The great outdoors

How to set up an Autumn-themed nature table

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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