NAIDOC Week Craft and Art; 20 Ideas

NAIDOC week is a time to acknowledge and celebrate Australia’s first people, and Indigenous culture. I have been programming and planning NAIDOC week craft ideas for many years! Here are 20 NAIDOC week craft ideas..

Introduction

NAIDOC week (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) is a time to acknowledge and celebrate Australia’s first people, and Indigenous culture. Most educational institutions – schools and early learning centres, will take part in activities, celebrations, art, craft, music and cultural events to recognise and celebrate the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In my 20+ years as an early childhood teacher, I have planned and programmed many different activities for NAIDOC week, for Reconciliation week and for National Sorry Day.

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You can read my article HERE on the many ways I have celebrated these events in early childhood settings.

naidoc week craft

Here are 20 different art and craft ideas to celebrate NAIDOC week;

ONE – Nature walk

Collect nature items and collage onto bark or recycled cardboard

Items can include gumnuts, leaves, fallen flowers, sand, twigs, pieces of bark, feathers, stones. Encourage children to only pick up what they see on the ground, rather than picking flowers or leaves off shrubs.

TWO – Paint the Aboriginal flag as a group activity 

Show the children an example and be sure to explain the significance of the colours, what they mean and why they are positioned in that way (red at the bottom to represent the earth, yellow circle in the middle representing the sun, and the black at the top to represent the people). As a group activity (making a large poster or a mural), it’s a saving of paper, it encourages teamwork, communication and collaboration.

You can read more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags HERE.

THREE – Hand print art or foot print art 

Paint hands and / or feet and print these onto recycled cardboard, recycled paper, or onto windows (that can be cleaned off later), rather than onto new paper. Use ‘Aboriginal colours’ or any colours.

naidoc week craft

FOUR – Paint a scene from a Dreamtime story

Choose a Dreamtime story you have read to the class – Rainbow Serpent, Tiddalick, How the Birds Got their Colours etc, and paint a scene from the story (painted onto recycled paper or cardboard).

FIVE – Dot Painting Art

Display other Aboriginal dot paintings as inspiration, and encourage the children to create their own dot paintings using twigs or their fingers (rather than wasting plastic using cotton bud sticks). Create the art on bark, stones, leaves, recycled paper or cardboard, or recycled timber.

naidoc week craft

SIX – Finger patterns in sand

Have a look at Aboriginal finger patterns in sand – animal tracks, symbols etc and recreate some patterns, and take photos of these, noting what the patterns and symbols might mean.

SEVEN – Stick painting

Use sticks of various sizes and thicknesses to paint onto leaves, gumnuts, rocks or bark using Aboriginal colours.

EIGHT – Use items in nature for staining

Find items that can be crushed for their colours – bright petals (geranium works well), charcoal, green leaves (crushed or pressed), ochre, and use these to ‘paint’, (mixed with a little water) rather than using bottled poster paints.

NINE – Use playdough or clay to make Australian animal shapes

Make playdough (you can find my recipe HERE), or use clay to create shapes of Australian animals (or Dreamtime story characters) and use items of nature to decorate them / add props (such as twigs, small stones, grasses, petals, leaves etc) and take photos of the different creations!

TEN – Make Mud paint or Sand Paint

Use mud or sand (or both) to create a different textured paint (and add food colouring or paint) and paint with this on bark, or recycled paper or cardboard.

ELEVEN – Make natural paintbrushes

Use leaves or various grasses, carrot tops, tied together with string (or more grass) to create natural paintbrushes. Children can explore how the paint gets applied differently using slow strokes or depending how they move the grass or leaves across their (recycled) paper or cardboard. Use Aboriginal colours, or mud paint, or any colours.

naidoc week craft

TWELVE – Paint Aboriginal symbols on stones

Explore traditional Aboriginal symbols and paint these onto smooth stones. These stones can then be re used for other Aboriginal activities, such as storytelling, circle discussions and literacy activities.

THIRTEEN – Box Construction

Use all types of recycled items (boxes, egg cartons, empty food containers, recycled lids etc) to create box construction pieces – make Australian animals, insects or Dreamtime story characters using the recycled items. Connect pieces with tape, string or staples.

FOURTEEN – Create a group nature scene mural

Choose a wall, create a nature scene. Add Australian animals, water source, trees, plants, anything, and add items of nature collaged on, as well as painted on, as a group activity. Children can co-operate, collaborate, communicate as they decide what should go where and what should be added.

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naidoc week craft

FIFTEEN – Make wool characters (fine motor activity)

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Get some wire, some coloured wool and choose an animal or a Dreamtime story character (such as the Rainbow serpent) and wrap coloured wool around the wire to create the serpent (or caterpillar, or bird, or frog etc)

SIXTEEN – Make a nature mobile

Hang pieces of nature as a decorative mobile – gumnuts, leaves, pine cones, stones, dried flowers, etc and connect with string, or grasses, and display in the classroom.

SEVENTEEN – Papier mache of animals or Dreamtime story animal characters 

Choose an Australian animal or a Dreamtime story character and make papier mache using old newspaper. Paint the dried papier mache and display in the classroom, or use for storytelling.

EIGHTEEN – Paint a map of Australia

Paint out a map of Australia, and add a different emblem painted in each state. You can find the different state emblems HERE.

Do this as a group activity, with each child responsible for different states or territories.

NINETEEN – Use ochre for face and body paint

Acquire some ochre and use ochre to paint faces and body parts. Aboriginals use ochre to paint their faces and bodies to connect them to the earth. Ensure this is explained to the children, and take photos of their body art!

TWENTY –  Food art

Make damper, and add designs to the top of the dough. Decorate biscuits with the Aboriginal flag, use bush tucker (herbs, berries, fruits, etc) to create food art and take pictures, before enjoying as a snack.

As a general rule when doing NAIDOC week craft and art, try to AVOID the following:

  • Using plastic – plastic brushes, cotton buds for dot paintings (plastic stick), plastic craft materials. Try to stick with natural materials such as twigs, leaves, items of nature.
  • Tokenism and doing Aboriginal art ‘just because’ – try to explain the significance of what you are encouraging the children to do, and the reason why this kind of activity is culturally significant or important.
  • Wasting resources – Aboriginal culture is all about sustainability and not being wasteful, so it’s important to be mindful of this when getting kids involved in art and craft activities – is paper being used unnecessarily? Can you recycle materials or use items of nature instead (fallen leaves, fallen bark, stones, recycled cardboard etc), rather than opening a packet of coloured paper, or poster paper?
  • It’s important to avoid limiting children or telling them exactly how to complete a piece of art or craft – such as with a template. Ask them for their own ideas, give them a set of recycled materials and ask them what they could create, or show them ideas for inspiration and allow them to express their own creativity.

Other NAIDOC week activities can include:

  • Musical instruments and sounds of the Didgeridoo or other Aboriginal musicians
  • Oral storytelling in a circle, with some props for dramatisation
  • Exploring Indigenous languages and learning key words and symbols
  • Reading picture books (Dreamtime stories) and creating art and crafts inspired by the characters
  • Exploring bush tucker and making some, such as damper
  • Water play activities, and connection to nature
  • Highlighting Indigenous role models within the Australian community and discussing their achievements
  • Inviting an Aboriginal elder to visit your classroom to talk to the children and involve them in some cultural activities (smoking ceremony, ochre body painting, grinding seeds etc)
  • Walk amongst nature in bare feet – feel and describe a connection to the earth
  • Gardening activities – plant new veggies and herbs for everyone to take care of

Summary

It’s so important when completing activities during NAIDOC week celebrations to ensure children have an understanding of why they are doing the activities they’re doing and how it celebrates the history and culture of Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have a deep connection to the earth and to nature, to sustainability, to taking care of our planet and not being wasteful.

So many times I have seen teachers undertake tokenistic activities to ‘celebrate’ NAIDOC week, but which end up being activities that waste resources and don’t really teach the children the significance of the activity, or help them gain a better understanding of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture.

So, hopefully these ideas can help to inspire you, and please, let me know if you have any other ideas I could add to my list! I would love to hear them!

Reference List:

  1. National NAIDOC Week, NAIDOC.org.au. Accessed online at https://www.naidoc.org.au/about/naidoc-week on July 9, 2023.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags, Australian Museum. Published: Dec 4, 2018. Accessed online at https://australian.museum/learn/cultures/atsi-collection/cultural-objects/indigenous-australia-flags/ on July 9, 2023.
  3. Australian Symbols booklet, PMC.gov.au. Accessed online at https://www.pmc.gov.au/publications/australian-symbols-booklet/state-and-territory-symbols/symbols-victoria on July 9, 2023.
  4. Avoiding Cultural Tokenism In Early Childhood Settings, Lorina, Aussie Childcare Network. Published: March 16, 2023. Accessed online at https://aussiechildcarenetwork.com.au/articles/childcare-articles/avoiding-cultural-tokenism-in-early-childhood-settings on July 9, 2023.
  5. Indigenous Australians and the Environment, Britannica Kids. Accessed online at https://kids.britannica.com/kids/article/Indigenous-Australians-and-the-Environment/629073#:~:text=They%20would%20also%20stay%20in,to%20survive%20for%20so%20long on July 9, 2023.

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