PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Make artful sunprints of nature finds and simple objects

By Donna Erickson

Inga Wing, 11, hangs paper sunprints of nature finds on a line to dry.

“You know, it makes a fellow think, The shape of you, the shape of me, the shape of everything I see …” begins Dr. Seuss in one of his whimsical, poetic books, “The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.” As the images and rhyming continue, we are happily reminded that everything around us is unique.

The shape of things can become a focus for all ages when you do this stunning sunprint project. This isn’t a rainy day activity — save the idea for a bright sunny day!

First, enjoy searching for and collecting flat items in nature or familiar small objects around you. Arrange them on a readily available sunpaper product and place them under the power of the direct sun. Within minutes, interesting shapes will appear like magic. Art!

Here’s what you need:

  • A sunny day.
  • Gathered flat nature finds such as leaves, ferns and feathers, or objects in your home like a key, toy or lace — anything you want to print in silhouette.
  • Sunprint treated paper available at art stores and online.
  • Cardboard and clips or a clipboard.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Flat container such as a 12-inch-by-12-inch baking pan, filled with water.
  • Clothesline and clips (optional).

Here’s the fun:

1. Choose an item or items to fit the paper. You might want to play with an arrangement on a practice sheet of plain paper the size of your sunprint paper.

2. In the shade, clip the sunprint paper on a piece of cardboard or a clipboard. Arrange items on the paper.

3. Set plastic wrap over the items and put in direct sunlight for about two minutes, until the paper turns light blue. Or, follow directions on your sunprint paper product.

4. Remove objects and soak paper in water for about a minute. Dry flat or hang with clips from a clothesline. When dry, enjoy your masterpiece.

Processing tip: I discovered that a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in the rinsing water intensifies the blue of the paper.

Extra ideas for preschoolers: Do a similar activity using basic colored construction paper. Arrange familiar small objects such as a comb, button, paperclips, etc. on a dark sheet. Leave outdoors under direct sunlight for a few hours. Remove objects. The fading of the paper will reveal the shapes of the objects.

Make the results a matching game. Set the objects next to the paper and challenge your child to match the images.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2018 Donna Erickson

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Make artful sunprints of nature finds and simple objects–