Nature Tables: A Simple Way to Connect with the Natural World

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Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama. This post originally appeared in July 2010.

A nature table, or nature corner, is a nice way to create a space within our homes that can remind us of our connection to the natural world outside. Devoting an small area of our home to a seasonal display is a simple way to be mindful of that bond.

The display can be as simple as a vase of seasonal flowers and a few pebbles and sticks gathered from outdoors, or it can be a more elaborate display that you add to as the season progresses.  A family could change it out or add to it every season, with the holidays, or as inspiration strikes. There is not a “right” or a “wrong” way to set up a display.

Some of the nature table displays I have seen in people”s homes are just for looking at, but my favorite ones are those that invite the child to touch, explore, and experience.

Our Nature Corner

At the Fleck household, we have a corner at the top of our stairs that works perfectly as a nature display area. Our landing is a well-trafficked zone in our home, so this area gets passed by often and we can all enjoy it, yet this space isn”t in the way of everyday life (and thus not a constant temptation for little toddler”s  hands – or mouths!)

As each season changes, I clear the nature corner. Then, over the course of the season we add to the corner.  As homeschoolers, we are pursing nature study year round, and depending on the time of year, our corner reflects that we are focusing on:

  • Minerals – our collection of rocks, gemstones, and sea shells
  • Plants – forced bulbs, wheat grass,  an interesting stick or two, leaves and flowers
  • Animals – this might be the time a little wooden squirrel or deer figurine joins the corner

As the season stretches on, we add to the display with crafts, natural finds we bring inside from the outdoors, paintings, and other creations.  Many of our seasonal and nature stories and crafts come from Little Acorn Learning and Seasons of Joy.

 

Further Reading and Inspiration

Here are a few of my favorite sources for visual and crafting inspiration for nature corners:

Do you have a Nature Table or Nature Corner?  What do you currently have on display?  How are you celebrating Summer in your home?

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About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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Comments

  1. You nature corner is lovely. We have a nature display, but I have to say that my children don’t interact with it much (we talk about it all together and they love to collect for the nature corner but they don’t go there often and want to look, touch and play). So, I’d love any tips on encouraging your child to interact with the nature table.
    Catherine´s latest post: We Play – weaving

    • thanks, Cat :-)

      I do encourage them to play and interact with this corner. We have some areas in our home that are not for touching (I try to keep those displays up higher – the top of the piano, a high bookshelf, inside a curio cabinet) but this nature corner I want them to interact with.

      A few things I do that I think encourage interaction:

      – I interact with it myself and often examine the things there.

      – I treat it like a playscape. I change the scene, move things around, set up little scenes (a fairy might be examining a leave one day or using a tiny wooden wheelbarrow to transport gems/rocks). I encourage the kids to do this, too

      – We make up stories together, usually with my lead, about the objects there. Perhaps the fairies need to gather stones for the King’s vaults, or maybe there is going to be a Toadstool Tea and we need to decorate for it. We had a wedding in the Spring that we needed Spring flowers for, etc.

      – We do a lot of crafting and they love having things on display there, but also feel an ownership over them, so the display changes as they move things to their own collections ( or pockets, LOL) or create new crafts

      – Most of the natural objects have been found by them, so I think this also helps with the ownership. It is okay to move the rocks, feathers, etc . because they are their own

      – I try not to put anything too precious or breakable there (we have other places in the house for these things). Sometimes a feather gets mangled beyond recognition or a leave gets crumbled into dry bits, but that is okay. I think there’s learning in the taking apart/destroying, too :-)

      Okay, I’m being long-winded and could probably do a whole other post on this topic alone …..

  2. A leaF, not a leave (we’re not going anywhere) …. goodness, my grammar and spelling are sloppy today :-)

    (need more coffee, I think)

  3. Love this idea! We have plenty of nature treasures worth having their own special place in our house. Thanks for the inspiration & great tips for making it interactive!

  4. Jennifer says:

    I try to incorporate bits of nature throughout the house–especially fresh flowers this summer in particular (but very few low maintenance houseplants, we don’t get along well). However our greatest kid display of nature is a basket that we call the collection basket. Anytime our little one finds a treasure he wants to bring home–a rock, seed pod, stick, etc he takes it to the collection basket by our backdoor. It makes a great dumping spot for all of those wonderful “treasures,” and occasionally we dump the basket & examine what’s inside.

  5. Kathryn says:

    This is such a wonderful idea! You’ve inspired me to try and find a place in my home for a nature display, one that our entire family can enjoy together.

  6. We leave things that we have collected on our walks on the picnic table in our screened porch. The kids can go look at things, draw pictures or just play with what they find.
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  7. wow i love your mushroom..

    • Thanks :-)

      the one in the top photo we received as part of a craft exchange and we made the little pink and red one out of felt when Jillian was in kindergarten. We’ve made beeswax mushrooms, too, and someone where around here are some little painted wooden ones that I purchased from an etsy seller last year (I think those have migrated to the doll house … )
      Kara Fleck´s latest post: Make Your Own Backyard Obstacle Course

  8. How nice to read such lovely words about nature tables and to see so many wonderful resources. It is such a magical thing to have a space like that in the home and to watch it change and grow with the passing of the year. Thank you for sharing! All the best!

  9. My daughter loves to play with shells! They are so perfect because they are naturally different sizes, shapes, and textures.
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  10. such a natural corner seems to be a good idea to bring children closer to nature; we have brought from our last holidays at the Baltic Sea sand and shells home and now our two little twins love to play with the shells while taking a bath
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  11. I’ve wanted a nature table for years it’s seemed like, but I’m so worried about toddlers breaking/eating everything on it.
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  12. Wh don’t you simply take your kids outside to play and teach them the names of things and what they do.

  13. I don’t have a nature table at home but we do have plenty of indoor plants as well as hanging flowers and a pot of zucchini growing on our patio. I did notice though that when I bought flowers and placed them in a vase on the dining table, that they were beautiful and added a nice touch to our home.
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  14. I love this idea. I am curious at what age your children were when you started this practice? What does your current summer nature table look like?
    Rachel@The Travel Pen´s latest post: A Chinese Perspective on Having a Second Child

  15. May I use your wonderful idea? I’d like to share it with the people at a conference in Utah.

  16. Thanks, you will be able to find it at LDSHomeschoolConference.com under Sharing Stations. Give me a few days to put it up. I think this is a great idea. Thanks again.

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