Making Nature Mobiles
My Favorite Kind of Bat Mobile
Alexander Calder was a mechanical engineer before he was an artist, but it was his embrace of natural phenomena that led to one of his most important creations: the mobile. The mobile took the rare leap from the world of modern art to popular culture to the point that you can now expect to find find one in baby nurseries worldwide. But they are not just for infants. Watching a mobile spin in the breeze can mesmerize viewers of all ages, whether in a museum or in your backyard.
In this post we share how we created my new favorite DIY Halloween decoration: the bat mobile. While this one is great fun for the fall, nature mobiles are a perfect craft for any season, so I’ve added in some ideas for more pinecone creatures below as well.
How to Make Nature Mobiles
- 2 Sticks
- Twine or Yarn
- Black and White Cardstock
- Glue Stick / Glue Gun
- Glow in the Dark Paint (Optional)
The Nature Walk
As with many of our favorite activities, this one starts with a nature walk to find our sticks and pinecones. This part is not just an excuse for a nice walk, it builds excitement and investment in the project itself. Also, my boys love collecting things, so it’s nice to have a way to showcase some of their favorite finds.
Cut out the shapes of your bat wings and eyes. I drew bat wings and circles for the eyes, and had JJ cut out the shapes (sneaking in some fine motor skill practice!). We started with the larger wing shapes, then moved to large white circles and smaller black circles for the eyes. I traced quarters and dimes for the circles. Finally, I cut some small triangles for the fangs.
While JJ was cutting out shapes, I painted the white shapes with glow in the dark paint. This is purely optional, but it kept my hands busy so I could let JJ take his time practicing cutting with scissors.
Glue wings, eyes, and fangs onto your bats. The boys used glue sticks to paste the small black circles on the larger white circles to make the eyes, while I used the glue gun to attach the cardstock pieces to the pinecone.
Wrap your yarn (or twine) around the bats to get them ready for installation. I laid a long piece of yarn out on the table, and put a pinecone bat in the center. Then, I looped the yarn around the pinecone, one time around the backside of the wing, and one time around the front. Next, tie a knot close to the pinecone to secure the yarn. Finally, tie a second knot at the ends of the yarn, creating a long loop.
Place your sticks side by side, tying a long string of yarn around them. Turn the sticks into an “X” shape. Wrap the yarn over the top of one of the sticks, moving over and under and back over the top to the next stick in a clockwise pattern until your sticks are stabilized in an “X” position. Finally, tie another string of yarn around the center of your sticks and create a loop for a hook. Hang the sticks up so that the “X” is parallel to the floor.
Attach your bats, paying attention to their weight and how they balance each other. We used this to practice kindergarten math, comparing pine cone bat weights and calling attention to the use of the phrases “more than” and “less than” when trying to achieve equilibrium among our mobile components. Your mobile is complete when all of the pieces are balanced and move gently in the breeze.
Nature Mobiles for All Seasons
I LOVE our little bat mobile for Halloween, but nature mobiles are great in any season. Below are some ways that you can substitute pinecone bats with other creatures to keep you displaying your foraged pincones all year long.
Pinecone Snow Owls
Love these pinecone snow owls from Red Ted Art. I also love how they tied their pinecone owl craft to one of our favorite stories, “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell. I can imagine a snow owl nature mobile setting the perfect tone for our story nook this winter.
Change up your nature mobiles for spring with these pinecone bees by Easy Crafts for Kids. You might even want to hang it up outside in the garden to welcome in the new season.
Watching fireflies appear in the summer is one of the things we miss most about living in Virgina. A firefly mobile next summer would be a welcome addition for the whole family. Check out this fun pinecone firefly tutorial from the awesome Fireflies and Mudpies (of course!).