Using Natural Materials to Create an Elf House

Have you ever stumbled upon a piece of art that just made you smile? It happened to me recently on a walk through my neighborhood when I discovered this funny little house built at the bottom of a tree.

elf house

It reminded me of a fun project that I did with a group of kids a few summers ago, which we called “Elf House.”  The premise was simple. First, we gathered a bunch of interesting, natural materials. Then, we set to work building tiny little houses for imaginary (or perhaps real, who’s to say?) elves to live in. The kids had so much fun building their houses and adding accessories. It kept them busy for an entire afternoon. I’ve noticed that this concept has really taken off, and a quick Internet search of “elf house” or “fairy house” brings up tons of great ideas.

This got me thinking about how I might incorporate a similar concept into an art lesson. Could students collect natural items out on the playground and build their own elf houses? What about having students bring in natural materials from home to build houses right in the art room? A lesson like this could present an awesome opportunity for collaboration or be a great jumping off point for a discussion about architecture. For more discussion on non-traditional materials in the art room, check out this article.


So, tell us. Have you been inspired by nature recently?

How do you use natural materials in your art room?


Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Krngriffith

    I do a lesson about Andy Goldsworthy and have the tridents create sculptures from nature. It is nice to get them outside, especially after winter.

    • Fun! Love that you included a photo.

    • Thanks for including the photo – I just love projects like this.

  • james

    This reminds me of some amazing houses we saw at the National museum of Play: here’s one example:

    • I had no idea there was such a place. How fun!

  • HipWaldorf

    Salley Mavor is well known artist in the Waldorf world, she illustrates children’s books. She just organized a fairy house exhibit near her home on Cape Cod. The first posts are in late June. Enjoy!

  • candace pridemore

    I once hade my students create horses/unicorns out of sticks, bark, and leaves. We put them outside and the school loved it.