Sep 15, 2017
It’s almost fall time here and I’ve had a great time with my children going to the park and taking long walks.
From time to time, during our outdoor excursions, my girls find little treasures to bring home with us. They might find an interesting leaf, a unique rock or pick a wildflower.
Once at home, we will display these finds on our nature tray.
A nature tray is a wonderful way to exhibit the beauty of the outdoors.
Creating a space in your home to display a tray or bowl of natural objects is an invitation to the budding scientist in all children to reach out and learn more about their world.
Whether shells, rocks, flora or fauna, choose a few and make them available for study or exploration.
The tray can also include a magnifying glass for in depth analysis, as well as a lovely cloth to lay out the objects.
When you introduce this into your home, have the child sit with you so that you can model the gentle way to handle the items.
Watching us handle the delicate natural materials will encourage the child to imitate those movements and learn the respectful way to care for Mother Nature’s gifts.
Nature trays can also be accompanied by books.
For younger children, look for nonfiction picture books or books with limited text that carry rich authentic illustrations of the natural world. An older child can have a reference book to use in order to learn more about the objects collected.
This activity is a great vehicle for expanding vocabulary and encouraging conversation.
The youngest child can learn the names of the objects as well as the object’s texture and color. Older children can use the items as a source of inspiration for research, painting or sketching and storytelling.
Some points to remember when introducing a nature tray or bowl in your home:
- Find a place in the home where the tray will be consistently displayed
- Keep the contents at a small number
- Be mindful of safety – watch out for plants or flowers that may be toxic to children or pets if ingested
- Rotate! Natural objects decay over time – rotate the items when they begin to show signs of rot or mold
- Items placed on a nature tray are intended to be studied and shared for their beauty and interest. They are not meant to be removed and used as props in play.
- It is a personal choice whether or not to display dead insects. If you wish to have them available on a nature tray, contain them in a small clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Take the time to model to the child the way in which to study the insect without shaking the jar or opening it.
Children are strongly attracted to the natural world. Nature trays are great conversational starters about the importance of recycling, composting, and other ways to care for our planet.
They can inspire trips to the library for more information on an object found, songs can be learned, crafts shared and recipes prepared in honor of discoveries made during a fun outdoor adventure.
What will your child discover? Go outside and see!
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What would you include on your nature tray? Share your ideas in the comments section below.