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…


  1. says

    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. says

      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.

  2. DarleneV says

    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.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  3. says

    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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  4. says

    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. says

      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. says

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

  5. wilhelm says

    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.