Nature Table

My (Over) Abundant Fall Nature Table - What's On It & Why

Because Fall welcomes in the cold and the dark, it’s a time when I love to make my home cozy and comforting. One of my favorite ways to do that is by setting up my nature table to reflect the beauty of Autumn.

When I first started to prepare my nature table this week, I thought I might not have much to put on it. We moved twice within 10 months this past year and I’ve let go of most of my seasonal decorations in the process. However, the beauty of a nature table is that all its elements should be very simple, consisting of treasures found on a walk, or hand-made crafts, or simple materials. The more you can find from nature, the better. By the end of my searching, I ended up with an overflowing table!

Usually, my nature table changes and develops through the season. Because a table is actually much more beautiful when it is simpler, I imagine I’ll be pruning this set-up as time goes on, but to show you a wide range of options, here is what I’m starting with on my table:

A Patterned Tablecloth

Patterned Fabric Tablecloth

Because I’m using a TV tray as a nature table, I wanted to find a fabric that would drape over it beautifully. One advantage (beyond looking beautiful) is that children love to play in a tented space, selected treasures could be played with below the table. I would recommend limiting their number (three items is my suggestion), then inviting a child to place them somewhere new on the nature table when they are done playing with them.

My mom gave me this tablecloth last Fall and its one I haven’t yet found the right use for, though I really love it. It’s a perfect fit for the nature table.

A Pink Playsilk Dyed from Avocado Pits

Pink Playsilk

Playsilks are a wonderful addition to a nature table. This one is a silk scarf that has previously served in pretend play as a flag, a creek, a princess cape, a soldier’s sash, a royal crown, a baby’s blanket and more. We dyed it with avocado pits. Did you know that if you boil them and place white fabric in the water, it can turn your item pink?

A Crystal


I find crystals endlessly fascinating and like to include them in any nature table. Some say that they bring clarity and healing, but I love to just look at them and be amazed by the beauty that's built over time...

A Jade Stone

Jade Stone

This jade stone was a birthday gift and is native to the place I grew up. For me, it reminds me of the giver, who is a close friend who is an inspiring teacher. Jade is said to symbolize good luck and friendship, which seem fitting to the season, when we so often gather and when we traditionally harvest the fruits of the past seasons, with high hopes for the seasons to come.

Any stone that has meaning for you would be a beautiful addition to your nature table!



My great-grandmother not only built the house I grew up in, but also collected little natural treasures that I still enjoy. For the most part, it’s better to leave things you find & admire on the beach where you found them, because they have an important purpose. Shells, for example, are needed as homes for creatures like hermit crabs. Driftwood, too, harbors all kinds of creatures and provides them nutrients. Because this driftwood has been a decorative part of my home for generations, I’m happy and grateful to have it on my nature table through the seasons (especially since it has peg doll-shaped indentations that hold the gnomes in place perfectly!).

If you’re looking for additions to your nature table, I would recommend finding a beautiful piece of firewood or a pretty twig instead.



Apples are such a wonderful symbol of Fall. They are just now ripening on the trees and I was able to pick the ones on my nature table myself!

If you were to slice these apples open, you’ll find a beautiful shape. Read The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows and a Star Inside with your children to unlock its mysteries.

Pumpkins and Gourds

Pumpkins and Gourds

Aren’t pumpkins and gourds the quintessential symbol of Fall? As a large fruit, swollen with seeds to replant and plenty of edible content, pumpkins once symbolized the world itself. What meaning can you and your family find in a pumpkin?

Pinecone from a Sugar Pine

Pinecone from a Sugar Pine

This is another natural treasure that I’ve had in my home or classroom for a few years. A few years ago, a dear friend and colleague celebrated her birthday in the woods and we each brought home a pinecone to share with our students. This pinecone has been with me ever since, so it not only symbolizes Fall for me, but also friendship, celebration, and the passage of time.

These Crafty Gnomes

Peg Doll Gnomes

I am sometimes a reluctant crafter, but I do love these pegdolls. Read about how I made them here! Gnomes bring a bit of whimsy to the table. For me, they are a reminder that the world is full of mystery and mischief!

A Little Bouquet of Marigolds, Amaranth, and Basil


This is the season to harvest the grain. My third graders planted and harvested a barley field. Having these grains on the nature table reminds me of their hard work and their joy in the harvest.

I love to have flowers in the house and particularly love to have them on the nature table. Every Fall, a local farm invites guests to pick wildflowers for $15 per bucket. Last year, my mother had a stroke while she was gathering flowers there. This year, with COVID-19 safety protocols firmly in place, I went with her to pick wildflowers and have them on my nature table not only as a reminder of the beautiful colors of Fall, but also as a reminder of how grateful I am for family and for her health.

Autumn Treasures

Autumn Treasures

For me, treasures are the items that are borrowed from nature, then returned -- pebbles, fallen leaves, acorns, twigs, and more. Sometimes, I’ll bring what I collected on a walk and return each item to the outdoors on the journey, then collect new treasures as I return. I’d encourage you and your family to do the same!

A word of caution: when bringing acorns into your home or classroom, check them carefully! One of my students was a very sweet acorn hoarder and would bury them deep in the inner recesses of a desk. A few days later, little worms would be crawling all over! The source was usually the "acorn desk" -- so double check your acorns and consider leaving them outside until you're sure any visitors have left!

An Owl Candle Holder and Candle

An Owl Candle Holder and Candle

Because my school’s mascot last year was the owl, the owl candle holder reminds me of my 6th graders and the good memories I have of the school’s community. This particular owl was a gift from a friend who is teaching abroad. I love to hear the owls hoot at night and owls have a particular importance in my partner’s family. All of them are in my heart when I light the candle.

A Squirrel Finger Puppet and a Felted Robin

Squirrel Finger Puppet

Felted Robin

One of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received was from a then-6th grader who gifted me a set of felted and hand-sewn woodland creatures. Elijah, if you’re reading this, thank you again! They meant the world to me and they still do. I also love that they’re an inspiration for Fall crafting. You can easily create your own woodland creatures as a family!

A Monarch Butterfly Fairy

Monarch Butterfly Fairy

Another gift, this monarch butterfly fairy was lovingly felted by the mother of a student. I like to hope that she’ll watch over the nature table and bring the monarchs to us! Felting is a wonderful way to create your own dolls and having something small suspended over the table is one of my favorite fancy additions! I use fishing line, but you could use thread or even yarn or shoelaces to suspend things above the table.

A Golden Bowl of Lavender Buds

Golden Bowl of Lavender Buds

The year that I started teaching was the final year before a celebrated teacher at the school retired. She welcomed me to the school with this little bowl and these exact lavender buds. I admire her teaching and admire the beautiful ceremonies she created around every occasion. Her thoughtfulness and creativity brought beauty and meaning to every event. This bowl reminds me of her and has been with me, either at home or in the classroom, ever since. The lavender may not be in theme with the season, but it reminds me to continue striving toward becoming the most celebratory, inclusive, and welcoming teacher I can be.

Adding Simplicity

As you can see, my nature table is filled with natural treasures that remind me of people I love and qualities I hope to cultivate in myself this season. Its items integrate all the senses and reflect the season.

As Fall progresses, I look forward to simplifying and adapting the table to be even more responsive to the changes around us. Truly, a simple table is often better! Though mine has started off complicated, I hope its abundance will provide some inspiration as you set up your own!

What’s on your nature table this season?