Anne Ryan

Artist in Residence – ‘Herbaria’ (Part A)

‘Herbaria’ is a nature atelier experience designed for early years children, to inspire curiosity, storytelling, imaginative play and sensory art experiences.

During my recent Artist-in-Residence with the 3YO children at St Peter’s, Loreto Toorak, I have been enjoying presenting nature art play experiences through my ‘Herbaria’ workshops.  Inspired by my trip to the Loris Malaguzzi Center at Reggio Emilia in 2018, I designed a series of  art workshops for young children aimed to inspire creative thinking, imaginative play and a sense of wonder about our natural world.

The children experimented with ‘curious ways to plant seeds’ inspired by a ‘tea party’ with potted plants in cup cake patties and tea pots for watering cans.

They made connections to bush walk experiences through imaginative play with pebbles, soil, dried plants, clay,potted flowers and herbs.

‘What is under our feet when we walk in the bush?’

‘What else might you find on the ground where you walk?’

‘We could make a path. What will we use?

…Pebbles. Tan bark.

‘What else do you need when you walk along a path in the bush on a hot day?”

‘Sunscreen!”…. “ and shade”

‘How will we make the shade?’

‘Let’s put some trees on the path.’





Through diverse play experiences young children can observe and feel the textures and shapes of organic materials. These ‘finding out’ activities develop their awareness of form and scaffold their mark making and drawing skills for personal expression.

As the children became more confident with their connections to the natural world, we began to experiment with mark making. The children imagined the tracks that many small creatures and insects might make and began exploring with paint and drawing techniques to express their ideas.

Using natural materials such as sticks, bark, plant matter and rocks, the children began creating texture and marks to share their stories. They used frottage techniques, ink, soil and paint to add their ideas of insect habitats and leaf litter imaginings.

‘What would an ant’s track look like?’

‘Can we make marks with sticks and dirt on our paper?

Through imaginative play and expression the children made connections to the habitats of small creatures in and around their own neighbourhood.

Respectful discussions about caring for plants and living creatures in their environment prompted the children think about interesting thoughts about the habitats and behaviours of creepy crawlies.

‘Why do spiders lay their eggs inside the tree bark?’

Children extended their language of visual form through their descriptions and observations of a variety of plants and herbs.

they responded with descriptive words like:

…spikey, round, long, soft and bumpy’


As always the children made brilliant connections and invented the most amazing ideas ‘to infinity and beyond!’

It has been so much fun sharing creative ideas and experimenting with the Kinder group at St Peter’s in such an open and relaxed environment. Their gentle and thoughtful approach to play was truly inspiring and I was thrilled to be invited to share in their creative journey as they explored ‘Herbaria’.

4 Responses to “Artist in Residence – ‘Herbaria’ (Part A)”

  1. Helen Singh

    Oh my gosh, Anne, this is beautiful and inspiring and everything we try and teach our students about at Tafe – I’m going to use this in my next class. Very excited for this shared journey by you, the educators and especially the discovery for the children.

    • Anne

      Thanks for your fabulous response Helen. It means a lot when experienced professionals in the field are inspired by the creative journeys shared with the most inspiring of artists… our children!

  2. Sounds a great experience for everybody involved Anne.

    • Anne

      It was so special Marjory. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share the children’s enthusiastic approach to their nature discoveries and storytelling.

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