Paint Brushes From Natural Materials




‘I honor the gifts provided by the natural world

and the creativity it inspires.’


In this activity children will practice tool building with natural materials by making paintbrushes with twigs and foliage.


Several twigs

String, twine or a piece of raffia

Materials for bristles (pine needles, spruce needles, cypress foliage, even tree buds, etc)

Optional: a rubber band




Have a conversation with your children about the tools the natural provides. You can talk about objects in your home/classroom that come from the natural world or talk about past projects where you used natural materials together.

Before gathering material for your paintbrushes discuss what a good size twig would be and why. Talk about appropriate/responsible ways to harvest live plant matter for the bristle.

Go on a nature walk with children to gather materials.

To make the paint brushes wrap twine and raffia several times around foliage at the end of your stick and tie tightly. For younger children it may be helpful if you secure a rubber band around the foliage which will assist them in keeping the material in place as they wrap and tie the twine.

Holistic Engagement

Talk about the qualities in the twigs that make the sturdiest handle.


Learn the names of the plants you used to make bristles.

Make predictions about the textures each paint brush will produce.

Children may want to play guessing games with each other (one child paints a sample with each of their brushes while the other child isn’t looking. That child guesses which samples correspond with each brush).


Questions to ask

Why is it important to tie the twine tightly around the foliage?

What kind of design do you predict the pine needles will make?

Why might an artist want to experiment with using different styles of paintbrushes?

What other tools around your house are made from natural materials?


Mindfulness prompts

Take a moment to do a listening mediation before gathering plant material for your project

Pay close attention to the texture and smell of the items you are gathering

Before painting run the brushes along your child’s skin. Have them close their eyes and feel the sensation. They may want to guess which brush you used after each one.

Image by Keila Hötzel