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How to set up an Autumn-themed nature table with your little ones

A nature setting to suit the seasons – Emily Hamalainen of Little Acorns Early Years talks about the educational and therapeutic benefits of setting up a nature table at home 

As shades of Autumn start to appear and nature transforms itself so vividly, what better way to help children contextualise and reinforce these seasonal changes than with a nature setting within our homes?

A nature setting might be on a window sill, a shelf or a side table – anywhere children can easily see it. The great thing about a nature setting is that it can include anything at all found on your nature walks – pinecones, stones, or bits of bark, for example. We even had a snake skin on ours that our daughter found on holiday.

It’s also nice to use a light cloth hung up as a back drop in a colour to suit the season and a candle or vase filled with flowers or seed heads as a focal point.

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As Autumn arrives, here’s an example of what you might find on a nature table:

          Burnt orange muslin cloth draped over a side table

          Conkers and their spikey husks

          Leaves of varying changing colours

          A beeswax candle (lit when supervised)

          Various seed heads in a vase

          Feathers, stones, moss and other woodland finds

If your nature setting starts to become cluttered or untidy with your children’s enthusiasm for collecting and one season changes to the next, you can reorganise it with a fresh backdrop to suit the season, fresh seasonal foliage in a vase and a gentle tidy. The setting will naturally evolve visually as you add items with the changing season.

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Now when your little one so keenly give you their array of ‘presents’ and ‘treasures’ they’ve found in nature, you can show your thanks by placing them pride of place on your nature setting. For children this brings them so much joy – helping them to feel valued and reinforce their love of the great outdoors. Not only that, it also conjures up questions from deep within- ‘mummy, why are conkers so spikey on the outside and smooth on the inside?’, ‘daddy, why do bees like flowers so much?’ and can even become an aid in story telling. Learning through nature makes learning all the more fun!

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The nature setting is a place of beauty where you can create a still life of a moment in time but even more than that, it’s also a tool for inspiring your child’s imagination and bringing the world around them truly alive!

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Emily Hamalainen is the co-founder and group leader of Little Acorns Early Years, which provides Waldorf Steiner and nature-inspired learning opportunities in Ayr.

Find out more about the work of Little Acorns Early Years in the October/November 2018 issue of Holistic Scotland Magazine.

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Health

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

Nearly two thirds (64%) of Brits have dangerously low Vitamin D levels – partly because it’s impossible to get the required amount of sunshine in autumn and winter in the UK.
That’s according to research by VEGA Nutritionals, whose recent survey found that, after being tested, 53% of people in Scotland were Vitamin D deficient.
The study also found that while 19% of Scots are aware of the government’s recommendation that everyone in Scotland should take Vitamin D supplements, only 17% actually do.
Why everyone needs their Vitamin D 
“Vitamin D has many health benefits; it supports healthy bones, teeth, muscle growth and the immune system, all helping to keep you going through cold and flu season,” says VEGA Nutritionals.
“Sunshine is the best natural source of Vitamin D, but from now through to spring, we’re not going to get enough of it. In fact, it’s impossible to get the required amount of ultraviolet (UVB) sunshine to enable the skin to make adequate Vitamin D levels during the British autumn and winter.
“That’s why in 2016, the Department of Health (DoH) issued an official recommendation that every single person in the UK should supplement their diet with 10μg (micrograms) of Vitamin D every day throughout autumn and winter.”
Why Scotland needs the ‘D’ factor 
“Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone diseases, such as rickets, osteoporosis, factures and falls.  Vitamin D absorbs and regulates calcium and phosphate in the body.  Both are needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscle growth.  They also support our immune system to fight illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, as well as depression and obesity. Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D protects against colds. So, it is vital for us to get our required daily amount.
“Large numbers of the UK population are at particular risk.  These include some ethnic groups with dark skin who may not get enough Vitamin D from natural sunlight year-round. Also vulnerable are people with little exposure to sun, such as those who cover most of their skin whilst they are outdoors or people who do not spend much time outside. This can include the elderly or people living in institutions such as care homes, as well as babies and small children.”
Why city living compounds the issue
“Sixty per cent of people living and working in urban areas are at a greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency in winter, with 16% of Londoners at risk all year round.  The new survey found that the UK’s northernmost cities, at highest risk of all, are also the worst for taking Vitamin D.  Almost three quarters of Scots living in Edinburgh (74%) and Glasgow (72%) don’t use supplements and citizens of Liverpool and Newcastle at 76% are even worse, with only 3% of children receiving their recommended dose.
“Office workers and most indoor occupations reduce your time to be outdoors.  A recent survey found that 15% of workers spend no time in a nature-like environment outside during the working week. In addition, only 30% take a proper lunch-break. Finally, workers on nightshifts are often asleep at the key time of day when the sun can help your Vitamin D levels.”
To help answer this deficiency, VEGA Vitamins (part of VEGA Nutritionals) has launched a new range of Vitamin D3 supplements – available for all members of the family and as a spray, chewable tablets and infant drops for babies.
Vega EveryDay-DInfant-D and Urgent-D products are available in pharmacies and health food stores nationwide and to buy online.