Discovering Waldorf – ‘The Nature Table’.

Today’s Discovering Waldorf’s discussion is on one of my favorite topics, the Nature Table. Amber, a wonderfully creative mom of 2, presents this Waldorf idea in a very thought provoking way… enjoy!

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Meditations on the Nature Table by Amber Greene.

What is a “Nature Table” and why do you see one in most, if not every, Waldorf/Steiner kindergartens and lower primary classroom, and in the homes of families who subscribe to the values of Waldorf education? What purpose do they serve?

I like to think of a Nature Table as a little bit of magic in an otherwise ordinary day. Whilst ordinary days are wonderful things, a little bit magic does wonders for the renewal of our spirits and reminds us that there really IS something bigger going on.

The motifs of the familiar story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” correlate with the potential of a Nature table and give us a wonderful living picture of the essence of it.

Jack demonstrates
trust in the words of the trader. He hopesagainst odds that there really is magic in the beans. Inaccepting the magic beans, he acknowledges his belief in the somewhat predictable, yet wonder-filled nature of the earth and her seasonal shifts and turns. Observing his mother’s lack of vision and oversight, he questions himself, his motives and his deeply held need for magic. Later, as Jack watches the beanstalk reach into the heavenly realms, he is encouraged and excited that untold treasures may lay just beyond, hidden out of sight. Jack’s adventures and the element of risk-taking in his quest to claim his just delights inspire our own “treasure hunting” and make us believe that anything is truly possible.

Our nature tables silently hold the same promise. Trusting that nature will provide, we set up a table or shelf in the corner of the room. Hope and acceptance help us to suspend our judgements and allows the form of the nature table to grow, change and transform. We too, can have questions about the nature table, and wonder about its value. We know that the nature table can have an impact on the lives of those who drink the images in but it is unmeasurable and unpredictable. It can inspire the play and crafting of small children or it can have no visible effect at all. But, we continue to watch in glee as the story of the table ebbs and flows. Lastly, we are encouraged, and acknowledge the inspiration that nature can bring to our own creative lives.

To truly ‘own’ your nature table and have it mean something more than a token gesture requires us to delve deeply into our thinking processes. “Why” becomes a critical question. It is not enough to have one, because everyone in the Waldorf world ‘has one’. It is essential to contemplate the presence of a nature table for yourself and to be careful to evaluate your motives, rather than buy into a myth. Without a question, there is a real risk of a stereotype or caricature running rampant, potentially destroying something good. We can work hard to break down assumptions by being open and forgiving in our search for answers.

(In a similar vein, many a kindergarten teacher wears a pink apron because they buy into a “tradition”, or believe it is something they must do. A thinking person would first ask the ‘why’ question and find out the back story of their mentor’s pink apron before they ever contemplated wearing their own. A well placed question can unravel a gaggle of myths. Well balanced and insightful mentors definitely welcome it.)

Your job is to find your own answers. Is your nature table purely a place of beauty where you can create a ‘still life’ of your present moment in time? Is it a tool for inspiring your children’s imaginative play? Is it a storehouse for your story props? Is it a link between the outside and inside world? Does it serve as an altar to the blessings of Nature? Is it a showcase of your creative outgoings? What else might it serve?

Whatever it is for you is what it is. There is no right or wrong, but acknowledging the true purpose of your nature table will guide its presence in your life. This is surely the goal of Waldorf education; to think something through and find your own relationship to it based on your experiences in life and living. A nature table can be a wonderful tool for an imaginative meditation on your own process of thinking and being, or, it can be just a “lovely thing”. I wish you happy creating with your own nature tables!

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Thank you, Amber, you have me thinking deeply on our Nature Table. Ours is interactive… a place for my kids to put the treasures they have found in Mother Nature… nothing stays put for long as it is played with endlessly. It is a rule to tidy the nature table before bed so that each day’s ‘nature table’ play can start off afresh.
Amber writes a great blog called MamaMoonTime where she shares her free spirit… it’s definitely worth a visit. She also runs a fantastic workshop that inspires creativity, called Create and Love Life.
Here are the other interesting posts in the Discovering Waldorf Series.
Thank you, Amber, and blessings and magic to all.


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16 Responses

  1. I have a toddler who dismantles our table often throughout the day. Perhaps I should just leave it till just before bedtime as part of the bedtime ritual. Perhaps I could use it more for story telling props. Oh I am inspired by this post. Love the ideas and solutions.

  2. What a beautiful and inspiring post. I’m so happy we started our nature table. It’s a constant talking point and brings joy to our living room. We use it for many things but especially to highten our appreciation and awareness of the nature all around us. It warms my heart when my daughter finds something on a nature walk and says with delight “ooh we can put this on the nature table!!”

  3. I haven’t had a nature table up for some time now, because my kids are getting older, but this makes me want to put one together again. Amber’s nature tables are so sweet!

  4. Lovely, I so love my nature tables, (and all of my children have flown,) they bring a sense of the rhythm of the seasons into the home and its little tableau shines out from that corner of the room. cheers Marie

  5. I love having a nature table in the home…it helps to give “roots” to whatever season or celebration we are currently in. It is a joy to set up and in my experience the kids just SO enjoy gathering around it, finding new things, rearranging, crafting for it…thank you for the posts…we used to use a Waldorf homeschool curriculum, and decided to use something a bit different this year, but my heart is telling me to go back to Waldorf.
    ps…I love Amber’s blog…totally inspiring!

  6. I went through a stage of having to hang my nature table! The children were still involved in its creation, but we threaded everything onto a mobile and hung it in a special place in the room. This stopped our toddler from dismantling the table and spreading it around the house! It meant that we could still add to the mobile with things as we found them.

  7. Lovely post, so many things to reflect on. Our nature table is forever changing. My two year old loves to place the little treasures that she finds in nature on it – her little alter I call it. I also like the idea of having nature inspired places around the home… a table with a cloth on it that reflects the colour of the season or a simple vase of flower from your garden.

  8. Nice article!
    Our nature table is a gathering of beautiful things that symbolize the time of the seasons or festivities. It is meant to look at, but sometimes the kids want something from the shelves to play with.
    When a new time is starting in nature or like now, the time for harvest, we change the shelves together.

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