Discovery Box 11: Pine Cones

A lovely blog reader, Gill, sent me a huge box of pine cones that she had collected from her garden in the hope that I would come up with something to do with them! I was thrilled as the girls have only got one measly pine cone in their treasure basket and I knew they would love to handle them and play with them in an open-ended way. So, I simply opened up the box and let them play, in true Discovery Box fashion.

Cakie’s initial reaction was, of course, to feel them, smell them and taste them!
Which baby then copied perfectly, down to the over-emphasised “sniffing” sound and the imaginary play “yummmm!” that followed the lick. (I doubt it was that yum!)
Then C. set about on a mission to make sure that each and every pine cone had somewhere to be nestled. She went to get the Mini Discovery Boxes and pulled out all the egg cartons and cardboard tubes and quickly filled them all up.
 Then I found her some large shells, wooden crates and paper cupcake cases and she busily filled them all up too and arranged them all over the living room floor.

 Pop tried to join in enthusiastically but wasn’t met with much support from Big Sis, who said she was “ruining everything” as she emptied all the containers and moved all the carefully placed pine cones into her dolly buggy!

 C. then decided that the cardboard tubes looked like ice cream cones, and proceeded to top them all off with a pine cone (or Cone Nut as she was calling them at this point!) This required some careful balance as some of the tubes weren’t cut straight so were very wobbly. She handed out ice creams for us to sample and was delighted when I said it was my favourite flavour!

 Then she moved onto making pine cone cupcakes and became totally absorbed in this activity.

 She ran to get her ceramic cups from her play kitchen and filled all of those too, making me some pine cone coffee to go along with my cake.

 I suggested we get her wooden market stall to open up a pine cone cafe where she could sell all of these wonderful products, and that was met with lots of enthusiasm! She took on the role of baker, barista and waitress and absolutely plied me with cakes and coffee. And in her wonderful version of a cafe, she paid ME with gold coins for everything I sampled. Now, if only I could find a cafe like this in real life! We counted out coins and talked a lot about how much things should cost and why, and how the customer really does need to give the money for the food.

She loved this element of the play so much and very reluctantly came to eat her lunch. She moved the whole cafe out to the garden so we are all set for an afternoon of more imaginary pine cone play ahead.

Thank you Gill for giving my girls so much fun today! We will be doing more fun activities with these soon. If anyone has any more ideas for us, let me know!

Learning Links:

  • sensory: feeling, smelling, tasting new objects from nature/ gross motor skills- balancing
  • maths: counting out money, counting objects, sorting and matching, talking about 3D shapes, making objects “fit”, problem solving, talking about money and paying concepts
  • creative: imaginary and role-play scenarios, creating and remaining in a role, thinking of new uses and/or representations for everyday objects
  • phse: devising own games, playing independently, sustained involvement and interest in self-chosen tasks
  • science/ knowledge of the world: discussing where pine cones come from, vocabulary spiky and rough


  1. says

    Looks like so much fun!!! I love when the kids pay us for doing things :) And they say we don’t get paid for being parents! hahaha :)

  2. says

    WOW that is a lot of pinecones! Mum just said yesterday that the trees were dropping their pine-cones and so I had planned to go and collect some tomorrow.

    I think J will love them as much as your two lovelies :)

  3. says

    This is wonderful, Anna! Hooray for loose parts — there’s so much opportunity for imaginative play in this. My daughter also pays ME when we play grocery store and it cracks me up every time. I guess that paying is half the fun (when it’s play money, anyway).

  4. Gemma says

    looks like they had lots of lovely imaginary fun! Where is their wooden shop from its lovely? 😀

  5. says

    Do you have a lot of birds in your yard? How about making some bird treats with peanut butter and bird seed? The birds would love it and your girls would love watching, I’m sure!!!

  6. Anonymous says

    Kiki says: For the past couple of years at my daycare home we’ve made Christmas Trees using pine cones. I hot glue them to a small plastic plate and then get the glitter pens and small beads out and help the kids decorate them. The parents absolutely adore them!

  7. says

    My sister just sent me to your blog. My son is 17 months and I (used to) work as a storyteller. It was lovely to see your kids playing with pinecones–reminded me of pretending to be the orphans in “The Box Car Children” with my sisters (pinecones were our stashes of food).
    I write most about my experience of motherhood (and soon about doing that in India) at . Creative writing at