Encourage your kids to discover the beauty of the natural world and develop fine motor skills with this simple nature cutting tray activity.
Are you looking for a new way to invite your kids to play outdoors? Try creating a nature cutting tray! It’s a simple activity to spark your children’s creativity, enjoy some fresh air, and develop fine motor skills.
This super easy set-up checks all the boxes for a great kids’ activity.
Benefits of a Nature Cutting Tray
- It’s open-ended: Kids can choose to interact with the materials however they choose and use them to make whatever they can imagine.
- It’s outdoors: There are so many valuable reasons to send kids outside to play, and this is one that will make them excited to stay there for a long time.
- It’s free: You don’t need to spend money on expensive toys. This activity invites kids to interact with natural materials you can gather from your own yard (or a friendly neighbor).
- It provides countless opportunities for learning: Fine motor skill development, sensory explorations, creativity, science, and more!
How to Create a Nature Cutting Tray
The next time you’re trimming shrubs in your yard, gather the clippings into a tray or bin and invite your child to play with them.
It’s that simple!
Add some scissors, water, and possibly a mud pie tin, and you’ve got yourself an awesome activity.
If you want a complete step-by-step guide, here’s everything you need to know:
- A tray or shallow container
- Safety scissors (appropriate for your child’s age and skill level)
- Assorted natural materials like leaves, twigs, flowers, and grass
- Optional: magnifying glass, gloves, bucket, spoon, etc.
- Grab a tray or other shallow container that is large enough to accommodate the collected materials.
- Gather other materials you want to include in the activity. This can be as simple as providing a pair of child-safe scissors, or you can add additional tools (magnifying glass, gloves, bucket, spoon, etc.)
- Collect some natural materials from your yard to use in your tray. This could include leaves, flowers, twigs, grass, or whatever you have on hand. Teach your child to ONLY collect items that have fallen to the ground or that you have approved cutting off a plant.
- Now you’re ready to set up the cutting tray. Arrange the collected materials on the tray and invite your child to explore what is there. If your child is interested, you can also sort them by type, color, or size.
- Introduce the scissors (remind kids of safe cutting habits) and encourage your child to experiment with cutting various items on the tray. They can trim leaves into different shapes, snip grass into tiny pieces, or divide flowers into petals. Let their imagination and creativity guide them as they explore the textures, scents, and colors of the natural materials.
Want more ideas of how to play with your nature cutting tray? Keep reading!
More Ideas for Play
Most likely, you won’t need to offer any more direction to your child than a simple, “Would you like to play with these?”…but if you have a child that needs a little more guidance, here’s some inspiration to get you started:
- Make a mud pie and use rocks, twigs, leaves, and flowers to decorate it.
- Combine different natural materials in a container of water to make “soup” (don’t eat it, of course) or other culinary creations.
- Pretend to be a wizard creating magic potions using bits of nature as ingredients.
- Invite your child to create a picture using the cut pieces. They can arrange the leaves, flowers, and plants on the tray to make patterns, collages, or even nature-inspired artwork.
When we did this activity, my little guy got so excited about brewing a magic potion that he asked me to help him build a tripod structure to hang his “cauldron” on. Then he made a fire ring of rocks, add water and ingredients, and gave me a very animated play-by-play of how the potion changed with each additional ingredient. It was so fun to see his imagination going wild!
So, grab a tray, gather some natural treasures, and let the cutting and creativity begin!
Want more outdoor play ideas for kids? Try these!