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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Make nature paintbrushes

Try making art with paintbrushes that you've made from leaves and grass.

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You’ll need

  • Elastic bands
  • Chairs
  • Pens or pencils
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint
  • Access to water
  • Tables
  • Weather appropriate clothing
  • A4 paper
  • Something to protect surfaces (for example, newspaper or tablecloths)
  • Natural materials (for example, leaves, twigs, feathers)

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. There's also more guidance to help you carry out your risk assessment, including examples. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers. 

Planning this activity

  • You may want to run this activity over two sessions, with one session spent collecting and making the paintbrushes, then the other session spent using them.
  • Alternatively, you could ask people to bring sticks or leaves with them from home. Remember, not everyone will be able to bring the items from home, so you may also want to collect or bring some extra items for people to use. You could also use craft versions of the item, such as craft leaves or craft shells, instead.
  • It’s always a good idea to check for dangerous rubbish, such as glass, metal or sharp objects, and be on the lookout for dog poo. If you see any, it’s best to find somewhere else to explore.
  • Choose an appropriate outdoor area such as outside your meeting place, a nature reserve, woodland area or park. Make sure the area you visit is accessible for everyone, choosing a suitable place for drop off and collection. You may need to think about avoiding steps or steep gradients, or including frequent breaks.  
  • If you’re going to meet at a location other than at your usual meeting place, make sure parents and carers know exactly where you’ll be, what people may need to bring, the day, the location, and what time to drop off and collect everyone.   
  • Tell everyone to come dressed for the weather. Remember to check the forecast and be prepared for it to change with coats, hats, gloves, a drink, waterproofs and suncream.  
  • It’s important to check the sunset times, making sure that you’ll have sufficient light throughout the activity. It’s best to run this activity on lighter evenings, such as in summer. 
  • Before starting, have a safety briefing. Explain the boundaries of the playing area and where the no-go zones are. Tell everyone where adults will be around the site and what people should do if anyone in their team needs help. This should include setting memorable spot where an adult will always stay.
  • Explain the signal to stop and how long the activity will go on for. A long blast on a whistle works well as a signal to stop the activity.
  • If you’re in a public space, young people should be paired up, so no young person is left alone. Each pair should move around together. 
  • You may want to give people spotter sheets, so they know what to look for and what they can touch. Remind everyone not to touch or pick up any items that aren’t nature, such as litter.


Running this activity

  1. If you're collecting the items, head to your outdoor space and run through a safety briefing, including what the boundaries are.
  2. Ask everyone to collect a few short sticks. They should be no more than 15cm long and up to 3cm wide. As well as sticks, ask everyone to collect some natural items, such as leaves or grass. These will become the paintbrush bristles. You may want to collect some interesting objects, such as acorns or pinecones, which you can print with too. When everyone's ready, head back to your meeting space. 
  3. If volunteers are collecting the items before the meeting, or everyone is bringing natural items to the meeting, gather at your meeting space.
  4. Ask everyone to gather in a circle and put their items in front of them. You may want to chat through what you've found or brought.
  5. Show everyone how to make a nature paintbrush. You should take a stick and an elastic band. Wrap the elastic band around one end of the stick multiple times, making sure it's secure.
  6. Once the elastic band has been tightly wrapped around the end of stick, take some of the same nature items, such as leaves.
  7. Gently place the stems of the nature items under the elastic band to create a paintbrush. Some of the ends of the nature items should hang over the end of the stick to act like bristles. 
  8. When everyone's made their paintbrushes, get some paper and paints ready for everyone to use. 
  9. Let everyone test out their paintbrushes to create art. Could they also make prints with some of the nature items they’ve found?


This activity was all about exploring nature and being creative. We had to make paintbrushes out of natural objects. What was it like making the paintbrushes? 

You had to use nature items to make the paintbrushes. Which items made the best paintbrushes? What textures or patterns did they make in the paint? How did they differ from normal paintbrushes? Did you think anything would work well and it didn't? Or did you think anything wouldn't work and it did?

What did you paint? People could show their artwork to others or talk about it if they’re happy and comfortable to. No-one should be made to talk or share if they don’t want to. What other bits of nature do you think would make wild art? What else could we do to make nature part of our artwork? What else do you think would make a good paintbrush - is there anything you can think of in your house?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Visits away from your meeting place

Complete a thorough risk assessment and include hazards, such as roads, woodland, plants, animals, and bodies of water (for example, rivers, ponds, lakes, and seas). You’ll probably need more adult helpers than usual. Your risk assessment should include how many adults you need. The young people to adult ratios are a minimum requirement. When you do your risk assessment, you might decide that you need more adults than the ratio specifies. Think about extra equipment that you may need to take with you, such as high visibility clothing, a first aid kit, water, and waterproofs. Throughout the activity, watch out for changes in the weather and do regular headcounts. 

  • To make this activity easier, you could have some pre-made paintbrushes for people to use. 
  • To make this activity harder, you could make it into a longer nature walk.
  • Some people might find the elastic bands fiddly. You could use thicker elastic bands or use string instead. People could work with a partner or in a small group, so they can help each other. For example, they could help each other with drawing, cutting, tearing, threading, folding and creasing paper, or tying string. An adult volunteer or young leader should offer help to anyone who needs it during the make or with specific craft items.
  • Make sure that all the materials are at a level that can be easily worked on by wheelchair users.
  • You could do a demonstration to show everyone what to do, or create an example for people to copy.
  • Remind everyone, including parents and carers, not to let their young people bring or wear anything that can’t get damaged or messy during arts and craft activities. You could ask people to bring, or provide, aprons.
  • Some arts and craft activities may involve touching certain textures or items or involve getting messy. People should only do this if they’re comfortable too. People could wear plastic gloves if they don’t like the feeling of a certain material on their hands. They could work in a team or with a friend, so someone else could do that part of the task. They could also use another method of being creative, paint directly onto the paper/card, or use a different tool to help them avoid touching the material.
  • When looking for items outside, think about the space you’ll be in and the equipment you’re using in advance to make sure it’s accessible to everyone in the group, including wheelchair users. Choose an area that’s suitable for all members of your group. Check the terrain and make sure the path or area is free of hazards, such as rabbit holes. Any unsuitable terrain and areas, such as rivers, woodlands or roads, could be included in the no-go zones to make the area safe. You could visit the area early and remove any large or obvious obstacles.
  • When looking for items outside, if a person's prone to running away, make sure that your playing space is safe and well-supervised. You may need extra adult supervision, especially at possible exit zones. You may need to include this information in their support plan or in the risk assessment.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You could create a bigger picture or portrait using your new paintbrushes, or you could share them with another group. Why not create a wild art gallery display?

Young people can choose what they’d like to use to make their paintbrush.