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