A seasonal table or nature table serves as an indoor reminder of the changes of the seasons.
Many families and Waldorf schools add to the table as they find natural treasures like rocks, shells, twigs, small squashes at harvest time, new leaves in spring, and anything else that strikes the fancy of adults or children as they explore nature. The table often includes a setting created with play cloths, wool roving, figures from the toy box or the birthday ring, or even crafts. Whatever reminds us of the turning of the seasons is appropriate on a seasonal table.
Though we do have some figures and special items we add to my family’s nature table, we don’t create scenes so much as we display our found treasures of the season. The right way to create a seasonal table is whatever way you decide. Grow and adapt the tradition with your own family’s preferences.
If you would like to create a seasonal nature table with your family, start by choosing an area you can dedicate to the table. Make it high enough that dogs, cats, and curious toddlers can’t tear it apart, but make it visible even to the youngest members of the family.
Start with a walk in nature. Pick up what interests you and talk about it. For a very young child, try to follow their lead. My son filled his pockets on walks with golf balls and rubber bands, while my daughter was always finding stones. Try stick with natural objects, but don’t reject their personal choices. For older children, ask them specifically to look for natural objects that represent the season. Before you bring your objects indoors, brush off any dirt.
Prepare the table with a silk play cloth, piece of fabric, or other natural ground, then arrange your treasurers and talk about the seasons. Talk about how this season feels, but remind the child that the seasons will keep changing. It is cold now, and the pine cones have fallen off the trees, but in the spring new pine cones will grow on the trees. Those might be put on your spring table.
Avoid that nature deficit that seems so common in industrial childhood, and encourage your child to build an awareness of how nature works and how we as humans relate to nature and the seasons. A season table is a gentle way to help young children become aware of the way nature works.