushes available at Amazon at this link: Faber Castell triangular brushes. 

She also teaches the children a little sort of rhyme for the process of painting with water colors. Ms Pelo tells the child that there is a "special way to use water color paint. This will let you be boss of the paint. Here's how it works:
  • Water
  • Towel 
  • Color or clear
  • Dip in paint
  • Wipe the drips
  • Paint on paper"
She says the children learn it quickly by making the sing-song of it into a rhyme!

I also really like the triangular brushes in the photos above. I recently discovered these from Faber Castell and they are just right for a child's hand. There are 6 sizes of brushes in the kit I bought, including several round-tipped and several flat-tipped brushes in varying sizes. You can find them on Amazon at the link above.

There is so much learning going on for the child, not only with the actual art process, fine motor development, and aesthetic sensibilities, but with the vocabulary that goes along with it all!

  • Paint brush
  • Hairs of the brush
  • Rounded
  • Flat
  • Brush handle
  • Water colors
  • Water color paper
  • Tubes
  • Cakes
  • Primary colors
  • Complimentary colors
  • Blending
  • Muddying
  • Rinsing a brush
  • Dabbing a brush on a paper towel
  • Dry brush technique
  • Wet on wet technique
And, don't forget the all-important Practical Life learning:

  • putting on an art smock 
  • getting out the art mat for the table 
  • carrying the tray 
  • filling & emptying the little water containers 
  • carrying the completed art piece to the drying rack
  • scrubbing the art mat clean for its next use
Okay, let's get back to nature!
The Outdoor Classroom is always a great place to draw & paint the plants that are growing there. I am reminded of  my good friend Mana from the Muse in Willits, and her wonderful arts program with the children in that Northern California town. She often has a wonderful display of the children's outdoor art at the entrance to her Outdoor Classroom. This is their sort of "daily nature journal."

Photo from Mana from the

Then, I thought about how much children like to make their drawings look realistic (even though I personally LOVE the wild drawings of the very youngest children). In my Montessori Preschool classroom, I would often find little ones tracing photos of flowers (and many other subjects from nature) by placing the picture on the light table, then placing copy paper over the picture and tracing carefully to reproduce a realistic rendition. You can read more about  children creating realistic leaf pictures using the insets from the Montessori Leaf cabinet at my past post here: Realistic Leaf Drawing in the Montessori room.

Let's trace!

4 yr old at the light table tracing a picture 

How about some lovely hand made felt flower hats for a fun  nature drama! The way this can fit into journal making is to invite the children to write, draw, or dictate their story and then it can be acted out with props and even music.
You can wrap some colorful felt fabric around the child's head, then add plastic (or real) flowers!

My friend, Mana from the Muse, at her lovely art center, teaches drama classes and of course the children create all the props & costumes. Here are paper machete hats for a midsummer garden performance that the children spent days creating. They each kept a journal of their story ideas and little sketches of their costume & set ideas.

There was even a Lucky Green Leaf Man! (pictured below) 

Which brings us to face painting...another magical activity that works so well in the outdoors. (or indoors) Whenever you paint a child's face, the drama play begins! 

Such a delightful way for the adult to "paint"! Flowers, butterflies, leaves, the sun, stars, even caterpillars...and the child's face is the canvas. This is also a very wonderful way to get to know a child and his/her temperament as the child must sit so still! Then,when the painting is done, I have the child run a bit outside to help the paints dry on the face so they don't get smeared! 

Face painting has been one of my favorite ways that children have drawn me back into nature. I just can't wait for the chance to paint an echinacea flower on a child's face in the near future!

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club 
Need I say more...

Photo from the artists of Dollar Photo Club

This post is part of the BLOG HOP at Wings, Worms & Wonder. I am excited and quite honored to be one of the blogs featured. And, you can be sure I'm taking Kelly's upcoming eCourse:
Click here for more info: Draw Yourself Back to Nature eCourse



  • My favorite hummingbird feeder
  • Starter pack of hummingbird nectar
  • Feeder cleaning brushes
  • Folkmanis hummingbird puppet 
  • Template for making "Parts of the Hummingbird" booklets
  • Montessori style Lesson Plan book with 7 lesson plans to go along with the materials in the box covering many curriculum areas
Simply LEAVE A COMMENT in the section below ANSWERING THIS QUESTION: Why are hummingbirds so magical for children? 

The winner will be chosen on Monday morning (October 12th), so watch for the announcement right here at my blog post on that day.  Good luck! 

Next, you can hop over to Lisa deYoung's Site for the Friday Blog featured in this wonderful blog hop! Here is that link: Mountain 

Thanks very much for visiting my Blog and I hope you come back again real soon! You can subscribe for updates here and conveniently receive my posts in your inbox: Magical Movement Company Subscribe for Updates. 

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