As surely as autumn follows summer and winter follows autumn, the cadence of the seasons alerts us to the passage and cycles of time. And for very young children, observing and celebrating the changing seasons helps them develop a better understanding of how days and months turn into years. It teaches them of life and nature, and it also makes them aware of the special attributes and joys of each season. They learn to appreciate the beauty around them all through the year.
One of the best ways to celebrate the different seasons is to create a rotating tablescape or tableau. This is easily done by designating a small table or shelf as a spot for a “nature or seasonal” display. Some people may even choose a windowsill to house their tableaus. The point is to set aside a special area solely for the purpose of showcasing a specific season.
The Waldorf, Montessori, and Charlotte Mason methods of education all encourage the use of “nature tables,” but delighting in the changing seasons is for everyone. In fact, many families simply call this display a “seasonal table” which can encompass and include a wide variety of things—from pinecones to pumpkins, handicrafts to photos and drawings, or even favorite books about the season. The possibilities are endless!
However, these seasonal tables are certainly not a new idea. According to Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: “Victorian families let the four seasons weave the fabric of their family life together in harmony and creativity with handicrafts to beautify their homes.” (pg. 66) In fact, their seasonal tables were a place to display items they discovered on nature walks or things they’d made. Although simple, the table was a focal point for families to enjoy seasonal treasures and concentrate on specific times of the year.
Ms. Ban Breathnach went on to say of this old tradition that we can still enjoy today: “…the Seasonal Table helps children develop a sense of the year’s rhythms and an appreciation for the four seasons. We know that there will be paper snowflakes and evergreen branches in winter; pussy willows and a bird’s nest in spring; seashells in summer and autumn leaves displayed in the fall.” (pg. 66)
So why not take a lesson from the past and set aside a corner, table, shelf, or windowsill to designate as a specific place to exhibit seasonal displays? Children will take pleasure in finding, choosing or creating items for the tableau, and the whole family will enjoy this timeless and special tradition!
*Quotes taken from Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance Press (Scribner), New York, 1990.