Studying Rousseau: Nature-Inspired Process Art for Preschoolers

by Meghan

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Henri Rousseau got his start painting professionally late in life.  He once said he had “no teacher other than nature”.  Taking a page from his book and the beauty that is New England fall, Big M (age 4), Lil’ M (age 2), and I decided to engage in a little nature-inspired process art after studying Rousseau’s The Monkeys.

Studying Rousseau and The Jungle - Nature Inspired Process Art for Kids

Nature-Inspired Process Art for Preschool

The Art Book for Children has provided an endless source of inspiration in our Art History for Preschool series.  Featuring great artists with full page reproductions of their most famous works, it brings art to life for kids, while also telling fun stories about each artist and their inspirations.

We read about Rousseau’s The Monkeys, and his nature-inspired work.  Many of his works featured jungles, despite having never seen one in person.  Instead, he spent hours at the botanical gardens in Paris studying tropical plants.

New England Forest

While our backyard is no jungle, we do have plenty of trees.  And there is certainly plenty of natural inspiration in a New England Fall!

The girls and I (with Baby M in my favorite, Baby K’tan) spent some time walking around the back yard, collecting leaves and soaking in the Fall foliage.


Fall Leaf Process Art

Returning from our nature walk, Big M studied The Monkeys and our nature haul more closely.

Referencing Rousseu The Jungle for Nature Inspired Art for Kids

Using a few basic supplies, the girls created their own nature-inspired process art.


Fall leaves
Sponge brush
White craft paper

Cost: Less than $5
Prep Time: Less than 5 minutes
Clean-Up Time: Less than 5 minutes

I spread a double layer of white craft paper over the girls’ craft table, and left them to study The Monkeys and their leaf assortment, while I mixed Elmer’s Glue with a little water.  I demonstrated once for Lil’ M, my 2 year old, how to paint the glue and then press the leaves to it, and then left them to their own devices.

Rousseau and Nature Inspired Process Art for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I can always tell how successful a project is by the looks of concentration on their faces and the amount of time they remain engaged.  I can also tell Big M, age 4, really enjoys it when she tells me she has to stand up and ditches her chair.  This was a grand slam out of the park on all fronts.  I was sent to retrieve more leaves from the back patio so they could keep at it!

Nature and Rousseau Inspired Process Art for Preschoolers

They finally gave up when they ran out of both leaves and space on the paper!  As we left it to dry, Big M informed me we needed to add animals to it, ‘like the jungle in the picture.’

“Should we add monkeys?”

“No, we don’t have monkeys in the backyard!  We need to add turkeys and deer and squirrels.” (All frequent backyard visitors.)

I told her we could the next day as soon as it dried.  Given the option of drawing her own or some forest animal stickers, she opted for stickers.

Adding Animals to Nature Inspired Process Art

About Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was a French, Post-Impressionist painter.  He did not begin painting until his early 40s, and at the age of 49, retired from his job as a customs collector, to pursue painting full-time.  He was often ridiculed for his childish painting style, and being self-taught, his works are often classified as Primitive and Naive.  Despite criticisms of his work, he ultimately inspired a generation of avant-garde artists, including Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo and the Surrealists.

Does nature inspire your little artists?  If you enjoyed this post, you can find all the posts in our Art History for Preschool series on our landing page, as well as on our Art for Kids board on Pinterest, along with numerous favorites from around the web.

Studying Rousseau - Nature Inspired Process Art for Preschoolers

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