I have lovely childhood memories of picking blackberries in the cornfield next to the house where I grew up in West Sussex. Our dog used to accompany me and delicately pick off the berries with her teeth! I can taste the sweet, juicy memories as I write this, enjoying indulging in the berries, and marvelling at the amazing colour that stained my fingers. 


As well as being delicious to eat, the intense colour of blackberries is beautiful to use as a dye. These tie dye place mats are the perfect size for small hands as a first project.

What you’ll need:

  • Foraged blackberries
  • Potato masher
  • Large bowl
  • Sieve
  • Some pieces of calico or other material
  • Raffia or string for tying the material, and to make a drying line
  • Clothes pegs

How to make it:

  1. Using a potato masher your child can crush the berries, you can then add boiling water and continue to mash the luscious colour.

  2. Next, with your child, carefully sieve your mixture into a clean bowl to remove all the lumpy bits, and leave until cool.

  3. Whilst you’re waiting for the liquid to cool, scrunch up the calico circles from the middle and tie on a piece of raffia or string for your child to wind around. I find for small hands this works much better than putting on elastic bands. Make sure you secure it tightly.

  4. Then just pop the calico into the blackberry juice and stir. After about 10 minutes it’s time to snip off the raffia and hang your creation up to dry. Pegging onto a line is another Montessori Practical Life activity to help build up pincer control.

  5. Once dried you could choose to iron your place mats to use as a table mat, which would look beautiful on a seasonal table with a small jar of flowers. Or you could try using triangular shapes to make natural, autumnal bunting. 

– Paula Woodman

About the Author: Paula Woodman

Paula Woodman
Paula is a Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader who has run the much loved Woodentots Montessori nurseries in North London for over 30 years. Recently recognised as Montessorian of the Year, Paula’s schools offer a unique and rich mix of Montessori, Steiner and Forest School, with child-led creativity at their core.