Tag Archive for nature study

DIY Watercolor Bird Silhouette Art for Kids

I’m teaching a great group of homeschoolers simple watercolor techniques, and today I thought I’d post our next project as a tutorial that you can use for your kids.

Silhouette art is popular right now, and is super easy to create.


Supply list: 

  • Watercolor paper, 140 lb.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set (This set fits in a child’s pocket and is perfect for nature study outings!)
  • Watercolor brushes– a flat wide 1″ brush and a medium fine tipped brush. (buy brushes that are specifically for watercolor and come to a point in the package. If they are blunt topped with NO point, your kids won’t be able to get detail.)
  • water
  • paper towels
  • 8″X10″ bird silhouette of your choice. Check google for bird pictures.


Transfer your bird picture of choice to your watercolor paper.


If you have graphite paper, you can use that, but for my art kids, we simply rub pencil over the entire backside of our image print out, then trace it. Know what I mean? You are scribbling with pencil all over the back of the bird picture you chose. Then place it on your watercolor paper and trace firmly, transferring the image.  That’s the DIY New England way. :)


Use your flat paint brush to paint your picture with WATER only.




Mix cobalt blue or whatever “sky-ish” blue color you have and a little water and dot in the sky while your paper is still wet. This allows the paint to “spread” and makes the clouds look realistic. Allow to dry completely before continuing. If you are impatient like I am, use a hair dryer to speed up your process.



Using a smaller brush, mix ultramarine blue or your darkest blue with sepia brown or your darkest brown. Don’t over mix. Allow the colors to separate. Your mixture should not be super watery. You want a dark mixture. Watercolor dries at half strength, so use color that is darker than you think it should be. Fill in your outline and allow to dry. You’re done.


This can be used for any silhouette, obviously.

You can use the same technique to make this picture with 3-5 year olds, except after you transfer the image on your watercolor paper, you COLOR the silhouette outline with a white crayon. This is called a wax resist. Then, once your silhouette is colored in white, you watercolor the background. Easy peasy art project for your kiddos.


Watercolor is a wee bit intimidating if you’re not used to the medium but here are a few things to remember about watercolor:

  1. You need to DRY your work between steps or you’ll end up with a hazy soup.
  2. As much as possible, mix only two colors at a time. Anything more gets muddy.
  3. Use the best quality materials you can afford. Investing in a small artist quality palatte, like the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set is better than using Crayola Watercolor from Walmart. Your kids will get a much better result.


*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks.

Summer: The Perfect Time to Begin Nature Study

If you are at all familiar with Charlotte Mason’s methods, you know that she encouraged teachers to expose their students to nature. And summertime is the perfect time to start nature study with your kids, because they have so much free time out doors.

A page from my nature journal

If  starting nature study sounds overwhelming to your already busy schedule, let me clear up a few misconceptions.

Nature study is not:

  • a thing to be feared because you don’t know a dandelion from a daffodil or a woodpecker from a warbler.
  • just another subject to add to your already busy school day.
  • a subject to be graded.
  • a subject that should be taught if it does not encourage fondness of the out doors and the appreciation of nature. 

Nature study is:

  • Simply the study of nature meant to cultivate a child’s ability to accurately observe the world around him.
  • A tool that should increase a child’s love for all things beautiful.
  • something that with minimal prep work can be enjoyed by your whole family. 
  • A break from the routine of school work.
  • As simple as a brisk walk to observe the foliage of a particular wood, or as detailed as drawing out the different types of markings and types of bird feathers.
  • something can be started at the earliest of ages by simply pointing out things in nature in a conversational way. “Oh, look at how the robin has a red belly.” “See how the cat likes to be in the sunshine.”

Let me give you a few easy ways to start nature study with your young ones:

1. Observe the birds in your area. Start with the birds you come into contact to on a regular basis. Here in the northeast, we see robins, sparrows, orioles, bluejays, cardinals, turkeys, mallards, etc.

2. Learn the proper name!  Don’t just call them “bird”,” tree”,” flower”- consult a field guide and learn the names of the things in your own yard first. (Don’t laugh- I did this when Rebekah was two. When she asked me the name of “that birdie” and I realized that I had a lot to learn.) I found the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock to be a very helpful reference. Also, I liked the National Audobon Society Field Guide Series. Also, eNature is an online resource where you can search by types of birds and hear their songs.

3. Ask questions that make the child observe.

  • Where do you see this bird the most?
  • When did you see it first this season?
  • What color is his beak? Eye?
  • What color is his head? The back? The throat? The breast?It’s tail?
  • Does he hop, run or walk?
  • How does he get his food? Drink?
  • How does he react around other animals?
  • What song does he sing?

When appropriate, encourage the child to record his observations in a small unlined notebook. More detail on this later, but it should be small enough to carry around with thick enough paper to handle marker and watercolor.

Tell your child to record what they observe. You should set the example by also sketching in a field notebook. Also, the child’s observations should not be “graded.” The field notebook should be for pleasure and for the child’s own benefit. Grading, criticizing or marking up the child’s notebook is off limits. :) You might ask gently”Which bird was it that you observed  to be bright purple with pink polka dots?” to get the  point across that this should be realistic.

Also, take advantage of the easy summer schedule to start your nature study on the beach. Your child can observe shells, crabs and  starfish by the water, and grasses, dunes, sandpipers and other birds by the marsh. Most kids love finding treasures on the beach and with a little creative conversation, you can get them “thinking” without them really knowing they are learning. :)

What other ways have you found to  teach your child to appreciate nature?