It’s Not Just a Stick: A Simple Nature Table

Did you know you could get tie drawers? I didn’t! I guess maybe snazzy businessmen might….I came across this tie drawer and thought it would make the perfect nature table; open and accessible but still ordered so the collections can stay together. We’ve never had a nature table like this before and Jack (3.5yrs) and Sarah (16mths) are loving it. Previously we had our nature collection in jars on top of our playroom shelves, they looked beautiful but were often overlooked, I think maybe because they were a little high up on the shelf.

But why have a nature table? A friend of mine queried this when she was over. ‘What do the kids do with it?’ ‘Do they just look at them?’ One of the great things about children is that they haven’t yet acquired our limited adult views; they are still figuring things out. This is something I still have difficulty with; letting go of how things should be played with, their proper purpose, and to be more receptive of Jack’s unique point of view. To a child, a gum nut or a piece of driftwood can be anything, do anything.

Now that we have the nature table, Jack will go to the table and select different pieces to play with. If he needs some icebergs he will go and get some. If he wants some choc-chips for his cookies he will go and get some of those, too.

For Sarah, she was introduced to natural materials in her treasure baskets; beautifully textured and waiting to be explored.

Or how about some drawing?

or some clay impressions…

Reggio Activities for Preschoolersor clay sculptures…

or some watercolour painting…

or some exploring…

or just some simple leaf rubbings. So many things to do.

But our favourite would have to be the gloriously endless play scenes that can be created from the same simple materials. A jungle,

or a platform for a singing zebra…

not to forget food for the animals…

or a dangerous cascading waterfall.

And when you run out of materials, you can always go outside and get some more. So what do the kids do with the nature table? Anything! Absolutely anything.

40 comments on “It’s Not Just a Stick: A Simple Nature Table”

  1. Jacinda Reply

    Our nature table is a central space in our home. It is the dedicated place where we put all those treasures from the outside and place them in pleasing ways. Over the years my girls have become very committed to this space in which the seasons are reflected and inspiration gathered. Now they are older it is also where the microscope sits permanently ready for further exploration.

    • An Everyday Story Reply

      That sounds lovely Jacinda. This evening I put a small vase of native Australian flowers next to the mirror. Even though it is a small place, I would really like the kids to take ownership of it and for it to reflect the changing seasons. The kids haven’t seen the flowers yet but I am sure they will love them. I like the way they bring some more life to the room.

  2. katepickle Reply

    This is the most lovely nature table and resulting experiences I have seen in a long long time… I just want to leap right in there and play and explore too! Just beautiful

  3. Neptune Reply

    Where did you get your nature tray? I have been looking for one like this forever, and I cannot seem to find one. I feel it is so much more appealing to display the natural material in this , and much more inviting to the child.

    loved your post!

    • Neptune Reply

      Well, I should have said your tie tray really…

      Another totally different question. On that picture where both your kids are working on clay impressions, how did you get them to engage in this? You set out an invitation and left it there for them to get into it, or did you, at some point of the day suggested that impressions could be made with the nature material?
      THis is not an approach I was familiar with when my oldest were younger, and I am not sure how to invite E properly now that he is 2 yo. Still much to learn about Reggio!

      Thank you!

      • An Everyday Story Reply

        In the picture where the kids are making clay impressions, Jack initiated this activity. The basket of natural materials was on the art shelves and so he was used to using them for different things. The clay is also on the art shelves. So he got the materials out and did this himself.

        For a provocation or an invitation though, if I initiated it, I would usually have a subtle suggestion of how the activity could be approached (like have the clay out with just one shell in the clay and the rest in the basket) for the kids to approach if they are interested. I try not to give too much suggestion as to how to approach the activity/experience because I don’t want to stifle their natural inquiry/creativity.

        If they are interested in the activity that’s when I try to observe them, listen to what they say, the stories they create or the things they discover and make little mental (or actual) notes of how I could extend this further at another time. Something like ‘I noticed you were trying to do…. do you think this (object, book, etc) might help you?’

        With Reggio, the adults (mentors) try not to give the children the answers, rather give them the means (or suggest ways) for them to continue to experiment and explore in order to find the answer themselves.

    • An Everyday Story Reply

      Someone I knew had the tie drawer and didn’t want it anymore. I am not sure where you would buy one…maybe at a home storage store. But sorry I don’t really know. You are right though, the natural materials are so much more appealing to Jack and Sarah now. They did play with them a lot when they were in the jars but it was mostly me getting the materials out for them. This way, and since the table is right at their height, they go to the table constantly throughout the day.

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