Make a Nature Table!
by: Diane Flynn Keith
Little children enjoy marking the seasons of the year, and it helps them to begin to understand the concepts of the passage of time, and the calendar with its months, weeks, and days as well.
When my own kids were little, we had a "Nature Table" in our living room that reflected the seasons of the year. In the Fall, we covered the small end table with a rust colored silk scarf. Then, we went for a nature walk to look for natural treasures to place on it. I took the boys to different locations for our nature walks -- sometimes we walked in our neighborhood, or at a local park, and other times we went to the beach or a hiking trail. The children collected things that reminded us of the season.
In the fall, they picked up dried leaves in various shapes and colors, small dead branches or twigs that had fallen from trees, acorns, walnuts, almonds, shells, stones, flowers, feathers, and even a dead dragonfly. When we returned home they arranged them on the Nature Table. Every time we were out and about, they would look for items to place on the Nature Table.
When the Winter Solstice arrived, we carefully placed the contents of our Fall nature table into a box. Then we put a blue silk scarf on the table, and began collecting items that reminded us of Winter. Sometimes the boys would add small figures such as gnomes that they had fashioned from bees wax or modeling clay.
Spring arrived with a green silk scarf on the table and all kinds of buds, blossoms, and even a bird's nest. Summer was represented with a yellow tablecloth and the kids soon added sunflowers, cleaned fruit pits, river rocks and seashells to the display. I kept a Calendar on the wall above the table, and would show them the months and let them count or mark off the days of each season.
The Nature Table was an active tradition in our home until my kids hit the double digits. The day I mentioned that I thought it might be time to take it down, they both protested loudly -- and so I created a new spot in our home to mark the passing of the seasons with wreaths or flowers and just a few very special treasures from the nature collections we had accumulated over the years.
We also had some special books in our home library that we reserved for reading each time the seasons changed. I kept an assortment of books on our coffee table and simply rotated the books and added a few new ones from the public library to reflect the seasons of the year. Here are a few of the titles that we enjoyed:
- Woody, Hazel, and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow
- Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow
- The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- The Flower Fairy Series by Cicely Mary Barker
- The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown
- Peter In Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow
I hope you find these ideas helpful and fun to do with your preschoolers -- and please let me know about activities and resources you have used to mark the seasons or explore nature with your family.