A nature table is a place in your home that you’ve set aside to display and explore nature collections, special objects, books, or other items relating to your child’s nature interests. Nature tables can be as simple as a small shelf in your child’s bedroom or as involved as an entire table set aside specifically for exploration and collecting. We’ve had a variation of a nature table for several years, and they play a role in my Nature Play Today year-round nature curriculum! Nature Tables are an awesome way to incorporate nature based learning in your home.
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Why should I make a nature table? Here are three reasons nature tables help young children:
Nature tables give children autonomy in our homes: So often, children are left out when it comes to the decorating, care, and keeping of our homes - even in their own spaces! A nature table can become a "yes" space - a place where children have ownership of the things they create, collect, and discover.
Nature tables promote child led learning and discovery: Nature tables inspire whimsy and exploration without much help from adults. Children can display and discover new nature items, use reference books, draw in sketch books, and direct their own learning - which makes learning so much more meaningful!
Nature tables help children make connections between the outside world and themselves: Bringing nature into our homes can help children build connections with the outside world - leading to them growing in an interest in protecting and conserving our earth!
How to Create a Nature Table
Work with your child to find a small area to designate as a nature table or corner. A small shelf in their bedroom, an entryway table, the top of a dresser, even a windowsill can work! Once you have a spot, find a tray to display treasures. As time goes by, add a field guide or books about nature topics, a magnifying glass, art work, and more - all with your child's help, inspired by their discoveries!
Currently, our nature table is in a breakfast nook turned nature/art corner. It holds a chalkboard, art creations, art supplies, books and more. It takes prominent attention and my children often gather treasures to lovingly display in this area.
Our very first "nature table" was actually a windowsill when my now 7 year old was 3! It consisted of weather sensory bottles, vocabulary words and corresponding sign language from Speech and Language at Home, and some artificial flowers! Super basic, but perfect for my little one with Down Syndrome who still placed things in her mouth - it allowed us to observe weather and make connections together!
Our second nature shelf was in a corner of the play room - made on a wooden crate turned on its side. You can see I added small toys, related books, and still feature our weather sign language cards!
Later on, the nature shelf moved to our breakfast nook, where it could be accessed all day long. I bought a vintage chalkboard from Facebook marketplace, added a plant and some art supplies and it's been a popular, much used corner of our home ever since!
More Nature Table Inspiration:
Looking for more nature table inspiration? Check out these ideas:
This nature tray for toddlers from How We Montessori is simple and would be easy to move up higher if your little one still explores with their mouth!
Such a lovely outdoor nature corner from Beth Bryan - would be perfect if you have a screened in porch or live in a temperate climate.
A wall-mounted shelf and spice jars for holding treasures - what a perfect, simple nature display for those with limited space! From Spell Out Loud.
This last idea doesn't require any fancy shelving or containers and is still an awesome exploration of nature! Read more in this post from The Imagination Tree.
Ready to make your own nature table? Here are some supplies that can help!
One of the most important parts of a nature shelf - whether it is on a table, windowsill, or a dedicated shelf - is a tray or bowl to display nature treasures. I've found secondhand wooden trays with dividers, but if you want to skip searching thrift stores, you can grab this divided wall tray or this tea tray with a clear lid!
Another item we love on our nature shelf is this bamboo plate rack. We use ours for many different things, from holding finger puppets, propping up puzzles, or holding board books - but displaying nature books on it is my favorite use for this little plate rack.
I also love adding nature-related posters and art. My favorite are the Little Lilac Preschool Nature Themed Number Posters - they are colorful, simple, and perfect for inviting counting and exploration! I also love this series of vintage science posters.
Looking to really dive into outdoor nature play this year? Grab a copy of my nature curriculum, Nature Play Today. Designed to help young children and their families connect while playing together outside, Nature Play Today is a year-round digital curriculum. It's filled with guided nature walks, book recommendations, art and play ideas, and outdoor play inspiration.