Nature tables are staples of many Montessori and Waldorf classrooms, and provide an opportunity for children to connect with nature, the seasons and the world around them. I just recently became familiar with the concept myself, and I’m excited to be linking up with several of my favorite bloggers today, to share some of our best nature table ideas. Make sure to visit them as well!
Traditional nature tables can have seasonal or holiday-themed displays; they can contain items from nature that you bring in from your walks, and sometimes little scenes with gnomes and fairies. Basically, a nature table can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be.
No table? No problem! Let your kids collect natural materials outside, then use trays, plastic bins or glass jars to create a temporary display in your house or apartment.
I decided to add a little twist to the traditional nature table by using it as a place for my girls to learn about nature in a playful way, using all five senses. We’ve been blanketed in snow almost continuously for the past two months, and I’m just DYING to see some green grass and start growing a garden again. So for our very first nature table I chose the theme nuts and seeds. With a little luck, spring will be here in no-time!
As an introduction to the theme we read a couple of books from our local library about seeds, soil and trees, including The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. This was a great conversation starter and got the girls excited about the table and what was to come.
Then I collected about a dozen types of nuts and seeds that we had on hand and mixed them in a small bowl. I blindfolded the girls and let them pick nuts and seeds out of the bowl, one by one, and use their sense of smell, touch and taste to figure out what they were. They were absolutely thrilled with this game and wanted to do it over and over again!
After all the nuts and seeds had been identified, I let the Big Naturalist (6) sort them in an egg carton, while we talked about what they would need to grow. She also examined some of them with her magnifying glass.
Meanwhile, the Little Naturalist (3) made a bath for the acorns that we had collected last fall and kept in the freezer. She was completely captivated by this activity, watching the acorns float and kept pouring more water in and splashing around. This is also a good way to find out which acorns are the most viable for planting – did you know that the ones that sink have the best chance of sprouting? A couple of the acorns sank to the bottom, so we put those aside for planting.
At this point, it was time to begin planting. We had pear and apple seeds that were left over from our breakfast, and I had saved pumpkin and tomato seeds from my garden last year. We also had some flower seeds that the girls have been wanting to plant for a butterfly garden. I showed the girls how to poke holes in the bottom of the egg cartons and they filled them with potting soil. After putting in the seeds and watering, they cut out pictures of the fruits and vegetables that we had planted from a seed catalog and glued them to the top of the egg carton. Now they can easily see what is supposed to grow where!
Finally, the Big Naturalist brought out her drawing pad to illustrate the process of growing a seed. I’d say she was pretty spot on! Now all we have to do is monitor our table and wait for something to poke through the soil.
We had so much fun with this nature table and I look forward to changing the theme when the time comes to transplant the seedlings to the garden. I found that it’s extra useful for those really cold or nasty days when it’s hard to stay outside and play for very long. Want to give it a try? Then visit these blogs for more nature table inspiration:
Winter Nature Table from My Nearest and Dearest
Winter Waldorf Nature Table from How Wee Learn
Nature Activity Table from Mommy Loves Trees
The Perfect Winter Nature Table from Natural Beach Living
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