“You’ve been playing outside a lot lately, huh?” Candice asked Eden while she played in TreePeople’s outdoor picnic area.
Eden gasped and shot up from the wooden bench, “Does that mean the fairies will leave me a gift?” Her eyes danced and wonder spread across her face with a big smile.
“We’ll see when we get home!”
We are all drawn toward nature, especially when we are young.
Here in the Yurt Village, TreePeople tries to feed this natural curiosity, and our Director of Environmental Education, Candice Dickens-Russell and her 6-year-old daughter, Eden are shining examples. Candice and Eden walk their talk honoring nature even during the holidays, as seen in their family’s special “nature table” tradition.
Since Eden celebrated her first birthday, Candice has prepared a nature table on their dining room buffet, scattered with treasures from the outdoors she and Eden discover together. “We bring the outdoors in to honor nature– honor the changing of the seasons,” Candice explains. “When they’re small like this we want them to love the world. We show them beauty all the time in nature. In our family, we have four core values: Beauty, Quality, Tranquility and Simplicity.”
Nature is her playground; no assembly required.
The table itself is catered to Eden’s imagination. It’s low enough that she can touch, explore, and curate the display. “Our nature table is a play space. She can move the little figures around and she can play with the little wooden cave we place on the table that represents Earth,” Candice says.
Each item on the space carries meaning for Eden and she looks forward to creating her magical tablescape every year. Looking at the table you can see a little bowl where “the fairies” leave treats for Eden when she plays outside more.
“One time I found a pinecone and some acorns in there. And another time I found two felt hearts,” Eden shared as her eyes sparkled.
It’s no matter if they are miles from their house, Eden is at home when she’s outside. She routinely wanders around, examining leaves and picking up choice fallen branches for her twig bouquet dubbed the “twig detector.”
“Can we add these to the nature table?” she sings.
Imagining a Miniature Winter Wonderland
In winter, Eden’s nature table starts with a soft light blue silk, and it grows throughout the season as she shapes it into creation through play and curiosity. The scene might start with a couple pine cones, then a few gnomes might take residence or some twigs from Eden’s backyard adventures– anything that spark’s Eden’s imagination.
But there are limits to what can go on the nature table. When Eden, who is far up in a tree, calls down about wanting to pick some of the leaves, Candice uses it as a teaching moment to show Eden how to respect nature. “Only a few though okay? Because they’re still on the tree and are still alive. If you want the ones that are fallen there are lots on the ground.”
Right now, Eden’s nature table is a festive, whimsical dreamscape– there’s a baby sapling, acorns and other trinkets dotted across the table. Like a true Tree Person, Eden and her family plant their nature table sapling in their yard after the holiday has come and gone.
“We name all of our trees. We gather around it and we say, ‘Trees need people. People need trees.’”
The nature table also is a hub for learning. Candice takes care to house some books for the family to read together (fun fact: Eden’s dad is a librarian), like The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Eden’s nature table clearly goes far beyond bringing the outdoors inside. It stokes her imagination, gives her respect for nature and teaches her how to cultivate kindness toward others– all good lessons to keep in mind for the holidays.
And what gift is Eden asking for the holidays this year? Of course, a mermaid doll and small tree for her room that she can decorate all on her own.
Inspired for your holiday? Try making your own nature table, or give the gift of trees with a TreePeople Tree Dedication.