Nature Pal Exchange- Our Experience & How to Sign Up

Last Fall my bookworms and I participated in a fabulous little program called Nature Pal Exchange. We were paired up with a family across the country, and we each prepared a box full of nature finds from our area and swapped them through the mail. Ever since reading Balanced and Barefoot, I’ve been striving to increase our time spent interacting with the natural world. This exchange was a great experience– fun, enriching, exciting on both ends, from searching and packing for our mystery friends and then receiving our pal’s amazing package a few weeks later!

So, of course we are planning to participate again this year! Since I never got around to blogging about our exchange last year, I thought I’d share more now while you can sign up for your own exchange this season! You can learn more about Nature Pal Exchange here. (According to their Instagram account, sign ups open Monday, September 25, 2017. The link is not active until that time. Oh, and I am not an affiliate in any way. We just enjoy the program!)

During our nature walks on the weeks leading up to the mailing deadline, we kept our eyes peeled for items that would be interesting to our pals. It all felt pretty lackluster to me, but my 3yo and 1yo Bookworms were delighted, and it turned out our pals were too.  Their feedback several weeks later was that they were enthralled by the tiny sea shells and played with them daily. 🙂

packing nature pal exchange box

Although the items we collected represent hours of time spent gathering and narrowing, I wanted to add a little something extra for our pals. Of course I included a book– I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to share a literacy connection! I settled on The Wonder of Nature. This vintage Little Golden Book has been in our family’s collection for a while, and I adore its gentle, beautiful message. With a copyright date of 1957, it has a quaint, charming feel but it’s certainly timeless: isn’t it a wonder that….  I hope our pals enjoy it as much as we have!

nature acorn counting game

For our box, I also created a nature math game. Looking at our giant pile of acorns, I thought there must be a fun way to use these natural manipulatives! I created a spinner and a game board, and voila! A way to play with one-to-one correspondence, counting to twenty, and addition. I made an extra set for Preschool Bookworm, and we had a fun time playing together while Toddler Bookworm was napping. (PS. I love that we’ve hit the age when we can play board games together! Our other nature themed favorites are Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel and Hi-Ho Cherry-O)

If you’d like to try the game at home, here’s a copy of the printables! PDF of the game board here and spinner here (just add a paper clip and a brad fastener…and 20 acorns per player.)

acorn counting game

Since I have the perspective of a year passing since we received our box, I can tell you that the items we received have been kept and treasured for a full year! Our awesome pal found out about our love for books ahead of time and thoughtfully sent us a book that has been read very nearly every single day (multiple times on many days), See Under the Sea.

We’ve also referred to the leaf identification cards she included. You can print your own set here. The variety of nature finds were fascinating to us to compare with ours– “do you think we’d find something like this on our trails?” since we were partnered with a family literally on the other side of the US. Super fun!

I can’t wait to see how this year’s exchange compares with last year!

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