Episode 175

Springtime has arrived here in the northern hemisphere. I just love the changing seasons. And from the time my kiddos were little, I think of the change of seasons as a wonderful moment to refresh your nature table or seasonal tableau. So in this episode of the podcast, we’re talking all about how to set up your nature table in your home. 

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of a nature table! I’ve got your covered.

You’ll hear everything you need to know about how to set up a nature table, where to put it, and some tips for including your children so you can bring this creative activity into your homeschooling. 

Nature tables bring a bit of the outdoors in, connect us with nature, mark the changing seasons, and inspire awe.

Even though my kiddos are grown and off on their own, I still have a nature table!

What is a Nature Table?

I first learned about nature tables in the world of Waldorf education. But I’ve learned that they’re used in many different settings.

They can be found in Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia classrooms as well as in homes, nature education centers, and are even used by occupational therapists to help develop children’s fine motor and observational skills. 

Here’s a simple definition of a nature table: “A table on which items collected from nature, such as seeds, rocks, birds’ nests, etc., are displayed in order to teach children about the natural world.

It’s really quite a simple idea and can be whatever you want it to be.

A nature table is just a little display that you create to represent the season and they’re a lovely addition to a home.

I find it fascinating that in the world of occupational therapy, a nature table is something in the OTs toolbox to help children play and explore nature with their senses of sight and touch.

I love this quote from the website, The OT Toolbox, “A nature table can be as simple as a picnic table loaded with pinecones, acorns, leaves, twigs, and pebbles!” 

From collecting things in nature to making nature crafts, there are so many skills that can be developed by setting up a nature table, such as fine motor skills, observational skills, empathy, and executive functioning skills.

A nature table can also be an invitation to play.

Children love to collect beautiful nature things while outdoors, so why not create a place in your home for those things to be displayed?

How to Set Up Your Nature Table

Here are some suggestions for how to set up your nature table.

I include a few referral links below to show you what I use. That means that I may earn a commission from products you purchase via my referral links at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

  • Choose a location. You might set up on a shelf, small table, the top of a piano, or corner of a bigger table. If you have toddlers, you might set your nature table up on a small tray so that you can get it out when you’re there to keep an eye on little ones and then put it away out of their reach.
  • Choose a table covering. Find a small piece of fabric like silk or cotton in a color that represents the season where you live such as green for spring, yellow for summer, orange for fall, and blue for winter. 
  • Gather and collect items. Go on a nature walk and collect treasures like pine cones, sticks, leaves, fallen leaves, feathers, stones, bark, and flowers (items that are safe for children to touch and play with).
  • Add handmade touches. Seasonal crafts are a fun addition to the nature table like acorn peg dolls. You can also sew little figures out of felt for your nature table. Perhaps a mouse in the fall, a bunny in the spring. There are a few wonderful books that can help you with that such as The Nature Corner and Feltcraft.
  • Set up your seasonal tableau. Start with a colored cloth and then set out your nature items and handmade crafts on the cloth. I like to have a seasonal  postcard or little painting of a scene from the season in a simple wooden postcard holder.
  • Include other additions. Add your own special touches like a read aloud or picture book of the season, or a candle. This is where we kept our candle that we lit at the beginning of lessons each day. 

Tips for Setting Up Your Nature Table

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when setting up your nature table.

  • Beware of nature table clutter. It’s easy to just keep adding and adding to the display but then you lose the beauty and stop noticing each individual item. Keep this in mind: there’s value in simplicity!
  • When you add an item, think of this as a great opportunity to take something away.
  • Freshen up your seasonal tableau regularly as seasonal changes happen outdoors.
  • Think of the colors that remind you of each season, and bring the feeling of the season indoors through colorful fabrics or images.
  • When you’re finished with any items you collected from nature, you can return these to where you found them.
  • For handmade items, pictures, and fabrics, find a good way to store these items from one year to the next. I have four photo boxes that I got from our local craft store labeled with each season. This is way better than my original system which was to just chuck everything into a drawer where everything became a mess, was hard to find, and got broken easily.
  • Keep a magnifying glass nearby for fun exploration of patterns and little surprises.

Weaving Your Nature Table into Homeschooling

And now for some ideas for weaving your nature table into homeschooling.

Spending time outdoors can inspire creativity and bring a sense of peace and tranquility to daily life. And getting outside for nature walks, gardening, or outdoor art projects are a wonderful addition to your daily homeschool rhythm.

In my family, we tried to get outside every day even if it was for a short walk around the block to notice the light, the trees, and birds.

You can add collecting little treasures for your nature table to those outdoor activities. It’s all about connecting with nature often.

If you want to hear more about this, please have a listen to Episode #91: How Can We Restore Connections Through Nature?

Nature tables can be great invitations to play. You could read a seasonal story and then use the things on the nature table to retell the story.

From an educational perspective, nature tables are great for sensory play, nature study, imaginative dramatic play, and storytelling.

Keep in mind that in the early grades, nature study teaches the skill of keen observation, a skill which is critical to the study of the sciences such as physics and chemistry in later grades.

I talked about this recently in Episode #172: Nature Study: The Foundation of Science.

A Sense of Wonder

As homeschooling parents, one of our main jobs is to give our children opportunities to experience awe and wonder. These emotions help children develop curiosity and build knowledge of the world. 

In the recently published book, Awe, The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, author Dacher Keltner reveals new research into how awe transforms our brains and bodies, how a sense of awe transforms who we are.

Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world….Awe is the emotion we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that we don’t understand.

~ Dacher Kelter

Awe plays a central role in us caring about and learning about the world.

As homeschoolers, we carefully choose the poems and songs, stories and activities we bring to our children coupled with our own interest and enthusiasm about the world to awaken a sense of awe and wonder.

Nature tables are yet another way to bring awe and wonder and even a sense of reverence into our lives. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode on how to set up your nature table at home as much as I have!

Thanks for tuning in today. I’m off to cut some freshly blooming daffodils to put on my nature table.💜

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    1. Hey Jean, I love this show and really want to listen to Nature Study the Foundation of Science, but your link goes to the episode on games. Can you relink?

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