Nature Treasure Box

One of our favorite things are what we at Tinkergarten call "nature treasures"—any object from nature that looks, smells, feels and sounds captivating to kids (acorns, pebbles, pine cones, sticks, etc.)! And, the pull kids feel to explore, discover and gather nature treasures is universal. This spring, make a nature treasure box—a special holder for the treasures kids find all season long, and a fun call to action to keep on searching, sending and finding the treasures nature has to offer!

This activity is featured in our April Activity Calendar in honor of Earth Day. Download your free copy here.

The Guide

Step 1: Start with a box. 

Any box can be transformed into a nature treasure box. If your child loves tiny treasures like pebbles of sea glass, find a small box. If you want to fit a bit more, find a medium box that can fit a bit more.

Step 2: Proclaim your box a treasure box! 

Kids do not need a lot of encouragement to use their imagination to transform an ordinary box into an extraordinary treasure box. So, you can simply present your child with an empty box and ask with an air of mystery, "Do you know what this box is?!" Take ideas, then say, "This box is a treasure box—just for you and your nature treasures!"

Step 3: Decorate your box. 

Make your box even more special by decorating it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to add flair to your treasure box: 
  • Glue or tape nature treasures like leaves, grasses or dried flowers.
  • Dip nature treasures and various objects into paint, then stamp them onto your box.
  • Make paint using natural materials like flower petals, spices and even dirt, then paint your box. [Tip: If you are bringing it back indoors, tap it a few times to get excess dried dirt off before you bring it in.]
  • Cut up magazines, calendars or other recyclables (especially photos of plants and animals!) and cover your box in a recycled nature collage.
  • Help your child cut shapes out of the cardboard, then cover the holes with clear tape or contact paper. Stick nature treasures onto the contact paper or tape, then cover with another layer of contact paper/tape for a gorgeous sun-catcher + treasure box!

Step 4: Start collecting! 

Whenever you hike, explore or even just step outside your door, kids can keep all of their senses tuned into the treasures nature has to offer. As they find their favorites, add them to your treasure box.

Collecting and treasuring objects from nature is a universal drive and helps kids learn more about and fall in love with nature. That said, the treasures we find each play an important role in their ecosystem. So, here are a few ways to support collecting and teach kids to leave as little trace as they can: 
  1. Encouraging kids to take home one very favorite treasure on any given hike. If the one-treasure rule feels too restrictive for you, talk with kids to come up with some rule that helps limit the amount of treasure they take. 
  2. If it's hard to limit the treasure they take, you can also photograph some of the treasures they find to help kids let them go. 
  3. As kids fill their box with treasures, encourage them to put other treasures back where you found them (when possible) to make room for new ones.

Step 5: Make a display or museum. 

As kids gather a collection, encourage them to display or curate them for others to see and savor, too. For older kids, identifying and naming objects by either their scientific names or descriptions can also support them in learning to make connections and building their communication skiils.

Why is this activity great for kids?

As kids collect treasures they activate various behavioral schema, universal play behaviors that support brain development. Interacting with objects in nature flexes kids' senses of sight, touch and smell, and helps them strengthen their ability to integrate their senses. As kids sort and organize their treasures, they will explore early STEM concepts related to size, weight, texture and color.

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