top of page

How to Make Nature Inspired Crafts: Elderberry Bead Necklaces

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

“Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves.” -Stephen Moss

Elderberry Bead Necklace with Leather Heart

In the state of California, elderberry can be found in chaparral, mountains, deserts, and the outer regions of urban environments. The Indigenous people called the elderberry the “tree of music” because they made whistles, flutes, and other instruments from the stems. The stems are easy to hollow out and turn into wind instruments, as well as a number of other tools. The Chumash utilized the elderberry wood for making self-bows used in hunting small game.

Nature Inspires Creativity

A natural environment, such as a forest, beach, or desert, can become the best classroom for anyone, especially a child. A child sees a forest as an opportunity to explore the unknown. Moreover, nature can be a place to find more than just imaginative play; it can inspire the natural artist within a child. As a family, we like to venture out into the forest and look for items that we can use in our imaginative play at home.

Eco-Kids Paint

Collecting Nature Found Items

We love collecting stones, driftwood, and shells from the beach in the summer. During the fall we collect acorns, holly leaf cherries, elderberry branches, willow branches, and California bay nuts. One of our favorite crafts is making necklaces out of found nature items. This fall, we collected elderberry branches about 1/2 inch thick to make wooden beads for our necklaces. When foraging for items in the forest, we make sure to collect in an area that has a large population of the plant or fungi we are harvesting.

Painting Elderberry Beads

Once we collect the branches, we cut them down into one-inch pieces, hoping to end up with an even amount for each child. After cutting the branches into one-inch pieces, we then drill a hole to remove the center of the branch (be sure to remove as much as possible). Next, we sand each piece to round off the edges and remove some of the bark. You can remove all the bark to give the bead a more vivid color. We took a little bit of the bark off to give it a more natural look. Finally, have the kids paint the beads and allow them to dry. Once the beads are dried, you can assemble the necklace with your choice of string; we used some leather string. You can also add another element to the necklace. We added leather shapes.

Making crafts using nature found items is always an adventure. Children learn to play in nature and identify native plant species, as well as use their motor skills to build a beautiful piece of art. If you get a chance to make our elderberry wooden necklaces, please feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Check back next month for more nature-inspired crafts and games.


Crafting With Nature

Elderberry Bead Necklaces

Age Group: 3 years + (adult supervision and assistance required)

Teaches: Utilizing Senses, Being Active, Focus, Recognizing Themes, Connecting with Nature, and Ecology

Best Harvesting Location: Woodland area with lots of elderberry


  • Elderberry Branches (harvested responsibly)

  • Natural Paints (we like Eco-kids paint)

  • Paint brushes

  • Drill and a small bit (adults only)

  • Sanding Paper (children over 6)

  • String or Leather to wear necklace around neck

  • Leather cut out or other objects that you wish to use on the necklace (optional)

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page