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I’m currently slightly obsessed with finding interesting ways to experiment with natural pigments and the creation of art from nature. Today was a picture-perfect spring day, so I wandered around the yard gathering colorful leaves, flower stems, and loose petals (the neighbors are starting to wonder).
I took my plant volunteers inside, made a beautiful little arrangement of them on paper, then proceeded to beat them absolutely chlorophyll-less with a hammer. And let me tell you – it was GLORIOUSLY fun and also crazy interesting to see the results!
There are tons of details to notice (along with smells!) and because my foliage was so healthy and water-filled, there was cool color-mixing with many satisfying vibrant splats! If you’re looking for a fun afternoon nature activity your kids will love, give this a go – your littles are going to absolutely adore making hammered nature art!
To make your own hammered nature art you’ll need:
- Paper (cardstock or watercolor paper works the best)
- A collection of flowers and leaves in a variety of colors
- A towel
- Wax paper
- A hammer, rubber mallet or similar
- Other mark-making tools
- Glue (for collaging)
You can have fun simply hammering different types of plants to see what happens, or you can create some lovely, natural artwork by arranging plants in different compositions, repeating the process on the same piece of paper until you have several layers of colorful stamped foliage prints.
DIY Hammered Nature Art Instructions:
- Gather nature supplies
Gather up a variety of leaves and flowers – a great excuse for a nature walk! The more colors you can find the better!
- Arrange with your collection of natural materials on a sheet of paper
If you’re going to make a composition as we did, you can arrange your flowers and leaves on a piece of paper in a way you like. You can also experiment with leaves one-by-one or on small squares of paper. Once you’re happy with your arrangement, gently flip the leaves over so they are face down.
- Cover with wax paper
Cover your arrangement, leaf, or flower with a piece of wax paper. Your hammer will get pigment on it, so this will keep it from making prints on the paper.
Grab your hammer and start pounding! It’s fun to experiment with light and hard hammering and different sizes of hammers if you have them. Our foliage was so healthy and water-filled that we found it was helpful to put a towel underneath the paper to keep it from sliding.
Toddler tip: Working with little ones? If you’re nervous about using a hammer, try a rubber mallet instead. It has a bit more bounce and softness, but will still do the trick when it comes to pounding!
- Gently pull the wax paper off the top of your paper
Slowly pull back the wax paper. There were so many “oooohhhhs” and “ahhhhhhs” from our crowd! The variety of colors was actually better than we thought we would get – and some looked different than what we had expected. Some leaves left very detailed prints, while others only left an outline around the outside.
- Optional: add watercolors and salt or collage
Once you’ve finished, you can continue the experiment and art-making by painting your prints with watercolors and then sprinkling them with salt (this adds another layer of cool texture!). Or cut your prints into small pieces and collage them.
This printmaking technique is one part science experiment and one part process art. There are endless details to observe, creating a variety of open-ended learning opportunities. And my favorite part: no two hammerings will ever be alike.
For more ambitious nature collectors, visit our tutorial on turning a shoebox into a DIY nature explorer’s kit. This little trunk made with upcycled supplies is brimming over with science-based opportunities for investigation and takes nature observation to the next level.
For another easy art project little ones can help with, make our abstract melted crayon art!