This project requires true collaboration – little ones (especially depending on how little they are) and grown-ups will each have a hand in making this piece. The resulting art, a true reflection of the efforts of all, ends up not only being a beautiful and fun addition to your seasonal home decor, but also a lovely memory of the connections you crafted, the memories you made, while working together.
As always, you are the expert on your little one(s) and you will know which parts of the activity are appropriate. That being said, don’t forget to set high expectations for them and allow them to jump in and try, even if you aren’t sure they’ll be able to handle it. They might surprise you, and themselves!
You Will Need
Wood block, our piece was 5 inches x 7 inches x 2 inches
Hammer, 8 oz. works well for little ones
What to Do
Painting the block. This step is optional, and was borne from the fact that I was recycling a piece of wood from the linoleum carving work that I do. It was rough and inked up. Painting the block not only made it useful again, but it also ended up giving it a lovely, rich autumnal feel. The key to this step is providing a limited color palette. Little artists will still enjoy painting, but you don’t run the risk of the project turning brown.
Choose a leaf. The leaf mobile stencils are perfect for this. When you print them you can make them smaller or larger depending on the size of your block.
Trace the leaf onto the block. This is a step for the grown-up. First in pencil, then with a permanent marker.
Get ready to hammer. Remember safety; protective eye-wear is always a good idea. Also, an 8oz hammer is a perfect size for those in the toddler and preschool set. This is a great opportunity to get your little one a real tool that they will be able to use for real projects for years to come. You can add some masking tape to the handle, closer to the head of the hammer, to remind them where they should grab for best control. As they grow and get more control, you can move the masking tape further back.
Hammer away. With the maple leaf we started by putting in nails at each of the points. I would seat the nail, by hammering it in just enough that it wouldn’t fall out, and hand over the duties to my little one (he’s 3.5 years old).
Add the yarn. Start by tying a knot in one end of your yarn and place the knot over the end of one of the nails. First, trace the outline of the leaf, by weaving in and out and wrapping the yarn around some of the nailheads. Note: this part was pretty fiddly for my little guy and we did most of it together. I wonder if a bigger piece of wood, with bigger nails and bigger spaces between would help him to be more independent with this part. That being said, the collaboration was fun and he enjoyed doing it with me.
After you’ve traced the outline with the yarn, have fun filling in the leaf by running the yarn across the inside, around another nail, and back to the other side. There needn’t be any rhyme or reason here, and that is part of the fun!
Finish it up. Once you’ve filled in the leaf to your satisfaction, tie the yarn end to one of the nail heads. Add the name of the leaf, if you desire, somewhere onto the wood. Stand back and admire your handiwork!
Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Can you find any maple leaves? Have they all already fallen off the trees?
Would you like to make another piece of nail art? Go out for a nature walk and find something else that you’d like to try!
Could you do a leaf study? Perhaps capturing a few different leaves in a variety of ways – with rubbings, painted prints, salt dough impressions, and nail art?
Is there someone you know that would enjoy a piece of nail art? Perhaps you could make one to give them.
Is there someone you know that would like to do the project with you? Invite them over, show them how.