Friday, May 17, 2013

How and why to set up a nature table

We all know that children need rhythm in their daily lives. Any educational philosophy worth its salt agrees on this, from Montessori to Waldorf or Reggio. They also need to understand that there is a rhythm to the world beyond them. (Remember, spirituality at its most basic is an attempt to connect to something greater than ourselves.) Nature Tables are a practical way to help a child understand the rhythm of the greater world around them.

Nature tables highlight both the physical seasons and special holidays. It is a place to put the small "treasures" that children find outside: stones, leaves, sticks, flowers, etc.

Summer Nature Table
Autumn Nature Table
We follow this rhythm with our nature tables: winter, Lent, spring / Eastertide, Ascension, Pentecost, summer, autumn, Advent and Christmas. Our rhythm follows the Christian liturgical calendar, but if you are not religious or of another faith, you could highlight other holidays that are significant in your culture.

Lenten Nature Table
Advent Nature Table
Although I come up with the basic concept and much of the symbolism, I allow my children to add their ideas and help set up the table.

Adding to the Summer Nature Table.
Making felted butterflies for last year's Pentecost Nature Table.
If you've never made a nature table, here are a few tips:

1) Begin your design for the table by asking the question, "What about this season is important to our family?"

2) Less is more. We try not to overcrowd the table with too many things. 

3) Try to use only what you have, have found, or have made before buying new things for the table. 

4) Let your child have input, but give guidance as to what is aesthetically pleasing. 

5) Avoid the table becoming a drop-off point for unrelated things like keys, papers, toys, etc. 

I recently asked my children of all the special activities that we have done through the years what their favorite was. My nine-year-old son answered without hesitation, " The nature tables!" My heart just jumped when he told me that, because they are a true labor of love with and for my sweet ones. 

P.S. - You can find links to all the nature tables I've made by clicking on the "Nature Projects" button above!

Linked to Eco Kids' Tuesday at Like Mama-Like Daughter and Organic Aspirations

and Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions


  1. How special to hear your boy appreciate your efforts! My favourite is the last year's Advent nature table and advent calendar!

    1. Thanks, Asmic! It is an added bonus when our kids express their appreciation for the things we do for them.: )

  2. I've been away for awhile and looks like I've got some really great posts to catch up on here (: I fell in love all over again with your advent nature table stone pathway with the days of advent moving closer and closer idea. We've not really succeeded at the nature table thing. I feel motivated to give it another try, now (:

    1. Nice to hear from you, Mama, and thanks for the feedback. Glad you have some new motivation!