Autumn Nature Exploration Table

Set up an Autumn nature exploration table for finding out about natural objects and learning about the seasons. Incorporated with a family or class nature walk, it becomes a lovely way to find out about Autumn together in a hands-on way (and a great place to store all those collected treasures!)

Autumn Nature Exploration Table

Back in the Springtime we put together a Spring Nature Table to collect and examine all of the natural objects the girls had picked up, and they really enjoyed that area for a long time. Because of the abundance of leaves, conkers, acorns and seeds that they have been finding outside over the past few weeks, we decided to start a new nature table, this time for looking at all our Autumnal treasures.

Autumn leaf collection basket

On numerous walks to the park and even down the city streets, we have found so many leaves of all different shapes, varieties and colours. We laid them out on the table and they ranged from bright green through to yellow, to orangey- red and even purply-blue in colour!

Conker collection basket

We were lucky enough to find two horse chestnut trees that were dropping dozens of conkers per day (known as chestnuts in some countries.) They loved collecting these and it has taken me back to my childhood seeing their excitement as they run to be the first to collect the most! We will try and turn some into traditional threaded conkers for bashing contests, but the rest have been played with, rolled, stuck into play dough and used as money in the play shop. The huge basket sits on the nature table ready to be used, examined and played with in any way that they choose.

Autumn Exploration Table

In another spot we found some Oak trees and collected lots of acorns and their little caps to add to the collection. We used an old Melissa and Doug toy tray to pop some of the items into, which lends itself nicely to sorting and classification activities.

Writing and drawing prompts on the nature table Also on the table were placed some pine cones, Plane tree seed balls, pieces of bark covered with lichen and other types of deciduous and evergreen leaves that had been found on the ground, along with a magnifying glass for looking closely at their details.

I cut out some leaf shaped books with plain paper inserts and blank front covers for writing and make making inside. I also added some heavy drawing paper and thick coloured pencils for making observational drawings of the natural objects.Nature exploration table So far they have loved touching and handling all the objects and describing how they look and feel. There is plenty of scope for discussion about contrast in textures between the shiny, smooth conkers and their spiky outer shells and the variety of shape and sizes between the different leaves, seeds and pine cones. We will add some information books about trees, seeds and leaves later on this week too after a trip to the library.

Nature exploration table for Autumn

Do you make a nature table in your home or classroom each season?

You might also like to browse for more activities in our Autumn Archives

Here are lots of ways we have played and created using leaves

Here is a post about 60 ways to play with natural items

Cakie: 5.1

Pop: 3.6

Bean; 19 mos


  1. says

    Thank you for this. Some useful ideas to go with our bowls and bowls of conkers. I particularly like the leaf shaped books and the twig pencils.
    Open University have a free seasons poster, at present. It looks good in the picture although mine hasn’t arrived yet so can’t be quite sure.

  2. Carla M. says

    What a gorgeous, inviting table! I want to get in there and explore, so I can imagine the reaction of the children! So well thought out….all the little details like the colored pencils and bark pieces, the little leaf shaped books…magical for children! Absolutely love all your ideas!

    Carla M. (

  3. says

    Oh this is a lovely post. I would love to sit down at that table (I mean have my wee ones sit down at that table). What a great way to bring out oral language development – so many beautiful things to see, feel, and talk about.

  4. Bella Terra says

    Lovely photos and words to inside; thank you!

    Just a little tip I picked up from my Dad who is a retired forester… not all cones are from pine trees so though we often refer to them all as pine cones, this is actually incorrect and he recommended referring to them instead as simply ‘cones’. Not sure if it matters to you, but I always like to pass on accurate info :)

    Thank you again for the lovely blog and this post!

  5. Anika says

    I love this post and i am considering doing this activity, could you please tell me what the learning links are…Thank you :)

  6. says

    What a lovely table, it just looks so exciting. My little one and I are off to a wood school this afternoon and on Monday, we are planning to build a den in the woods near our home. We thought we might start collecting some natural objects and after having read this post, I think I’m going to try and get some of the lovely baskets you have. I’ll get some paper like you have done and he can have hours of fun drawing, exploring the textures and sorting the objects in various ways. I hope mine is an inviting as yours!

  7. safina says

    Im a mom of 2. 3year old and 14 month old. I love doing activities with the kids but never tried creating areas…. not that I dont have space but they tend to just start throwing things and and scattering everything everywhere. Can someone please advise how to make this possible. Im very much lost when I have to deal with this….. I tried creating 2 different areas for them to work separately but that dint work either. … they just want to do what the other is doing and to be painting is the only fun activity that I do with them

    Please advise

    • says

      Hi Safina
      I wouldn’t worry too much about them throwing and scattering things; it’s all part of the sensory learning environment. You can always tidy up 9and perhaps involve them with this) later on. To encourage them to explore and play with the objects you have in the area perhaps set the area up together. If you go get the objects together with the children (perhaps go on a nature walk)you can talk about what you have, sort them and decide how to arrange them together. Then when the children play in the area, they might begin to do this themselves. Show them how a magnifying glass works – maybe go around the house looking at how things look bigger and investigate seeing details and then leave this in the area. You could also make observational drawings whilst out and about and then if you put some paper and pencils in the area, the children are more likely to be inspired to use them. You could sit together and read stories in the area – if it’s a nature area, maybe find some stories that correspond with the seasons to link everything together – in the post above, the author said they were going to the library to collect books for the area – makes it all the more exciting! (having said this, I went to the shops today to look for some stories for our autumn area and came back with nada! found some great autumn poems instead.) You could maybe even put some music on that links to the area – music that sounds like wind, rain etc if it’s autumn. Anything to make it inviting and make the children want to investigate. But honestly, I would direct it too much, just do little things to inspire and leave them to it. Scattering things is all part of the exploration. We are creating ours tomorrow if this atlantic storm doesn’t hit us and will be blogging all about what we end up finding! Hope you have fun in your areas!

      • safina says

        Thank you Katie

        Ok, I will try with just few things for them to explore. .. then keep adding things as week goes… long do we keep this centers for?

        Im so excited

        • says

          Good luck. I’m sure it will be fab. I would just keep it for a few weeks but keep mixing it up, change and add things so you’re covering sensory, language development etc. Then just change the focus whenever you feel to keep it exciting. Good luck. Anna has loads of fantastic posts on this blog which I’m sure will help too. I’d love to hear how you get on!