My kiddos get a lot of hands on. I like to structure play into catergories, and "quiet/table play" is a favorite around this house. This nature tub has been bit of a collection that we started on nature walks, along with donations from a friend's classroom trash bin.
What's in it? Dried mushrooms, shells, furs, dried corn cobs (with and without corn), pinecones, acorns, leaves, furs from many animals, antlers, seeds, pods, rocks, needles, bark, feathers, wasp nest, anything and everything. Ask around to see if family and friends have any donations.
What do we do with it? we explore and discuss. Get out the magnify glass, sort and classify, learn new words. And then we wash our hands :)