Things To Make & Do - with Nature, Mini Sculpture Parks

Above - 'Sitting' by Sophie Ryder at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2016

"All my sculpture comes out of landscape... no sculpture really lives until it goes back into landscape" Barbara Hepworth

Is your family missing visits to Sculpture Parks or Art Galleries? Here is an activity which might help you connect with happy memories, whilst stimulating open ended play & exploring ideas about art.

Above - Mini Sculpture Gardens, created by families during The Hepworth Wakefield Birthday Picnic, 2016, activity devised by Jo Blaker

What we used:

  • a shallow tray

  • natural materials to create a base - sand, compost, clay

  • natural materials to build a landscape - pebbles, shells, feathers, pine cones, sticks, herbs, leaves

  • images of sculptures by Barbara Hepworth - mounted on lollypop sticks

Here are some more images of this activity on a larger, table-top scale! Families explored ideas around landscapes & art, in gallery activities before responding to prompts, materials & images of sculpture to create their own.

Above - Tabletop landscapes created by families during a drop in workshop led by Jo Blaker at The Hepworth Wakefield

What we used:

  • as above - except this activity was contained on a table top scale

  • The clay we used was not air drying, meaning it stayed fresh for the whole day!

  • As you can see children also incorporated their drawings - cutting them out & sticking them on straws or sticks.

How to try this at home:

Here are some suggestions of things to use & ways to encourage children's engagement if you'd like to try this at home.

Household items you could use:

  • Shallow baking trays, seed trays, or perhaps cardboard box lids - we found it worked well to offer a container (easy to transport, store & tidy up). You could line this with foil or a plastic bag or wrap

  • Soft modelling material - plasticine, salt dough, clay - its lovely sensory stimulus to cut, carve, press & mould a soft material & this is a quick & easy way to create landscape forms such as hills or mountains

  • Natural materials - go on a scavenger hunt & explore what is available where you live. Pick with care & sensitivity to the other creatures whose existence may depend on the things you collect. Incorporating herbs brought another lovely sensory aspect to our activity.

  • Sculptures! - cut out pictures from any leaflets, magazines, postcards etc. Or try searching on the internet together. Children could draw pictures of sculptures they find. Attach images to sticks or straws so they can be pressed into the soft base & stand upright. Children could also draw or build their own. Using materials other than natural materials might help this to stand out against the landscape they create.

above - families sketching 'Draped Seated Woman 1957- 58' by Henry Moore during an Arts Award Family workshop with Jo Blaker at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Get curious & creative!

Here's a few suggestions as to how to introduce this idea to children:

  • Discuss memories of trips to outdoor locations with sculpture - perhaps you have visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park or the Hepworth Wakefield together? Describe the landscape & the sculptures you remember.

  • Get inspiration by investigating sculptors who have made work for the outdoors. What materials do they use? What themes do they explore? The YSP website has a useful section with lots of images -

  • Evoke different natural places with descriptive language. We offered children phrases that incorporated sound - Whistling wind, Rushing river, Howling gale, Tinkling stream, Rustling heather, Crunching sand, Hammering rain, Singing bird, Creaking tree

  • Discuss the difference between experiencing sculpture indoors & outdoors. What makes seeing sculpture in nature different to seeing it inside?

  • Discuss the landscape features you think make a good environment for seeing art. What is vital to include in your Sculpture Garden?

  • You could select titles of artworks by artists & challenge children to create their own interpretations - Family of Man, by Barbara Hepworth could be a good one to try

Extend the play

If this is a hit why not take it further?

  • Explore ways of documenting your creation

  • Create a soundscape to bring your Sculpture Park to life

  • Incorporate water!

  • Write a poem inspired by your activities

  • Plan a trip, when conditions allow to explore artwork in the outdoors

  • Draw a map, plan or diagram of your sculpture park

Please do share your experiences if you give this a try - i'd love to hear from you! you can email me on