Set up an interactive nature exploration table for children to explore and examine natural elements at first hand. Coupled with some nature journals it becomes a great way to introduce some simple science exploration into the home or classroom with a dedicated area for observation and learning.
In our home we like to squeeze in little areas for learning wherever we can find a spare corner or table top, so that the children can have independent access to materials to facilitate their learning through play. We have writing and art areas, book corners and block baskets (which I will write about soon) and we recently added this nature investigation table top. It’s still very much Spring here in the UK so we have initially filled it with everything Spring related, but it would work for any season or particular natural focus e.g. the beach, geology, plants, animals etc.
On the table we added some blossoms and daffodils, Spring plants in pots and dried tulip petals we collected from flowers. We already had the little frog pond small world scene set up which we incorporated into the table top too. Next we added some little pretend nests, eggs and birds made from real blown egg shells and feathers (we sourced these little treasures at Tiger.) I wrote some simple labels for each item on folded paper and placed them next to each one. These are great for starting to recognise familiar words an being able to match them to the correct place. They can also be used to copy in any emergent writing as they play.
I found an ancient Ladybird book form my own childhood called “What to look for in Spring” which is all about the plants and animals that can be spotted in the UK countryside at this time of year. It’s delightfully old-fashioned in its images and text now, but still lovely to look at and so beautifully written. Cakie loved talking about what she saw in the pictures and asked for the names of the plants and creatures.
I made some very simple nature journals by folding small pieces of white paper with a sugar paper cover and stapling down the spine. Next to these we set out some lovely natural coloured pencils made from twigs and a small box of portable watercolour paints and brushes. The journals can be used to make observational drawings of the items on the table and also taken out into the garden or on nature walks to be used on the go. We took them with us on our farm holiday last week to note down what animals and plants we saw!
As they painted and drew pictures, they added them around the table to brighten it up and make it look beautiful.
As Spring gradually moves into summer (these things are slow in the UK!), we will set up a new collection of natural objects for observation and exploration from things that we have collected on walks in the countryside and at the beach.
What they are learning as they play:
science: observational skills, exploration and investigation of shapes, forms, structures, compositions etc, observing plants, questioning
literacy: using non-fiction books to find out information and answers to questions, recognising and matching labels to objects, reading familiar words, emergent writing
creativity: making observational drawings from still life, using a range of media to make projects, independent use of materials to create art work
Bean: 14 mos
See our post full of Spring themed activities for kids here!
See over 60 Nature play ideas for kids here!
Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam says
This is so lovely! I have missed doing our nature tables since our family has grown. I should try a simple version with our kids now and see if they are able to positively interract with the materials.
I love those old Ladybird readers. And my children do too, you don’t find books like those now!
Stephanie @ Twodaloo says
This is positively lovely! I can’t wait until I can add a sketching/painting element to our nature explorations (my twins are still a little young yet). Thank you for sharing your beautiful table!
Ness @ One Perfect Day says
Anna this is so completely gorgeous. I’ve been wanting to set up a nature table for a while, a place to house our collections from our walks etc but I never thought to add the journals and artwork. That is so perfect.
What a beautiful table to celebrate Spring! I’d never leave it. You have so many wonderful activities for kids!!
Kate - An Everyday Story says
Ahh Anna, you are after my own heart 🙂 It’s beautiful. I love everything about it, even the beautiful table it is sitting on..oh and that sweet little book. 🙂 I pack our journals, watercolours and pencils with us where ever we go too….oh and I think we may just have the same pencils… 🙂
Just lovely 🙂
Anna Ranson says
Thanks Kate. I do SO wish we lived closer! One day eh? Let’s make it happen xxx
Thanks Anna!! The girls had a lot of fun doing this!!
You are so creative, Anna! Thanks for sharing these ideas 🙂
Stacy @ Share&Remember says
I love this, it’s beautiful and inspiring!
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Thank you very much for sharing these ideas. It will help me a lot in my ECE Program.