Nature Collector’s Swap Shop for the October Block Party

The Nature Collector’s Swap Shop is a place where kids can trade natural objects that they find for some of Mr. Eric’s rocks, minerals, fossils, shells, and sea life from around the world.

On block party day, kids can trade for open-at-home bags** with collections of rocks, minerals, fossils, sea life, or shells at the front-yard version of Nature Collector’s Swap Shop. Kids can trade two natural objects that they found for two collection bags, while supplies last. The front-yard Swap Shop will be at 1003 South Elmwood. It will be open from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.

Please wear a mask and stay at least six feet away from folks who are not in your family or pod.

Go here to get some ideas about how to set up your own home nature museum.

The collection bags will be set out on tables on the parkway (tree lawn). There will be a basket where you can place the natural objects you bring in trade. You can trade almost anything natural, as long as it is no longer alive and it was legally collected. (You cannot legally collect in forest preserves or state parks, and it’s illegal to collect feathers, eggs, and nests of wild birds.)

The Nature Collector’s Swap Shop will be on tables in Mr. Eric’s front yard. The open-at-home collection bags will be arranged on the tables. There will also be a basket where you can place the natural objects you bring in trade. Trading is no-contact and on the honor system. You can trade for two bags, and each bag costs one brought-from-home specimen.

If you cannot find natural things around your home, never fear — you can always collect small rocks, shells, and more in the Collector’s Garden, which is also in Mr. Eric’s front yard. Kids can collect five specimens from the garden each day, then leave two for trade and take the rest home.

These are the sorts of things you can find in the Collector’s Garden:

Examples of specimens you can collect in Collector’s Garden. (You may collect five specimens each day.)

Once again, Mr. Eric’s house is at 1003 South Elmwood in Oak Park. If you have questions, you can contact Mr. Eric at

** Note: All Swap Shop specimens have been quarantined in sealed, open-at-home ziplock bags for at least three days before we put them in the front yard. When you take your specimens home, your adults should either quarantine, disinfect, or discard the outer ziplock bags. Then, if they choose, adults may also wash, disinfect, or quarantine the contents of bag for whatever length of time makes them feel comfortable.

Here are some of the Collection Bags that will be available at the Swap Shop:

We will also put out bags with one-of-a-kind specimens, so check all the Swap Shop tables before making your selections.

Bag of Tumbled Stones

Includes 20 tumbled stones for you to identify, display, play with, or use for crafts. We also include a small Tumbled Stone Identification Chart and a link to a page with more information about tumbled stones: These are small enough to choke on, so please do not allow young children play with these unsupervised!

Swap Shop – Bag of Tumbled Stones

Minerals: Series 2

Includes a Quartz crystal, Rose Quartz, Tiger Eye, Lemurian Jade, and a fifth mineral (usually Hornblende, Apatite, or Biotite Mica).

Swap Shop – Minerals: Series 2

Bigger Rocks for Smaller Kids (or for Crafts)

These pebbles are pretty big — too big for young children to swallow. The pebbles are also smooth enough to use for pebble art and other craft activities. (Search for “pebble art for kids.”) One bag per family, please.

Swap Shop – Bigger Rocks for Smaller Kids (and for Crafts)

Bag of “salted” sand from the Wonder Works Sandbox

We “salted” this sand with a mix of minerals, rocks, shells, fossils, and more. Even Mr. Eric is not sure what all is in there! You can sift the sand all at once or pick specimens out of the sand one-by-one. Then, if you want to, you can mix everything back in the sand and do it again!

These specimens are small enough to choke on, so please do not allow young children play with these unsupervised.

Swap Shop – Bag of Salted Sand

Seashells and Sea Life for Your Home Museum

This bag includes at least four seashells, plus a Knobby Sea Star, a sand dollar, and a large sea urchin spine. Visit our Seashells page to find links that may help you identify your shells:

Swap Shop: Seashells and a Sea Star

Larger Shells for Smaller People

These shells are large enough that smaller kids cannot aspirate or swallow them, and they are lower in quality, so small kids can play with them, no worries. At least one shell in each bag is large enough that you can clearly hear the ocean. RESERVED FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN.

Swap Shop: Seashells for Play

Smaller Seashells for Crafts

This bag includes a bunch of small shells that you can use for crafts, to display in your doll house-sized museum, to attract fairies to your backyard fairyland, or whatever. Search for “seashell crafts for kids” to get ideas. Or search for “backyard fairyland” and see what happens. (Please don’t let small children play with these shells unsupervised!)

Swap Shop – Smaller seashells for crafts.

Fossil Shark and Ray Teeth from Africa

This collection bag contains fossil teeth and bones from sharks, rays, and other sea creatures that lived in Africa between 60 and 70 million years ago. The fossils were collected from phosphate mines in Morocco, Africa. The bag also includes a postcard that helps identify most of the fossils in bag.

Go here to find out more about this collection bag:

Swap Shop: Fossil Shark and Ray Teeth from Africa collection bag.

Fossil Hunt: Find shark teeth and more fossils

Look carefully through the tiny black phosphate pebbles in your Fossil Hunt bag, and you will find lots of 20-million-year-old fossil shark teeth. You may also find fossil ray teeth, stingray spines, teeth from other types of fish, pieces of bone, and other fossils of creatures that lived in the shallow sea that once covered most of Florida. (We also included some tiny ziplock bags with each Fossil Hunt set, so you can safely store your fossils.)

Go to our Peace River gravel page to learn more:

Swap Shop: Fossil Hunt bag, with fossil-rich gravel and identification insert.

Microfossil Hunt: Find tiny shark teeth and many other kinds of tiny fossils

This is the same idea as the Fossil Hunt bag, above, but the shark teeth are smaller and there are many other kinds of tiny fossils in each bag, including shells, corals, barnacles bits, sea urchin spines, and more (plus one or two larger fossils). Each bag contains 20-million-year-old phosphate gravel dug up at the Aurora Mine in North Carolina. Finding and identifying these fossils may be challenging for preschoolers, so we recommend this bag for older children.

Go here to learn more fossils from the Aurora Mine in North Carolina:

Swap Shop: Fossils found in a bag of Microfossil Hunt gravel from the Aurora Mine in North Carolina. (Dime not included.)


Those are some of the collection bags that will be available at the front-yard Nature Collector’s Swap Shop on block party day. We will also put out bags with one-of-a-kind specimens, plus there will be free specimens available in the Collector’s Garden every day.

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