Have you come across nature or exploration tables before? They're a wonderful way of encouraging children to connect with nature and to learn about the seasons and the world of wonder that can be found on their doorstep, whether that's in the middle of the countryside or in the heart of a city.

And they involve items that children simply can't resist. We're talking leaves - of all different shapes, varieties and colours - sticks, acorns, pine cones, conkers, stones. At this time of year, the floor is basically a treasure trove of natural treasures that little ones simply can't stop themselves from filling their pockets with.

Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

Yes, autumn is such a great season to get your nature table underway. It doesn't have to be a table - it could be a tray, a shelf or simply a window sill - but take a look at our Growing Activity Table with its extra set of longer legs for you to add as children grow taller. It offers plenty of space for little ones to display their finds while also being able to get creative with paper, pens and paints.

Your autumn nature and craft table can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but how to get started?


Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

First up, grab a basket and head outdoors for a spot of exploring. Talk about what you can see and what has changed on the landscape recently. Encourage your child to look around them and connect with their environment. It's a good exercise for adults, too - we're often so busy heading out to school and work, and then to after school clubs or other activities and then rushing home for dinner, that we can forget to take the time to look around us. 

Look for anything eye-catching that reflects the season that you think would be a good talking point, great for sensory play or perhaps a craft project. It could be leaves, sticks, feathers, pine cones, flowers, acorns, or conkers. You could even buy an item or two, if you think your child would appreciate it and like to know more about it. Perhaps a pumpkin or gourd at this time of year.

When you've collected enough treasures to pop on your table, it's time to head home.


Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

Obviously, you can jump straight in to looking through your finds and laying out your autumn treasures on your nature table, and that would be absolutely fine. However, if you'd like to prompt more conversation about what you've seen and heard while you were out exploring and how it relates to the wider world, we'd recommend looking through Nature's Day by Kay Maguire and Danielle Kroll. It's a beautifully illustrated book that covers all four seasons and the changes they bring. It's a nice one to keep on your nature table all year round.


Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

Then it's time to take a closer look at everything and involve all the senses. For example, rub leaves between your fingertips and thumb to hear the rustling sound they make; smell them; hold them up to the light to see the veins in more detail or look at them through a magnifying glass; draw around them; label them after looking up which tree them come from; or arrange them in colour order. Go at your child's pace and see which items they're drawn to and what they're particularly interested in knowing more about. There is so much scope for discussion and so much to learn about the natural world.


Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

Another element is to use what you've found to create something new. Add some colourful paper that reflects the season to your nature and craft table, along with coloured pencils, child-friendly scissors, string, wool, glue and bits and bobs from your recycling collection. Children's imaginations are incredible. Simple sticks can become vibrant, magic wands with wool wrapped around then. A handful of leaves glued on to a strip of paper can be a woodland crown in a matter of minutes. Keep replenishing the craft materials and adding to your nature table as you stumble across anything new that you think your child would enjoy investigating. Your table can continue to evolve throughout the season as well as from season to season.

For more ideas, take a look at our Pinterest board: Arts, crafts and rainy day activities for children.

Set up an autumn nature and craft table to learn about the seasons

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