Arts & Crafts: A Natural Fit for Kids

Ever since I was little, I have loved arts and crafts projects. Growing up, I never let my mother throw anything away that could be reincarnated in the form of furniture for my dollhouse, a jewelry box, or a homemade gift. (Thankfully, Mom tolerated such hoarding behavior; indeed, she introduced me to art in the first place.) Little did I realize at the time, however, that my projects had two other merits besides entertainment--they were low-cost, and they supported an environmental ethic: reusing. You can imagine how delighted I was, then, when I came across the following two do-it-yourself crafts books intended for children. Not only do they encourage creativity, but they do so in a way that celebrates the natural world around us.

First up:
Nature's Art Box
By Laura C. Martin/Drawings by David Cain
Storey Publishing

From buttons made out of shells, to magic wands formed from dried flowers, to chess sets fashioned from twigs, moss, and stones, Martin's projects all incorporate items found in nature. While a list of materials, along with step-by-step instructions, tip boxes, and colorful illustrations will guide kids as they work, factoids about Native American art and culture (which encompasses a deep reverence for nature) will remind them to respect the environment they look to for supplies--not to mention inspiration. "Whether you live in a cabin in the woods, a house in the suburbs, or an apartment in the city, you'll find natural treasures that you can turn into a huge number of projects and gifts," writes Martin, reminding readers to "gather treasures carefully and wisely, leaving more for other artists and for the birds and animals that share our earth." 

And second:
Crafts for Kids Who Are Wild About the Wild
By Kathy Ross/Art by Sharon Lane Holm
The Millbrook Press

Ross divides her book into seven themed sections devoted to an ecosystem or type of animal. For example, in "Polar Life," she teaches children--stepwise and with adorable illustrations--how to make a caribou marionette out of a cereal box, egg carton, and shoelaces; in "Insects," she conjures a Venus's flytrap and fly puppets out of gloves, socks, and some paint. For those youngsters who want to learn more about their creations' real-life models, Ross also provides a list of books about the subject at the end of each section.

So, with the holiday season coming up, consider forgoing that shiny new electronic device, and pick up one or both of these books for your kids. But don't be surprised if you soon see them diving through the trash...

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