What is a Nature Table? And Four Reasons to Make One


A nature table is exactly what it sounds like: a tiny table where your little one can display all the natural wonders they find when out in the world. There are no particular dimensions or aesthetic expectations of the table itself, the table (or whatever you decide to use) is simply a vehicle for your child to bring a little nature home with them. 

Nature Table

Here are four reasons why having a nature table is an excellent way for your kids to show off what they find outside:

1. It Brings Nature Indoors

Let’s say, by way of example,  your kid finds a shiny little pebble on her scavenger hunt. The pebble is tucked away in a pocket, and when you get home, she marches up to the nature table in her room and sets the tiny rock down in just the right place. This object is a way for her to connect with the outside world while indoors. Whenever she has friends over, she’ll regale them with the story of that discovery. She will have a tactile item that she can play with and come back to again and again.

2. Creating Guided Outdoor Adventure

My parents found my nature table at Goodwill when I was a toddler and they placed it proudly in my room. There were ground rules, of course. When we were out on hikes I could only choose one item to take home with me per hike, and I was the one who had to carry it so it couldn’t be overly heavy. As a kid it fascinated me to choose whatever I wanted to have as my own. This freedom resulted in a beautiful collection of little things; from geodes to mouse bones, sticks that looked like snakes, and abandoned wasp nests.

The choosing of something for a nature table is not just an honor for the kiddo, it’s a good trick for all the hiking parents out there. Your kid will find a keepsake they like pretty early on, but if you ask something like, “I wonder if we’ll find something even better just over that hill?” It typically will motivate a kid to keep going, keep hunting, keep hiking. Motivation can mean the difference between a one mile hike and a three mile hike.

3. Educational Opportunity

Once your little one has proudly displayed her item, she may have questions about it, like why is that pebble so shiny? This is an excellent opportunity to look up some interesting facts about the object and the place she found it. Perhaps this will be the start of a fascination with rock formations, or maybe she’ll learn a whole slough of facts about trees after she finds a particularly large pine cone. The world outside is a wonderful learning experience on its own, but it doubles with enjoyment if you can take the hands-on experience and back it up with some interesting facts.

4. It Builds Lifetime Memories

These little, natural things that begin to show up on the table may just last a lifetime. Obviously, some of them, like large leaves, or pieces of bark may break down over time and need to be replaced (another rule to consider: once the table is full you’ll need to remove an item to add new items), but the hardier stuff like sand dollars and crystals you can keep for as long as you want. My parents are moving away from my childhood home, so this past Christmas they gave me a box of all my nature table items that had stood the test of time (and years in the attic). Seeing all of those things brought back so many beautiful outdoor memories with my parents, and I now proudly display them on a shelf. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to look at them with me, and begin his own collection!

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Autumn is a Pacific Northwest native, born and raised in Seattle before moving to Portland at twenty-eight. She met her husband within a week of the move, graduated from PSU the following year, and now is the proud momma of one baby boy and one medium-sized mutt who she admits, is much more popular on Instagram than she is. Autumn has been an outdoors enthusiast her entire life, thanks to adventurous parents. She summited her first peak at age eight and hasn’t looked back. A firm believer in getting kids into nature, she is looking forward to including her little one on future wilderness forays. Autumn’s husband is the chef at Portland’s well-loved Laurelhurst Market. A great dad who loves to cook at home, she clearly won the partner lottery as she can barely boil water without catastrophe. Autumn’s hobbies include hiking, camping, blogging, and battling her Instagram addiction.