Life is busy and in this high-tech, fast-paced crazy world we live in, it can be easy to overlook the little things in the outside world around us. When we moved from our rural small town in Australia to the vortex of Los Angeles I was beside myself that my little nature-loving child’s soul would be sucked dry from the concrete jungle she was now living in, that her love for chirping birds, little insects and the sacred twig would soon be a faded memory. She proved me wrong though. While I pined for my tall trees and croaking frogs (who knew I would actually miss those bad boys?), she kept her blinkers on and found beauty amongst the cracks of the concrete - a little bug, a ‘beautiful rock’, crunchy leaves - things I was missing while blinded by the billboards, traffic and smog. My little three year old taught me that no matter where we lived, we could still enjoy the beauty this world has to offer, and has opened my eyes up to so much I was missing!
Her little wake-up call inspired me to focus on bringing the outside in for our family and celebrate the beauty of nature inside our home as well as out. Precious ‘collections’ of seashells, rocks, twigs, dirty old feathers and other random items made their way to decorate windowsills, fill baskets and become her favorite playthings. We began a ‘nature table’ at home with a pretty cloth, a plant and then collected and handmade items that reflected the season to enjoy and remind us of the goings on out in mother nature. Here in southern california where the seasonal changes are so slight, it’s especially lovely to have this little shrine to nature in our home and remember our place in the big wide world out there.
A nature table can be anything and anywhere in the house that you like. I know some families who have a circular tray in the middle of the dining table to serve as their place to put special things collected on walks. A shelf on a bookshelf, a small side table, the top of a dresser in a child’s bedroom. Silk cloths can be found online or even better at thrift stores and serve as pretty backdrops for a nature table. For summer we use light blue to reflect the ocean and sky, spring is a light green or pink, autumn is orange or brown, and winter white. It’s so much fun to have your children involved in collecting things for the table - large twigs/interesting branches, stones, moss, flowers, bark, shells - and then arranging them with a few small animals or dolls from home can create such a magical spot! The table can be constantly changed and played with, it’s a beautiful thing to watch!
With holidays speedily approaching and decorating to do, advertising and cleverly-displayed stores would have us believe we must buy, buy, buy all this cool, new and plastic-dominated stuff every year. While I’m not suggesting you whittle your every ornament from a naturally-fallen tree trunk, and weave placemats from forest berries, it IS easy and valuable to incorporate bits and pieces from nature instead of buying absolutely everything from Target!
Here are 10 easy things you can do to bring the outside in:
Go for a walk in your neighborhood and hunt for ‘nature treasures’. Take a little basket and have your kids fill it with leaves, interesting rocks and other items (encourage them to take things that have already fallen from the trees)
- Fill a vase with twigs instead of flowers.
- Have baskets of pinecones, large smooth pebbles, shells etc with your other toys for new games and creative play.
- Make a mobile from dried leaves, shells and smooth branches.
- Decorate a homemade or store bought wreath with fresh flowers, dried leaves, berries and feathers.
- Grow something indoors - sprouts, ferns, even a cactus!
- Keep a nature journal or seasonal journal for your child to draw/write about the changes that occur.
- Take photos of your favorite outdoor places (mountains, ocean - special places you have travelled to) to frame on your walls, or use as a backdrop for your nature table.
- Press leaves or flowers in a flower press or heavy book and string as a garland/frame/hang for a mobile.
- Encourage and teach a love for nature! Make trips to special places and talk about the seasons with your children...they will grow a love and respect patterned after you!
Think about decorating your home with pinecones, dried leaves, gourds, pumpkins, feathers, flowers and berries this autumn season instead of only store bought goodies! Here are a few simple ideas for decorating, and two easy projects that can be made with your children...happy halloween!
While decorating a wreath for your door, have a fun activity for the whole family - these mini wreaths are perfect for little hands to create with. Gather a pile of feathers, leaves, berries, acorns etc and poke/weave them into the existing wreaths. Use thin craft wire to secure larger items such as the acorns or pinecone. A glittery bird from the craft store makes a fun finishing touch!
A wreath within a wreath
Cut strips of autumny colored fabric and wrap around a wire hoop for a quick and easy mini wreath. I sat my spooky owl on the hoop and secured with hot-glue, then hung inside my large wreath. These hoops would also look great hung in a window with different objects hanging inside them!
Puffy pumpkin fun
Novelty cotton fabrics have unlimited uses for decorating and are very inexpensive if bought in small (1/4 yard) amounts. Hang strips, use them to tie leaves, pumpkins etc for a garland, create a fabric centerpiece for your table...I’m sure you can come up with many fun uses! I bought some black fabric with cute a little jack-o-lantern pattern to make some little soft toys for my toddler to play with (and the bigger one loves them too, I plan on making more for trick-or-treaters!).
Trim the design out, leaving enough space around each one for some stitching. Layer ontop of wool felt (I used a nice pumpkin orange color) and cut the same shape out from the felt. Stitch the two pieces together with embroidery thread and a basic stitch, leaving a small opening to stuff with wool batting. If you want to add some yummy scent to these festive puffs, crumble some cinnamon sticks and drop a few crumbs inside each with the batting. Sew the rest of the circle together and tie off at the back! String these for decorations or simply leave in a basket or bowl for little hands to play with!