Family activity: how to make an autumn nature table

A fun and simple way to explore autumn and create your own unique nature inspired table for your little ones.

Happy autumn! The start of September is a lovely time of year to celebrate autumn and a nature table can help support children’s observation skills and provide lots of sensory learning. It also provides children with everyday opportunities to connect with nature.

You will need

Here are some of the things you could include in your nature table - you can use whatever you have available!

  • Flat surface or table top
  • Natural objects – pine cones, dried leaves, bark, dried grass
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Wooden blocks/ toilet rolls
  • Felt toys/finger puppets
  • Magnifying glass
  • Collection pots/bowls/sorting trays
  • Treasure bags
  • Box photo frames
  • Clipboards
  • Sketchbook/paper
  • Pencils/crayons/pens/watercolours & paintbrushes etc.
  • Spotter sheets (download button below)
  • Natural/artificial plants
  • Sensory lights (Battery LED tea lights or fairy lights)
  • Camera or mobile phone with camera
Items to use for autumn nature table

Step 1: Choose your table or shelf and collect some of the resources from list above. Some resource ideas can be seen in this picture, but the list is endless so let your creative juices flow! Lots of household items can be recycled and upcycled. For example, my wooden sorting tray was a gift with teabags in, or you could use old coffee jars to fill with fairy lights or pine cones.

Step 2: Set up your table or shelf – make it fun and inviting and unique to you and your family.

Step 3: Allow children to explore the table.

You can use items to prompt discussions about this time of year, for example:

Leaves - at this time of year (autumn) some trees lose their leaves.

Seeds - many plants have produced seeds which have dried out and will fall to ground where they will stay dormant until spring when they begin to grow again.

Fruits/vegetables - Harvest festival/Thanksgiving in the UK usually occurs close to the autumn equinox (22 or 23 Sept). You can discuss things like:

  • Where does are food come from? Gardens, allotments, farms.
  • How does it grow? Vegetables like carrots/potatoes grow underground, whereas fruits like apples, pears, tomatoes grow on trees/plants.

This is a great time to observe what they are drawn to on the Nature Table and this can allow them to guide their own ongoing learning and offer ideas of what you can provide to continue that journey.

You could have a sketchbook or paper ready and allow them to draw their observations. You could also provide sorting bowls and trays for them to group and move things around.

A lovely way to show how the children are developing their own learning is to write down things they have said and questions they have asked.

Finished nature table

Step 4: Your table can be added to over the coming months to represent the changes occurring throughout autumn from harvest to hibernation. Allow children to add to table with things you have collected on a walk or found in the garden.

Don’t forget this can be a space that represents and evolves throughout the year from autumn and winter through to spring to summer, helping children to experience and explore the changing seasons.

Optional extra: You may like to start a nature journal to record experiences with your little ones over the seasons. You can also download all sorts of spotter sheets and other activity ideas from the Wildlife Watch website:

Download spotter sheets

You can also create your own spotter sheets and choose the species yourself using our new online tool!

Create your own spotter sheet

We'd love to see pictures of your nature table!

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