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If your kids are anything like ours, they like to bring all kinds of “treasures” home from a trip to the park, landing us with a collection of sticks, seed pods, flowers, and fungi. Whether in a small city space like ours or a roomy house, this habit has its limits. So, what better way to make good use of nature treasures than to design a nature display together? Far beyond giving kids (and you) a great way to leave treasures behind, you can include all kinds of powerful lessons into the making of your display. Kids play with all senses, sort objects by categories, develop language as they describe objects and categories with you, play with patterns and develop a sense of design—time well spent!
This activity basically begins with kids’ natural compulsion to collect and cart around objects. It turns out that children are innate collectors—and for good brain-building reasons. Kids use and develop multiple senses as they collect, arrange and enjoy the objects in their display. As you and your child place objects, you can model and they can practice with making patterns, a valuable basis for understanding algebra and mathematical functions later. Plus, kids who are grooving on the trajectory schema get a great chance to line objects up in rows.
The designing of a nature display also gives kids the chance to sort and categorize found objects, helping to build their ability to make connections, a gateway skill needed for higher level thinking. If you describe the objects to one another or talk about your decisions as you build your display, kids strengthen both vocabulary and communication skills. Finally, if kids leave the treasures they would normally cart home outside for others to see, they are giving of themselves in some small way, developing empathy. And, lest we forget, you have that much less to clean up at home!