Chocolate Box Nature Collection

Turn your Valentine's Day chocolate box into a mini cabinet of curiosities for kids. Go on a nature walk and fill the box with small natural treasures

Don’t throw out those chocolate boxes just yet! After Valentine’s Day we found they make the perfect miniature cabinets of curiosities for young nature collectors. Full disclosure: I bought the boxes pictured in this post for myself, because Valentine treats to yourself is always a good idea. Also, chocolate. But what I didn’t count on was the perfect way these boxes preserve little treasures found outside. The small boxes are extremely portable and easy to tuck away for another day.

DIY Cabinet of Curiosities chocolate box

Nothing says 'Be Mine' like rocks and shells! Turn your Valentine's Day chocolate box into a nature collection for kids

Collecting natural tresures in a repurposed chocolate box - A sweet activity for the great outdoors

Filling a chocolate box was a good excuse to go outside during the February month when we often found ourselves hibernating from the whipping, cold winds of Kansas. If you have older children, try taking time to identify each object found by labeling who found it, where, and when. Go one step further and classify each item referring to the Linnaeus classification system. The book Cabinet of Curiosities: Collecting and Understanding the Wonders of the Natural World (public library) by Gordon Grice does a wonderful job breaking down this process.

Chocolate Box Nature Collection - Repurpose your a chocolate box into a minature cabinet of curiousities for kids. Go on a nature walk and fill your box with treasures!

Chocolate Box Nature Collection - Fun post-Valentine's Day Nature Activity for Kids

Chocolate Box Nature Collection

Chocolate Box Nature Collection - Repurpose your a Valentine's Day chocolate box into a minature cabinet of curiousities for kids. Go on a nature walk and fill your box with treasures

Here’s an example with another chocolate box we had on hand using items found on a walk a week ago and a couple items that were already in our home nature center. Some boxes chocolate containers are pretty deep, so I found using folded tissue paper helped support each item.

If you didn’t happen to get a chocolate box for Valentine’s Day this year, they’re usually on sale for cheap after the holiday or can be found year-round at grocery stores. Nothing says “Be Mine” like a box full of rocks, shells, and dead bugs!




Awakening Wonder With Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities Collecting and Understanding the Wonders of the Natural World by Gordon Grice

“When I was about six, I started my first cabinet of curiosities. The first thing I put in it was a skunk’s skull I found in our backyard. The skull fit perfectly in my palm. It had sharp little teeth. I was surprised to notice that it looked like my dogs’, with long, jagged canines on the sides… I put the skull in a red cigar box my dad gave me. The box was made of sturdy cardboard with a hinged lid. I was soon collecting all sorts of things I found outdoors, from old coins to corncobs.” – Gordon Grice, Cabinet of Curiosities

The above excerpt is part of author Gordon Grice’s introduction to Cabinet of Curiosities: Collecting and Understanding the Wonders of the Natural World (public library). Although this book is technically classified as an adult book, it would be a wonderful addition to the library of any child, adolescent, or adult that is inquisitive about the natural world. Cabinet of Curiosities provides basic instruction for where to find a cabinet or how to build your own, the Linnaeus classification process, how to preserve found items, and lots of suggestions of natural items to look for. Teeth, feathers, shells, skulls, flora, and fossils– This books is a visual feast of artifacts from the world around us. Readers can find pictures galore, each page adorned with illustrations and photographs.


Cabinet of curiosities skulls

cabinet of curiosities turtle shells

Cabinet of Curiosities eggs

cabinet of wonders feathers

It’s a book you can truly grow into. Young kids can flip through these pages and instantly fall into the wonder and curiosities of the natural world. The intricacies of the book such as taxonomy and DIY instruction and application is sure to entertain older children, teens, and adults. Regardless of age, Cabinet of Curiosities will spark wonder and inspiring learning and appreciation about the world in which we live.

Cabinet of Curiosities beatles

If you have the chance to listen to this Science Friday segment about building a cabinet of curiosities it’s interesting to hear the author of Cabinet of Curiosities discuss building a cabinet of curiosities and also learn about what listeners enjoy collecting (space rocks!).

If you and/or yours have read Cabinet of Curiosities and love it, check out Animalium: Welcome to the Museum by Jenny Broom, illustrated by Katie Scott.

Happy collecting!



Wild Things in January

A Good Day (1)

Winter Shadows (2)

Birds of a Feather (3)

Determined Gatherer (4)

Nest Construction (5)

Jack Frost's Paintbrush (6)

Keepers of the Universe (7)

Waxing and Waning (8)

Kansas Bestiary (9)

Golden Tallgrass (10)

This January was one of highs and lows– A moody month of balmy sunshine and bitter cold. I don’t mind the cold, but the the warm sun-rays were refreshing especially after being cooped up in the house with sickness. The girls, Will, and I were up in bed for some reason or another throughout the month. When we were able to get outside, hikes were muddy which is always squishy good fun for the kids. A stiff chill would pull the ground taught and then it would melt and give away again leaving the earth soft and elastic. Our stepping ground went back and forth like a rubber-band all month. Kansas Day closed out January and you could have sworn the blue skies and wind and birds and beasts knew because the winter bleached prairie looked outstandingly golden.  Below are captions from our nature outings and explorations in January:

1. A good day
2. January shadows
3. birds of a feather
4. determined gatherer
5. nest construction in-progress
6. Jack Frost’s paintbrush
7. “Keepers of the Universe”
8. Waxing and Waning
9. Kansas bestiary
10. Tow-colored strands


Yesterdays as amateur naturalists.



The After-Christmas Tree

The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler, illustrated by Susan Davis

When the holiday season has come and gone I don’t know about you, but I always feel a cloud of doldrums in it’s wake. Several months ago I found this gem of a book at our public library’s book sale, which has sparked a new tradition of transitioning out of the holidays and into the new year. The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler, illustrated by Susan Davis (public library | local bookstore) is a delightful seasonal story about a family that extends the life of their Christmas tree after the holidays by decorating it with food for the winter animals. Quite taken with the story, it inspired our own After-Christmas Tree event, which turned out to be a festive and unique way to learn about the winter animals in our neighborhood…

Give your christmas tree a longer life by decorating for the winter animals - The After-Christmas Tree Nature Activity via SfCT

I spy a Cardinal and two Grey Squirrels! We’ve had many wonderful moments making and watching our own After-Christmas Tree, which I’ll share about in a bit… First, the book!


The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler, pictures by Susan Davis

The After-Christmas Tree, a sweet book to enjoy after the holiday season

The After-Christmas Tree starts with New Year’s Day and the Tyler family is reminiscing about all the fun they had during the holiday season, a season that seemed to had ended all too soon, but mom has an idea. After taking down all the decorations and lights from the tree, the kids made invitations for a mysterious “After Christmas Party”.  A party that starts with ice skating and fun outside transitions into a surprise for it’s guests. On the way home, guests were given a bag and asked to collect pinecones on the walk back to the Tyler’s home. When everyone arrives, an announcement is made that everyone is going to decorate the Tyler’s old tree with treats for the birds and wild animals so that they will have enough food during the winter.

The After-Christmas Tree

The After-Christmas Tree party

The After-Christmas Tree decorating party

The After-Christmas Tree characters hang their goodies on the tree for the animals

The After Christmas Tree

The After-Christmas Tree Book - Watching the birds enjoy the tree

Animals enjoying the After-Christmas Tree

wild animals in the After-Christmas Tree

Those chipmunks stuffing their cheeks! The illustrations in The After-Christmas Tree are soft and expressive throughout the story and I notice little details on repeat reads. When decorating a real tree come Christmas is the eco-friendly way to celebrate, what a wonderful way to ring in the new year by gifting a Christmas tree back to nature? We thought it was a nice gesture too, so we transformed our own tree into an After-Christmas Tree…


The After-Christmas Tree, Recycle your tree by decorating it with bird feeds, nuts, and cranberries for winter animals. Wait and see who will visit.

The glow of a tree is the most enjoyable part of the season to me and I’m always sad to see our little beacon of light and merriment go. When my 5-year-old suggested we make our own After-Christmas Tree after reading the book one evening, I enthusiastically agreed. Just like in the story, we decided that pinecone bird feeders, popcorn garland, cranberry garland, was a good way to go. She helped string the cranberries and make the pine cone feeders, which were made by tying a string of yarn on the top of the pine cone, coating the pinecone with a layer of peanut butter, and then rolling it in bird seed. I made the mistake of trying to string fresh popcorn, but eventually learned that day-old popcorn is the way to go. Once we had enough food for our tree, a couple mornings after New Year’s Day we took our naked Christmas tree outdoors and draped our homemade garlands and hung our birdseed feeders. Oh Christmas tree!

Stringing cranberries for the After-Christmas Tree

Pinecone bird feeders

Nuts scattered around the base of The After-Chrsitmas Tree

Popcorn and Cranberry Garland

The After-Christmas Tree, Recycle your tree by decorating it with bird feeds, nuts, and cranberries for winter animals. Wait and see who will visit.

At the bottom of the tree we scattered shelled nuts just like in the story. I also added large rocks in the tree stand so that the strong gusts of Kansas winds wouldn’t knock it over. Once we finished decorating our After-Christmas Tree and went inside, it didn’t take long for furry and feathered friends to find their surprise. It was always a mystery looking out the window…  What animal would we see enjoying their new year’s treat?!

Watching winter visitors from a far. Two blue jays and a scurry of squirrels.

Give your christmas tree a longer life by decorating for the winter animals - The After-Christmas Tree Nature Activity via SfCT

Over the past several days, we’ve identified Grey Squirrels (lots and lots of squirrels!), Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, a Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrows, Song Sparrows, a Carolina Wren, and a Dark-Eyed Junco (this book is especially handy for bird identification with kids), as well as whatever nocturnal animals that visited while we were asleep at night. Maybe a mouse or a possum? I wish there was more snow on the ground so we could’ve compared animal tracks. Maybe next year. Today, the tree is bare expect for a few pieces of red yarn and a half a strand of a cranberry garland. In the next couple days, I’ll pull the tree to the curb for our city’s tree recycling pick up. It enjoyed a good, long season of giving.

And I have it on good authority that my family aren’t the only animals that will look forward to this new tradition in years to come.



Wild Things in December

First frost of december -SfCT (1)

Wild Things in December - All is quet except the crunching of leaves -SfCT (2)

Nature Ornament (3)

Dark Dawn - SfCT (4)

Fossil Finding - SfCT (5)

Winter Walk in the Woods - SfCT (6)

Homemade Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders (7)

winter solstice fairy ring tradition (8)

First Snow - SfCT (9)

unseen visitor (10)

Snow for breakfast - SfCT (11)

Winter is here. The Winter Solstice arrived and went leaving a soft coat of snow that fell just before the month’s end. The girls couldn’t get enough of the snow, eating it by the handfuls. Since the snow came late this year, there was a little more time to discover the brown earth before it was covered in white. During one of our walks, Lorelei discovered a brachiopod fossil and is quite proud of her find. Fossils and dinosaurs is a popular interest in our home lately, so we’ve been extra attentive to looking at rocks all around. The other interest that’s taken off this month is snow crystals. We checked out W.A. Bently’s Snow Crystals a few days ago and the girls are often found on the couch flipping through photograph after photograph of snowflakes. I’m looking forward to seeing what discoveries and interests evolve in the year ahead.

1. December crystals
2. All is quiet
3. Making nature orbs
4. Dark dawn
5. Fossil finding
6. Winter walk in the wood
7. Gifts for friends, gifts for the birds
8. Celebrating the Winter Solstice
9. First snow
10. Unseen visitor
11. Snow breakfast


For past Wild Things adventures, go HERE. For new adventures, follow along on Instagram!




Celebrating The Winter Solstice

DIY lanterns for celebrating Winter Solstice

Happy Winter! December 21st or December 22nd of each year marks the first day of winter. For the past year or so, my family has been celebrating the rhythm of the seasons marked by the solstices and equinoxes. We find this to be a good way to learn about, reflect, prepare, and celebrate the season ahead. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. After this day, the days will get longer and longer until the Summer Solstice, the first day of Summer. In the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs when the earth’s tilt is furthest from the sun thus the cold days and long, creeping shadows. Many holidays and festivals during the winter season have roots in observance of this astronomical phenomenon, the rebirth of light.

In a world where the lights are always on, gadgets and technology leaving faces aglow with constant media all hours of the day and night, the Winter Solstice is an opportunity to pause and give tribute to the natural rhythms of life.

Additional Winter Solstice Reading:
8 Things to Know About the Winter Solstice
Why We Need the Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice Traditions: Rituals for A Simple Celebration
Celebrating Winter Solstice pinboard

Here are a few ways we celebrate the Winter Solstice…

Celebrating the Winter Solstice - How we celebrate including this little tradition of making a Winter Solstic Fairy Ring

Winter Solstice Fariy Ring treasures

fairy tokens and treasures


Each solstice and equinox we have a little tradition of the fairies of that season making a fairy ring marking their arrival and thus the arrival of the new season. Typically, I make a ring before the girls wake up in the morning of foraged nature items found from hikes. In the center of the ring are a few tokens such as stones or buttons or bells. Throughout the year, the girls make fairy houses in our yard, and this is a way for the fairies to thank them for a place to say for the season. In the morning, they rush outside to see the ring made by the fairies of the new season.


day of candlelight on winter solstice

winter solstice celebration

winter solstice morning - no electricity. Just candlight.


During the Winter Solstice day, we turn off all electrical lights for the day and use candlelight whenever we need light. To me, this is by far the most enjoyable and fulfilling Winter Solstice tradition. In the morning, I light candles in a few rooms and as everyone wakes, in the soft glow we go about our morning until the sun comes up. As the sun sets, we light the candles again and have dinner by candlelight. Even if you decide to only commit to eating dinner by candlelight, it is such an enjoyable experience for both kids and adults. Candlelight by default sets up an intimate, soft mood.


golden gifts and winter books for winter solstice


Another idea is to give a golden gift to loved ones– An orange, a golden wrapped candy, a small beeswax candle, a golden coin. I try to keep it simple and give one little token to each child that represents the sun or sunlight.


Taking time to read wintertime stories, especially about the Winter Solstice is a calm, interactive activity as well as a good excuse to cuddle up on the couch together.  Here is a winter themed list of children’s books, including books about Winter Solstice.


winter solstice walk

Winter Solstice walk with kids

winter solstice nature walk


What better way to experience the nature of the season than take a walk outside? This year, we took to the woods. The day was cloudy and the tall trees protected us from the whipping Kansas wind. Without the wind, it was warm enough to discard hats and mittens.


winter solstice tea and gingerbread

winter solstice tea with friends

winter solstice tea party


We had a few friends over for a Winter Solstice Tea Party serving gingerbread cookies, clementine oranges, and winter lemonade. They brought a treat as well and after we were done enjoying sips of winter lemonade and treats, we made Winter Solstice Lanterns.


winter solstice lanterns

Making Winter Solstice Lanterns

DIY lanterns for celebrating Winter Solstice


This year, we made Winter Solstice lanterns that looked beautiful when lit! Inspired by this idea, we took pieces of white and yellow tissue paper and adhered them to a recycled glass jars using modpodge (or white school glue also works) and paint brushes. I cut out sun, moon, and star shapes out of black construction paper and those were also glued on with the tissue paper along with little star stickers we had on hand. This next part is important– Only decorate the outside of the jar! Otherwise, you could have an unwanted fire or burning on your hands. Once the design is finished to you or your child’s liking, apply one last thin coat of modpodge on the outside of the lantern, and let dry. It took an hour for these lanterns to dry and by nighttime they put on quite a glow show.


Winter Nature Table


Winter Nature Collection

Winter Nature Table



The concept of setting up a seasonal table is popular among Waldorf educators. The idea is to set up a table or corner in your home or school with items from outside along with figurines and decorations to depict the season. A nature table is a delightful play provocation as well as a way to show appreciation and acknowledge the nature of the changing seasons. Except for the cinnamon sticks and anise stars, the items for our table mostly came from walks outside and thrift stores over the years that were decorating the house already.  This was our first year setting up a winter nature table, but next year I plan on spending more time on this new tradition. We set up ours just in time for the Winter Solstice, but will continue to add to it or change it as the season progresses. My oldest especially enjoys this newfound practice and I think both girls, as they age, will continue to enjoy it as time goes on. Here are a few tips for creating a Waldorf Nature Table as well as a collection of nature table inspiration.


bedtime stories by candlelight for winter solstice


When the sun goes down and the longest night of the year has arrived we read stories aloud. Bedtime stories are a part of our regular nighttime routine, but there is something very special about bedtime stories on the Winter Solstice. Maybe it has to do with the candlelight or the fact that it is dark so early? Or that our day was balanced between a mix of solitude and quiet, and celebration and togetherness? Since reading by candlelight is archaic, perhaps there’s an innate comfort of reverting back to old times, of a way of life long before modern conveniences? A magical time-travel experience? Stories have the power to connect us to histories and pasts long before ours and to enjoy these mythologies in flickering candlelight, like those before us is all the more transporting.




Connecting Children to Nature in the Library


Connecting Young Children to Nature in the Library

Please take a moment to head over to School Library Journal to check out the article “Children Are Being Connect to Nature Right in the Library”, which explores how public librarians are creating unique opportunities for their young patrons and families to develop a deeper connection with their environment. The environmental programs outlined in the article not only assisting in developing an ecological literacy in youth, but are active catalysts in instilling a magical sense of wonder about the world in which we live. Read more about it HERE…



Nature Orbs

Nature Orbs - Foraging items from outside to display at home. This is a fun activity when the months are cold and you need some nature inspiration for the winter months

The days are getting colder and our time outside is less and less. Using items foraged from outside and from our home nature center, we’ve brought some of the outdoors inside to keep us inspired during the winter months. I stumbled upon this idea of making feather ornaments, and thought it would be great for exhibiting our outdoor findings in our home.  This activity is very easy to do and could also be a fun way to incorporate nature decorations into you Christmas tree if that’s a holiday your celebrate or could be fun to experiment with year-round, which is what we plan to do.


  • Clear ornaments which can be found in your local craft stores in either glass or plastic
  • Found nature items from outdoor walks or adventures
  • Yarn or string

How to Make Your Own Nature Orbs:

It’s really quite simple. Find natural artifacts from outside that are flexible and small enough to put inside an ornament ball, arrange them in the ornament, string the ornament up with yarn or string and that’s it! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Hang in a spot to be observed and admired. We tried a to fit a couple leaves in one ornament, but they were too dry for this time of year and ended up breaking apart. It’s actually a great problem solving exercise because the kids brought home some sticks that were way to big and some seed pods that were also too big, but the feathers and grasses worked very well as did smaller seeds.

Nature Ornament

Nature Orbs Provocation

My favorite of the bunch is the milkweed. It reminds me of the 1940’s version of Fantasia’s “Waltz of the Flowers” that I used to love watching as a girl. The monarch butterfly was found dead in our yard back in September, but all other items were found over the past week on walks. Don’t they look magical? I’m looking forward to switching these Nature Orbs out throughout winter and into springtime. Moss, young leaves, small flowers.. The possibilities!




Wild Things in November

Wild Things in November - November abscission (1)

kansas woods walk (2)

feather painting (3)

golden ginko (4)

…and they all fall down - ginko leaves (5)

snail feast (6)

november sunset (7)

november discovery bottles (8)

kansas mushroom foraging (9)

november reflections (10)

animal tracks (11)

Full Frost Moon (12)

end of season gathering (13)

quiet walk (14)

icy luster leaves (15)

This November started out with warmth and sunshine and is ending with a frosty bite. I used to be sorrowful when fall’s colors faded, but I have a new fondness for this month– The way the blazing light illuminates the hills of naked trees at sunset and the soft golden and earthy pallor of the prairies and farmland. The squirrels and snails had a fine feast of October pumpkins that now lay sunken in the yard. Like the squirrels and snails, we have retreated into our wintertime routines. Extra blankets have been thrown on the beds, sweaters have been pulled out of storage, and the kids are dreaming of snow.
1. November abscission
2. woods walking
3. feather painting
4. Golden Gingko Eve
5. …And they all fall down.
6. snail feast
7. harvest sunset
8. This month’s nature discovery bottle collections
9. Mushroom foraging + identification
10. November’s reflections
11. Deer and coyote tracks
12. Full Frost Moon
13. End of Season Gathering
14. Quiet morning walk
15. Crinch crinkle crinch crunch crinch crinkle chrinch crunch (footsteps on icy leaves)



Wild Things in October

wild things october 1 (1)

Wild things october 2 (2)

wild things october 3 watercolor resist (3)

wild things october 4 (4)

wild things october 5 autumn fairy dust (5)

wild things october maple (6)

wild things 6 autmnn leaves (7)

wild things 7 mandala (8)

wild things 9 prairie pumpkins (9)

wild things 8 pickled spiders (10)

IMG_1952 (11)

prairie pumpkins (12)

Oh, October. You were good to us. Lawrence, Kansas has an ego in autumn. The city wears the season pridefully like a loud, orotund parade of the trees. Boom! Bloom! Two pumpkin patches are only a 5-minute drive from home, and I’d often talk the little there to play in the morning in the prairie sunshine. Yesterday, the winter chill has arrived with rain and the streets are slick with early October glory. November is moving in.

1. Collecting.
2. Teeny tiny spiderweb between two sunflower skulls.
3. Leaf rubbings and watercolors. (idea credit)
4. Walking along a trail lined with sumacs. My lovely friend Erika snapped this shot.
5. Making Autumn Fairy Dust.
6. Fire in the sky.
7. Falling, falling, falling.
8. Ode to the west wind.
9. Prairie pumpkins.
10. Pickled spiders introduced to the kids my nature class courtesy of another teacher’s husband’s creepy crawly collection.
11. October beginnings.
12. Last pickings before Hallowe’een.




Days and days of wild things adventures.