How to Create a Seasonal Nature Table
The seasonal or nature table can be used to create wonder, intrigue and excitement for children in the changing seasons, and can offer a real sense of security in a cosy corner of your home. Creating a special space can offer wellbeing benefits, create a sense of safety and security, and a reverent place to calm a busy mind, breathe and feel connected to the moment.
What you will need
- A small space in your home – this could be a small table, shelf or windowsill
- A piece of fabric or cloth
- Found items from nature
Colour is a vital seasonal table ingredient
To start, find a plain coloured cloth or piece of fabric to place over a small table or the top of a windowsill. For example, red, orange or brown might represent autumn. Blues, white and silver can be used to signify winter. Pale yellow and green for spring. Bright yellow, green and pink for the summer months.
Collecting seasonal treasures on a walk
Collect items from nature with your child on a walk. For example: stones from along a river or fallen leaves, flowers, an interesting piece of wood, twigs or small branches, seed pods or feathers. Your child can arrange these objects onto your cloth to create a seasonal scene which reflects what you have seen outside on your walk. You could place a small vase to one side of the table in which twigs or flowers are arranged.
What other objects, colours, vegetables or fruit can your child see on a walk? As time goes on you might add other delights from your garden, like a whole pumpkin for autumn, or a wooden toy apple or mushroom. When walking, reflect with your child about what plants and trees can be seen, have they changed? What colours and shapes can they see? These can be represented on your table. In autumn branches of vibrant leaves might be collected. Whilst during winter you may have bare branches and a sense of stillness. As winter comes to an end and the wattle begins to appear -showing the first signs of spring, it can be arranged in a vase. Another delightful discussion on a seasonal treasure walk is about what the animals are doing in each season. For example, in winter animals may be asleep or in spring babies are arriving; perhaps your child would like to showcase this on the seasonal table.
You may own some special books that are about the seasons that you would like to place in the space to read with your child. Or, you might like to make seasonal craft to add to your table - for example making autumn leaves to decorate or stitch.
Caring for your seasonal nature table
Caring for the space can be turned into a weekly activity. Go out for a walk, collect new items and then add them as part of your weekly routine. As new items are added you might talk about where they have come from and, or how, the items are connected to the season. Maintain the space by removing dust, cleaning items, replace water in vases or water plants. The care of keeping this space beautiful - an evolving piece of art - will impact upon your child’s approach to the environment and promote their own sense of wellbeing. Make sure that all items on your table are made of natural materials, bringing plastic or unnatural items to this space will change the nature of the ‘nature’ table.
Create a seasonal treasure box
At the end of each season the items can be sorted away in a treasure box to be opened again next year; which is an exciting seasonal activity. Children will delight in the memories of finding or making these items as they are revealed from the box. Each season as you add to your table you can ask your child what else they might like to add that connects them to the season. Perhaps a new craft project can add another layer to your table.
Connection and creativity for older children
You may think that this is only an activity that appeals to young children, but as your child grows so can their responsibility for the space. Older children can be in charge of setting the new seasonal scene on the first day of the season. Another lovely activity is watching the calendar and marking off the days until the next season begins. This new sense of responsibility brings confidence, reverence, and care.
Perhaps a second seasonal space can be set up in the older child’s bedroom. Offering this to your child might enable them to feel they have a safe, secure and private space; to read their seasonal books or complete their seasonal craft. It can connect them to creativity in their own personal space, a space to reflect or a place to sit to regulate behaviour. Please do not use this as a ‘disciplinary’ space, but rather a sensory creativity space for your child to seek-out, when they need it.
Celebration and festival spaces
Throughout the year there may be a few celebrations, such as a child’s birthday or a festival that you celebrate. For example, for a child’s birthday you may set up items in the middle of the kitchen table for the child to see on the morning of their birthday, to create wonder. In the arrangement you may have the child’s favourite flower connected to the season, for example a sunflower for a child born in summer or a flower that is growing in your garden; a hand written card with the number the child is turning and maybe a special found item from nature, like a rock or crystal. Creating these regular rhythms for your child around yearly celebrations creates security, wonder and connection.
A reflection from Ava - 10 years from Healesville
“It feels festive, beautiful and always calm. I set up the tables by myself now and I love decorating it. I have my own seasonal table in my room and I like to read near it and draw. When I was younger I would wake up at night I would go and look at the seasonal table and it would make me feel safe and calm. I love autumn, because of all the falling leaves in Healesville; I like the oranges and red. Summer is my favourite season because my birthday is around the same time. But I do adore spring because all of the flowers. Winter it snows on Lake Mountain and I can go tobogganing, which I find fun. On our seasonal table I have a little girl who is tobogganing and that is cute”.
We'd love to see your creations and home based play! Share with us on Facebook at @yrfamilies #YarraRangesPlay
You can contact the YRC Family & Children’s Services team on 1300 368 333 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org