Expressive arts and design: In full bloom

Karen Hart, early education writer, London
Friday, April 17, 2020

Flowers, plants, snails and birds provide inspiration for a range of craft activities, including finger puppets, paper plate bird nest decorations and a crown of leaves.


Karen Hart

Now is the time when playing and creating outdoors comes into its own and once children get out there and stuck into nature itself, they will feel inspired by everything they see.

These ideas will draw on their experiences and observations, and are suitable for children from two years, working in small groups with a bit of help.

Playing and exploring

  • Children explore ways to make finger puppets
  • They use finger puppets to add fun to familiar action rhymes
  • They have a go at making up stories for their puppets

Snail and bird finger puppets

You will need: Scrap paper card, sticky tape, googly eyes.

These are so simple and make a good go-to activity when looking for something you can quickly make with just some scrap paper card. They can be adapted to fit in with any specific topics you might be running too.

Simply cut a length of card with either a snail head – little stalks for fixing eyes to, or a bird head and wings at one end. Curl the straight end around the child's finger to get a close-ish fit and hold in place with a little piece of sticky tape.

You can add whatever decorations you like, such as googly eyes, little beak for the bird and smiley mouth for the snail etc.

Give children time to play with their finger puppets, making up their own games. If they get broken you can easily make another one. These are especially good to accompany a circle time picture book sharing session on the theme of birds, snails or bugs etc (see book list), as well as action rhyme play (see Enabling Environment). Also, try making a few spare snails in different colours, to hide around your setting – glue dots are good for this. Children can then have a snail hunt to see if they can find them all.

Active learning

  • Children are focused on learning new craft techniques
  • They try to demonstrate patience – working with small parts
  • They create an individual collage to be proud of

Circle time action rhymes

Prompt children to use their finger puppets to act out the following action rhyme:

Slowly, slowly

Slowly, slowly, very slowly creeps the garden snail. (walk fingers up arm) Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the wooden rail. Quickly, quickly, very quickly runs the little mouse. (run fingers around child's belly) Quickly, quickly, very quickly round about the house. (slip fingers under child's arm and tickle)

Spring flowers

You will need: coloured A4 paper for backing, scrap coloured paper, paper, glue, scissors.

Start by looking at pictures of spring flowers in books and on websites as well as the real thing. If possible, bring some into the setting for children to look at close up, talking about the flower's names, their colours and shapes.

When working with younger children it's a good idea to have some of the flower shapes ready made, so they can just work on putting the flowers together.

For hyacinths, we made little curls from strips of paper, which we glued onto oval shaped backing paper to form the flower-head. For poppies, we cut a few circles of red and orange tissue paper for petals, and added a black circle for the centre, which we scrunched up a bit before fixing to our picture with paper glue – children loved the scrunching effect.

We also cut out some bell-shaped bluebell flowers and extra leaves for decoration. Younger children were helped to assemble the flowers from pre-made shapes and older children were able to make, for example, their own paper curls and have a go at cutting the tissue paper – difficult, but as the circles can be very rough, this worked too.

We finished our flower pictures by giving them a spray of (very inexpensive) floral perfume, which the children thought was lovely.

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children think about the materials a bird would choose for their nest
  • They make links to the activity of birds at this time of year
  • Children choose their own materials and design their own nest

Paper plate bird nest decorations

You will need: one paper plate per bird nest, scrap paper, scrap materials for the nest, googly eyes

Start by talking about the types of materials birds would look for when building a nest. Do children think birds would like some strong twigs for the outside and something soft and warm for the inside?

Next, cut approximately five vertical slits along the bottom half of your plate for threading materials through.

Help children weave strips of paper, feathers, cotton wool and small lengths of string through the slits. We added some greenery too. Make simple bird and egg shapes from scrap paper and add these to the nest to look like the mother bird is sitting on her eggs – we used a pen to add a few speckles to our eggs and used googly eyes to give our birds a bit of character!

Finish your nest decorations by making some holes at the top of the plate using a hole punch and threading some string or ribbon through for hanging.

Also try the following easy to prepare extension activity:

Celebration crowns

You will need: strip of green paper card long enough to fit round child's head, stapler, felt tipped pens, flowery Stickers (optional)

The first thing to do is go foraging for some lightweight leaves and fallen petals to decorate the crowns.

Next, using green card, make your basic crown shapes, keeping them quite wide, about 8 ½ inches works well, and it's a good idea to draw a line across the middle as a guideline..

Children can practice their cutting skills by cutting down towards the centre line to make ‘chunky’ strands of grass. Cut the tops of a few strands into points to make them look more grassy – a bit of help will be needed here. Children can decorate their hat, with older children drawing some flowers and bugs, while younger children can add some flower stickers. Finish off by attaching a few real leaves to make a real crown. Children can wear them to join in the following action rhyme:

I'm a little princess, Here is my crown. Here are my slippers, And here is my gown. If the dragon finds me, I won't cry, I'll tickle him, and tickle him, And wave goodbye!

EYFS Early Learning Goals

Note how children practise listening skills by taking part in action rhyme games, and have many opportunities to think and talk about past, present and future tenses when sharing stories and information about the emergence of new life.

Useful resources

  • The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children's Books)
  • Two Little Dicky Birds by Nick Denchfield (Campbell Books)
  • One Springy Day (A Percy the Park Keeper Story) by Nick Butterworth Harper Collins Children's Books)

Key learning points

  • Children are inspired to create by observing the natural world in spring.
  • They experiment with a variety of craft techniques and practice cutting skills.
  • Children learn about nature while playing with what they have made.

Key words:

  • Hyacinths, poppies, bluebells, nests, speckles, snail, creeping, scrunching

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