I shouldn’t have been surprised when my 22-month-old son Nathan started collecting colorful leaves, acorns, sticks, walnuts, rocks and more from our daily walks outside. After all, I do it too! My family loves and appreciates nature, and we all love bringing nature back inside with us. It’s fun to watch Nathan select these little finds and carefully place his treasures in his wagon or in the back of his little car.
I keep my bits of nature up high on a shelf, so where should Nathan keep his? Without a special place of his own, they mixed in with his toys and ended up just about anywhere. (And I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing like a walnut underfoot in the kitchen when you’re not expecting it!)
So I came up with the idea to create a nature box for him to store all of the treasures he brings inside. I like the idea of having one place for these things, so he knows where to find them at any given moment and they have a rightful place he can make a beeline to when we come back inside. The project transformed when I decided to dedicate each side of the box to a different season, covering it with pretty, seasonally inspired patterned papers and adorning it with some of the things we find in nature. My little one is too little to help, but older children should be able to help decorate the box, with supervision if using a hot glue gun.
Cardboard box with the top flaps cut off
Patterned paper or paper in different colors
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Paper trimmer or scissors
Nature-inspired embellishments or supplies to create your own embellishments, such as stamps and ink, wool roving and a felting needle
Bits of nature: pressed or dried leaves, acorn tops, walnut halves, seashells, or anything you you’d like!
Start by selecting which sides of your box will represent which seasons. My box has two long sides and two short sides, so I dedicated the long sides to our two favorite seasons, summer and autumn.
Cover the sides of the box, one side at a time, with patterned paper or paper in colors that remind you and your child of the season and glue in place with white glue. For a smooth look, cut the paper longer than the height of the box and wrap the paper over the top of the box. Before folding and gluing the paper over the top of the box, cut notches from the paper (see photo below) first.
Then cover the insides of the box with paper and glue in place with white glue.
The view of the inside of the box.
I cut and layered papers to create different effects, such as the waves of the ocean on the summer side of the box and a butterfly on the spring side.
Finally, adorn each side of the box with homemade embellishments or things your children find in nature, such as dried grasses, colorful leaves or whatever strikes your fancy. You may choose to label each season or let the decorations do the talking. Use white glue for the lighter things like layers of paper and a hot glue gun for the heavier, uneven things, like seashells and leaves.
Then get outside with your little ones — even in winter — and see what you can bring inside to place in your Four Seasons Nature Box.
Kelly Patla shares craft tutorials, original knitting patterns, seasonal recipes and how her family lives a nature-inspired life on an old dairy farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on her blog, Creating a Family Home. She sells select knitting patterns on her blog, in her Etsy shop and on Ravelry.