Creating a Nature Table

Nature corners or season’s tables originate from the Steiner tradition and are a mainstay of every Steiner kindergarten. I have been creating them for about three years for my children. I am certainly no expert – there are a host of great resources out there to educate and inspire. This basic overview was requested by Rachael from The Variegated Life, leading on from my post earlier this week on Everyday Zen about creating pockets of  beauty, sacredness and calm in our busy homes.

Elements of a nature table 
A classic nature table combines four key elements:
A back drop (usually a silk square suspended from a thread to make a sky or back drop) and a floor made of brown or green velvet, felt or silk, or moss or cotton wool for snow.
A nature element to reflect the seasons – leaves, fruits, nuts..
A character element – animals, fairies, elves, gnomes…
A setting – stones, small logs, driftwood, a little fairy house, branches in a vase, flowers dried/ silk or in a vase…







Creating a nature table
Location, location, location!
Finding a good site for your nature table requires a little thought.  It is important with little children to have it accessible enough so that they can play with the characters and add goodies, but not too low, so that it isn’t knocked over or regularly disassembled. It is important that children treat this as a sacred space, knowing that the characters and nature finds “live” here.


We have ours at an adult chest height shelf in our entrance hall. It is on the top of our deconstructed dresser, the top of which now lives in the hall. Ours is low enough that the children can put their finds on it by themselves, but if they want to play with the characters they need to stand on stools. One friend has hers on the window sill of her dining room, another on top of  a bathroom cabinet. My very first one was on top of a large hi-fi speaker in the sitting room!

I like that when you enter our house it is the first thing you see. It sets the tone for our house. It literally welcomes the outdoors in, reflecting the beauty of nature and the changing seasons. It also communicates my/ our creativity to our visitors. It is beautiful, engaging and re-awakens our visitor’s sense of wonder at the magic of nature.

Stocking your table
The nature table is, by its very nature, always seasonal, and can be added to each time you go out together with new nature finds. This adds a lovely focus to any time we spend outside, as my children always have their eyes open for things to bring home for the nature table. It also, along with some beautiful fairy books I have (see here), helps us to take magic outside with us in our eyes and hearts.

Be sure to tend it so it doesn’t get too cluttered. Take time to sort through your finds because children can be very over-enthusiastic with the amount of things that they want on it! A good rule of thumb is for every thing that goes on that you take something off.  For each season I usually have two separate scenes, one for early season and one for late season, rather than trying to squash everything into one scenario.

I find that the scenes come to life under my hands based on the characters I have and the nature finds, I don’t tend to plan ahead, they just evolve. It is like creating a miniature theatre set and I love this aspect of it.

Characters

Peopling your table is one of the most fun and magical parts of creating a nature table. There are books of detailed patterns and ideas if you are very crafty, and blogs like Twig and Toadstool have loads of ideas and tutorials. Characters can be made from wooden peg dolls, magic wool, felt, fabric…Steiner shops online such as Myriad in the UK also stock kits (like the cherry fairy pictures above) or ready-made fairies, elves and animals. I also use some beautiful feathered birds which were originally Christmas decorations.

One way I add to the magic of it all is by getting the kids to place their finds on the table and then ‘appearing’ the figures over night and telling them that I heard little noises in the night – they are always so excited to discover the new “people” who have come to visit. It is good to have the characters interacting with the nature elements: fairies hanging from branches, sitting on conkers or smelling the flowers. It is nice to create a little story around the table. There are many Steiner stories that can inspire your table such as the Elsa Beskow books.

Ideas for seasons
Winter – birds, nativity scene, snow men, turned wooden Christmas trees, winter bulbs, bare branches, santa and elves

Spring – birds, bird nests (made by you!) from dried grasses and moss, root children, flower children, mother earth, spring flowers galore, catkins and pussy willow, little lambs and chicks, painted eggs

Summer -bright flowers, fairies, dried grasses, sea shells

Autumn – conkers, chestnuts, hazelnuts, acorns, coloured leaves, gnomes, pumpkins, apples, ripe grain, teasels, leaf garlands

The Steiner tradition emphasises the use of all natural materials, I deviate from this slightly and use polyester batting sometimes for snow for example.

Making autumn nature people
This time last year I ran an autumn craft-tea where we made little nature people together as a way of a number of families to start creating their own nature table. The children taking part were aged 4-10 and all could do it. We used UHU glue, but a hot glue gun is also good, though needs supervision.

Bodies can be made from pine cones, large conkers, walnuts in their outer casing
Heads from small conkers, acorns, hazelnuts, dried poppy seed heads
Hats can be made of acron cups, beech nuts or felt
Hair and beards can be added from sheeps wool
Clothes such as belts, capes, and hats can be stuck on out of small felt shapes
Wings can also be made out of sycamore wings or felt

Resources
Books:
The Nature Corner
Earthwise
Making Flower children
Magic Wool
The Sun Egg- Elsa Beskow
The Story of the Root Children- Sibylle von Olfers
Online
Twig and Toadstool
Friday’s nature table link up at The Magic Onions
Rhythm of the Home

  1. Laura
    Laura09-14-2011

    I’ve now got a dedicated nature corner. We have never had one before, I could nevr find a good spot for it. But when we made the play kitchen for the boys’ birthdays we usd a little set of shelves the top part of which had no function. Now it;s our nature corner. Too high for Joa to wreck, but in a nice place for everyone to add to and to admire :-)

  2. Rachael @ The Variegated Life
    Rachael @ The Variegated Life09-16-2011

    Thank you! First, we need an appropriate table….

  3. anna
    anna09-26-2011

    Such beautiful inspirations – thank you!

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