Nature Collections: Simple Ways to Store and Display

The following is by contributor Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

My youngest daughter is a collector and a saver. Her favorite thing to do is head outside with a bucket and gather acorns, rocks, leaves, and sticks. We come back from any walk or trip to the park with full pockets.

I have dreams of shadow box frames and other beautiful displays, but for now we have a few simple systems in place for storing and displaying all the nature goodies my two girls collect.

Keep it outside…

As much as I love pine cones, acorns, sticks, and leaves, I do not want my entire house filled with them. Since my girls do a lot of collecting, I like to have plentiful outdoor storage containers.

In the backyard, we have a mish-mash of buckets, dish tubs, and empty coffee cans that serve as temporary storage for all kinds of natural playthings – dry leaves to crush into potions, sticks for pretend campfires, special rocks, pieces of bark, etc. These items are not necessarily special keepsakes, but do serve a purpose in lots of outdoor pretend play and exploration.

I also have a collection area by the front door. This one is a little more decorative, but still quite simple – a grouping of empty flower pots ready to be filled. These pots provide the perfect place to empty our pockets after returning home from the park or a nature walk.

…or keep it contained.

We have a variety of containers that are ready and waiting to receive rocks, blossoms, nuts, and other natural items the girls bring inside. I like using clear containers the most, like assorted glass jars from the recycling bin. We also use clear vases, baskets, wood trays, and shoe boxes. When our containers are full, we dump them out in the yard and start collecting new treasures.

I’ve noticed that my girls especially enjoy large, flat trays and baskets that they can easily sift through and explore the items inside. We don’t have many around the house, so I’ve added those to my list for second-hand shopping.

For special items, the girls have their own set of plastic bead storage containers. These inexpensive, divided cases have worked well for storing small to medium rocks, shells, and small pine cones, as well as other fun things for collecting, like buttons, tiny animals, and stamps.

My system for maintaining all this outdoor collecting goodness is certainly not perfect – I still find sticks on my washing machine, dried leaves crunched into the carpet, and acorns in my car cup-holders. I would like to set-up a dedicated nature table or shelf and incorporate more labeling and sketching with our natural items – it’s on my autumn to-do list!

For more ideas, try these nature-inspired links :

Do you have a beautiful nature table set-up or do you find sticks and leaves on your kitchen counter and in your bed? I’m hoping some of you have ideas for managing nature collections to share!

About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. I love these ideas. Who would think that little things that kids collect from outside could be considered decoration inside a house? You could easily have your kids go pick a few “rocks” or something like it and use it to line a cool plate or something with candles or…. Fun ideas!
    Samantha @ Mama Notes´s latest post: My tips for a Happy Sleeping Baby

  2. I love your bead boxes for rock collections!!! They are fabulous!!! When we moved into our house I realized I needed a collection plan… And we have a spot at our garden gate with baskets for stones and seashells and bark and sticks and so on!!! We live two steps from the beach and I knew if the little daily gathering of seashells, and driftwood and seaweed (that gets stinky really fast!!!) got in the front door we would have to move out!!! Here are some pics of our nature corner:
    se7en´s latest post: Happy Birthday Hood to Our Celebrity Chef- Hood 5 Turned Six…

  3. The flower pots by the door are such a good idea. We have a treasure box on the art table that houses a lot of our outdoor finds and provides inspiration for drawing. I linked here today. Great post!
    the little list´s latest post: project 7 recycled insect observatory

  4. Love the idea of Mason jars- can we ever have too many of them?
    priest’s wife´s latest post: Being Byzantine Catholic 7 Quick Takes

  5. Genius. Our kids are always doing the same things in the backyard and we have no real receptacle.

  6. Thanks, Amy!

    I love the idea of having a place to store things outside that are used for pretend play. My son especially got very interested in collecting sticks this summer and continues to use them to build houses and forts for his “guys” … now that the garden is just about done, I think I’d like to delegate a few of our pots to outdoor storage so that the stick fort building can continue 🙂

    I echo what others have said here, too about using the bead holders – great idea!
    Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Simple As That- The Sights- Sounds- Smells- and Tastes of Autumn

  7. We have tins of shells, boxes of rocks, containers of feathers and bags of bark. AND our house has a gajillion river rocks in glass bowls, wooden bowls, and just on top of the piano. (We live near a river.) I’m a huge fan of nature study.

  8. The flower pots by the back door are a good idea! We use lots of jars — for rocks, for sand from various vacations and so on.

    My husband is a rock collector and years ago I took apart a coffee table to make a display for his rocks. It was wooden with a hinged lid on top of a shallow storage area. I removed the top and had a piece of plexiglass cut to size. I filled the old storage part with all of his rocks, which I rubbed lightly with oil to make them seem wet and make the colors pop. Then I placed the plexiglass on top as the new table top. It was a really neat way to display his treasures and we could change it whenever we wanted to add new. 🙂
    Alicia´s latest post: Pushing preschoolers – at what cost


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simple Kids, Susie McAuley and Janna Antenorcruz, Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Nature Collections: Simple Ways to Store and Display […]

  2. […] the rest of this post over at Simple Kids! Cancel […]

  3. […] Amy has a wonderful post over at Simple Kids today on collecting and storing other nature ojects, indoors and out. Check it […]

  4. […]  Read more about how to store and display your child’s growing nature collections in this great post from Amy at Simple […]

  5. […] Read more about how to store and display your child’s growing nature collections in this great post from Amy at Simple […]

  6. […] Read more about how to store and display your child’s growing nature collections in this great post from Amy at Simple […]

  7. […] that will fuel their search for more information. Prepare them with simple tools like notebooks, collection boxes, magnifiers, or art supplies.  Small things can make a big difference not just in helping children […]