Our nature shadow boxes in preschool

Our nature shadow boxes in preschool

We have been collecting shoe box lids for a variety of activities and this one came straight from the wonderful artistic ideas shared by Casa Maria’s Creative Learning Zone….

To make these beautiful shadow boxes, the children started by pouring glue into shoebox lids.  I wasn’t sure how much glue would be needed so I had them at least fill the lid with enough glue that the nature items could lay firmly in the glue…

Next, the children went outside to collect nature items to put in their glue.  I had the children go back and forth to collect something and instructed them to look for something different each time so they would have a variety of items to put in the glue…

The children found leaves, sticks, pine needles, acorns, flowers, rocks, and a few other nature items to add to their boxes…

I encouraged the children to be very selective as they searched for items to add to their shadow boxes.  For past activities, the children would grab a handful of the most pathetic leaves and give no thought as to the beauty or different qualities of each item they bring in. So this time, I wanted to slow them down and have them be more thoughtful in what they selected to add to their boxes….

Some of the children were very selective as to where they set their nature items in the box. Other children just dropped them anywhere in the box…

Once the children added a nice supply of nature items to their box lids, then we began to add some color.  I debated about leaving the glue just white because I felt like they were beautiful as they were but the children loved this next step so I am glad we continued on….

For our next step, I set out cups of slightly watered down tempera paint and some paint brushes.  The children used the brushes to gently sprinkle different colors of paint on the glue (or white spaces between their nature items)…

The children concentrated on adding color. The room was so quiet as the children focused on the process for about 10 whole minutes which is unusual in my classroom

Once each child was satisfied with the paint dripping part of this process, then I set the shadow boxes up to dry for a few days….

The shadow boxes have been drying for over a week so far..  Ours are still not quite dry but as they dry, the glue starts to turn clear.  I hung these up for a quick photo and had to take them back down because the glue was dripping. The shadow box all the way to the left is almost completely dry – as you can see the glue has started to turn clear in color. I am interested to see the final results but I think the painted color parts will be lost but the nature items should really stand out…


  • Tammy Posted November 12, 2011 3:11 pm

    I really like this idea.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 12, 2011 3:42 pm

    Thank you Tammy! We loved it!

  • Laura (The SEEDS Network) Posted November 12, 2011 5:28 pm

    Ooh, I really love this! As I was reading, my biggest question was how long it would take to dry (so it seems like so far it’s been a week). Do you think it would dry quicker if the glue was watered down a little?

    I am thinking to see if I can try something like this as a holiday shadow box (trying to think of what items I could use … like tinsel, bows, pine, star sequins … others?).

    I can totally see how the kids would be mesmorized by adding in the paint color. Great idea!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 12, 2011 7:00 pm

    A holiday box is a Fabulous idea!!! I worry about watered down glue soaking through the box. You would need to add plastic o something on the bottom – possibly.

  • Laura (The SEEDS Network) Posted November 13, 2011 9:05 am

    Ah yes … watering down the glue could pose that problem. I can’t wait to try this!!

  • Vicky Posted November 13, 2011 12:21 pm

    What a great idea! I love the addition of the paint drippings. I am stumbling this post. Vicky from Mess For Less

  • KM Posted November 13, 2011 3:37 pm

    These are so amazing!!!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 13, 2011 3:43 pm

    Thank you KM:) So glad you stopped by today!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 13, 2011 3:44 pm

    Thanks for the stumble Vicky!

  • Taleah Posted November 14, 2011 11:42 am

    What a beautiful simple idea!

  • Rachelle | TinkerLab Posted November 14, 2011 4:01 pm

    This is awesome!! A totally new-to-me art idea, and I’m off to pin it. Thanks to you and Casa Maria for sharing.

  • DarleneV Posted November 14, 2011 7:00 pm

    I think these are beautiful and it would be interesting to do them as a seasonal box. To see the visual differences between the seasons.

  • Ali Posted November 14, 2011 8:40 pm

    Love love them so much. My eldest would love to make something like this and so would I.

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 14, 2011 10:28 pm

    This is great for all ages Ali – even us grown ups:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 14, 2011 10:28 pm

    Oh yes, it would be very interesting!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 14, 2011 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the PIn Rachelle!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 14, 2011 10:31 pm

    Thank you Taleah:)

  • Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree Posted November 14, 2011 11:59 pm

    Wonderful! I know my daughter would love this!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 15, 2011 2:22 pm

    This is one of my favorites – I am already planning another one kind of along the same idea:)

  • Esther Posted November 16, 2011 9:30 am

    Awesome idea! Time to get ready for a nature hunt! My daughter would love it! and She will love me forever if I let her pour a big bottle of glue into a shoe box:-) lol

  • Darlene Posted November 16, 2011 8:26 pm

    We made these today and they were as much fun as I thought they would be. The kids loved them and they were so proud of their boxes. They passed by them on their way to dinner and said “these are so beautiful”. 🙂

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 16, 2011 8:43 pm

    Yay!! I am so glad you tried them. We absolutely love these too and I just want to keep on making them:) They are so beautiful!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 16, 2011 8:46 pm

    Haha – it is one of the best parts of the whole process!! My kids were like WOW – we get to pour the glue!! YAY!

  • Kate @ Puddles and Gumboots Posted November 19, 2011 9:34 am

    Such a fun idea!, I’m definitely doing this with the kids soon!

  • Joyce @Dinosaurs And Octopuses Posted November 20, 2011 12:03 am

    I love your ideas of getting them to slow down and be more selective. Both the process and the finished shadow boxes are absolutely beautiful!

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 20, 2011 12:40 am

    Thank you Joyce. I just hated to see a box full of brown scrunched up leaves end up in their boxes:)

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted November 20, 2011 12:42 am

    Your kids will love it!

  • wilhelm Posted April 11, 2012 9:14 am

    wow amazing activity, and since I am introducing living and non-living things it would be a great experience for my children. Thank you always.

  • Kylee Compton Posted February 28, 2017 2:54 pm

    How much glue did you need? I’ll be doing this for 3 classes, a total 30 children. I want to make sure I have enough glue! Is one gallon enough?

  • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted March 1, 2017 11:26 pm

    The more glue you use Kylee, the longer it takes to dry. A nice puddle of glue in the center is necessary so possibly one gallon is plenty but I would go with two just in case.

  • Ivory Posted March 3, 2017 10:30 am

    I think I’ll try having my son paint on a piece of white paper first and adhere the painted paper to the lid. I’ll add the glue over the painted paper. If the glue dries clear, then the colors on the painted paper should show up, just sort of matte looking from the glue.

  • Trackback: Nature Shadow Boxes – the art garden
  • Shirin Munir Surani Posted August 29, 2017 11:16 pm

    Awesome idea! Loved it.Will try with our children.

  • Raquel Posted August 30, 2017 1:33 pm

    Hello Deborah ????????
    Thank you for sharing the shadow boxes. They look great. The toddlers and preschoolers here really enjoy making shadow boxes for all seasons. They have so much fun and always look forward to being outdoors and discovering the world around them…
    Have a wonderful rest of the week!


  • Kaye Rich Posted August 30, 2017 4:45 pm

    Can I just say how much I love this post and how excited I am to do this with my little preschoolers! ????????Thank you for sharing this and so many wonderful exciting and simple ideas!

  • Jessie Newman Posted August 30, 2017 5:22 pm

    I do these in my class in the fall, too. If you aren’t opposed to using glitter, try this idea. I let the children sprinkle a little red, orange, and/or gold glitter after they have filled their boxes with their nature items. So pretty!

  • Patty Posted August 30, 2017 5:34 pm

    This is the perfect project for a bunch of old gift boxes that someone donated to me. I have been hanging on to them, trying to decide what to do. I can’t wait to give this a try with my classes. Thank you so much for this fantastic idea!

  • Modupe Posted August 31, 2017 10:44 am

    Very inspiring, well done!!!

  • Diane Wilkinson-Best Posted August 31, 2017 12:39 pm

    I’m thinking that if you do this into a plastic container or tray you could maybe pull the whole thing out when it’s dry and hang it in a window?

  • Sarah Glassco Posted September 1, 2017 9:12 am

    Thinning the glue would keep it from holding the objects firmly, but it would dry faster. If the box top is white inside, or you put white paper under it as someone suggested, I bet the colors, and the contrast with the dark nature objects, would show after it is dry.

  • Joyce M. Posted September 4, 2017 1:38 pm

    Joyce Myers
    Thanks for sharing!! I’ m so excited to get my class shadow boxes going. What a wonderful idea. We will make holiday boxes as well.

  • Della Turu Posted October 20, 2017 6:47 pm

    Tena Koe, such a great idea cos I love nature and art. I will be trying this for my children in my Puna ( Playgroup ) Nga Mihi

  • Trackback: A DIY drop box game that my students love! | Teach Preschool

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *