The most successful crafting I do with my youngest is usually spontaneous, using the materials we have on hand. He is an energetic preschooler, and his attention is, shall we say, very fluid and comes in short, intense bursts before he drifts off to another activity. This morning we were molding a Santa and elves out of play dough when we started talking about what should go on his holiday nature table. (The Waldorf tradition of keeping a seasonal nature table is one of my favorite aspects of my son's school. We look forward to seeing the new items on the table at school each week.)
My son took the doughy Santa and put it on his kid-sized play table, which he had pushed next to our nature table/antique Japanese tansu. Then he asked for a tree for his table, like the one I had made the previous day, and this is what he assembled, largely on his own.
The materials we used: small terra cotta pot (any other heavy-ish, sturdy container will do), medium-sized rocks for weighting the bottom of the pot, small branches, and smaller rocks and sea glass added as decorative filler on top (any number of natural materials could be used decoratively on top: undyed fleece to look like snow, chestnuts, hickory nuts, acorn tops, etc.).
First he gathered some medium-sized stones from our nature table that we have been collecting and put them in the bottom of the pot to weight it down.
My son loves doing yardwork, and a few weeks ago he helped me drag many branches from the tall hickory tree that had fallen in our back yard. (He tagged after the guys who helped us clear the biggest branches and trunk, and he now wants to be a "tree guy" when he grows up.) We have a few of the branches still on our deck from the large "trees" we assembled for last weekend's Waldorf Elves' Holiday Faire, and he happily went outside and used garden shears to snip off about a dozen small branches. He advises using as many branches as you can.
I held the branches for my son and placed the smaller stones around them to hold them in place. Then we counted out pieces of sea glass as we put them as the top, decorative layer of the pot. Fifteen minutes of easy effort, and he was done! Now he has a beautiful centerpiece for his nature table, which we will be decorating with handmade ornaments from our advent calendar.
I'll try to share the evolving tree as it gets decorated. I have visions of birds nesting in the branches and mushrooms, elves, and other fey creatures taking root amongst the rocks.