It was around one year ago that we created our first nature table. It was a small wooden folding table in our family room, and it worked well. My daughter Hannah was 4 at the time and she could easily reach the table to arrange and re-arrange it. My son Jacob was 6 or 7 months old at the time and not yet mobile. We were able to set our scene without taking him into account at all.
Backing up a little, nature tables are fixtures in Waldorf classrooms. They are changed seasonally or with holidays, and they offer a way to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. There are wooden figures, books, pictures, flowers, leaves, candles, rocks – whatever works for you. Our nature table has held toys, felted figures, treasures that my 5-year-old Hannah discovered outside, seed packets and even Barbie. While I do sometimes offer suggestions, I try to let my kids, and particularly Hannah, take ownership of the nature table.
Over the past year our nature table experienced a couple of iterations. As I said, it started out on a folding table. Once Jacob started crawling and pulling up, that stopped working so well. He would pull on the cloth covering the table and that would be the end of the scene, which is particularly bad when the scene contains water-filled vases. We moved the tableau on to the shelf immediately above the table, but that didn’t work for too long, either. Jacob’s expanding reach, combined with Jon’s need for a piano shelf, put the nail in that coffin. Finally, we settled on the top of one bookshelf, and it has remained there ever since.
I appreciate that the nature table offers us a place to store the little bits of nature that my child always brings home with her from the outdoors. I also appreciate that it is an ever-evolving representation of the world and our family. What aspects of the outside world are interesting to us right now? What flowers are blooming in our garden? What seeds are we planting? What special occasion are we looking forward to?
I am honestly not that good at providing structure or routine to our daily family life. It’s just not my strong suit. Maybe I’m too overwhelmed, or maybe my children aren’t the right ages. Our days can be chaotic and I don’t always spend as much time engaging my children in creative activities as I would like. I appreciate the nature table, as one little corner of my home that is about ritual and routine and engagement. I like making felted flowers or little people out of modeling beeswax with my daughter to put into our tableau. I like seeing it when I eat my dinner. I imagine that it will remain a fixture in our home for some time to come.
How do you bring nature into your home? Or do you? I’d love to hear!