Nature Table: Where Art, Stories, Memories, and Peace Unfold

make your own spiritual nature table

Today I’d like to introduce you to Rashmie Jaaju, the mama behind the creative learning blog, Mommy Labs. I’ve known Rashmie since I started blogging and always appreciate her sincerity, mindful approach to parenting, and the passion she brings to raising a creative child. Furthermore, Rashmie lives in New Delhi, India, and I hope you’ll enjoy peeking into Rashmie’s colorful corner of the world as much as I do.

Welcome, Rashmie!

Hello friends, I’m elated to write for Tinkerlab today and be able to connect with all you wonderful, creative people. Rachelle is a long-time blogger friend and she’s an inspiration to me for the passion, creativity and focus she puts into her blog; as well as for the person and the mother that she is to her adorable kids.

I’d like to share with you all my Nature/Spiritual table. Actually, it’s not just a table but a part of our home that’s now synonymous with quiet time, peaceful vibes, nature inspiration and a place to get together as a family for a few moments of prayer and connection with the higher self.


How Our Nature Table Started

I’ve always loved collecting ‘finds’ from nature – fallen leaves, river stones, pine cones, drift wood, sea shells, feathers. I have dozens of boxes stuffed with these things; plus piles of books that hold leaves, flowers and petals within their pages.

It struck to me one day that keeping these natural elements in closed boxes and books is not serving the purpose. I’d much rather want to keep these beauties in front of my eyes so that my family and I can connect with nature inside our home, and also recollect the stories associated with them – the stories from trips, nature walks, beaches, treks…

So, in that whimsical, uplifting moment, I started this nature table.

All it took was a quick refurbishing of an old wooden table that I’d used for different purpose at different points in time. From being a pedestal for the refrigerator to a book shelf to a low dining table, this table has served various needs.

We scrubbed, painted and polished the table and found a clutter-free, well-lit, cozy space for it in the study room. There’s a big window right above the table and a door next to it that leads to a balcony overseeing vast open green land, so there’s ample sunlight and fresh air.

Nature Table for Spirituality and Meditation

The Table as a Natural Canvas

It’s been almost an year now and I’ve redecorated this space every two months or so introducing flavors from every season, a festival like Holi or Diwali, or family events (birthday, travel, anniversary). See some pictures of the nature table from winter 2012. And then, there’s always something to add after a nature walk in the near by park or in the neighbourhood.

Recently, we went on a trip to the Himalayan region in India (it’s called Himachal Pradesh) and we collected tons of things from the treks we took there. These have now become part of the nature table.

Interestingly, the nature table has become an artful corner in our home. It’s almost like a canvas for me and my daughter – Pari – who’s 6.5. She rejoices in laying out leaves, pebbles, feathers, pine cones on this square space. We love lighting aromatic candles and incense here. It also gives her a sense of ownership since she actively takes part in decorating this corner of the house…

Kids Connecting with nature in home with nature table

Spiritual Corner

My family sits in front of the nature table almost every day and we recite a Buddhist mantra (though we’re not Buddhist) and Sanskrit Shlokas, including a Gayatri Mantra. We play the Tibetan Singing Bowl. Read more about the meaning behind the singing bowl over here. You may also read on the same page about the Buddhist mantra – Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo.

So, this nature table is a spiritual corner rather than a religious place of worship. It helps us fill our cup of peace and quiet. :-)

Buddha Nature Table

Even our guests – kids and adults alike – are immediately drawn to it. The moment my 2-year old niece, Sarah, enters our home, she heads for this corner. The gemstones, pebbles, feathers, copper bells, shells – she can engage herself with all these for an hour at least…!

nature art spirituality for children

Keeper of Memories

Above all else, as I look at each of the natural elements placed on this table, I can’t help but reminisce about the moments we found these pieces. The stories come alive through the mind’s eye. The drift wood for example – it came floating on the waves of the river Sutlej when Pari was playing along the bank. This river is on a volcanic bed, which gives the water a unique characteristic that’s also said to heal and alleviate joint aches. The water on the surface is chilling cold but thrust your toes just an inch deep and you’ll feel the heat instantly!

Every inch of the nature table tells a story. I’d say it’s a keeper of memories….!

nature table waldorf spiritual connection for kids

A Place to Reflect

This room is also where I sit everyday to write – be it for my blog or in my journal. There’s an aura to this space that makes me reflect and put them into words. As such, nature is the source of sustenance for my soul. And, art!

Do you have a spot in your home that’s dedicated to nature or spirituality? What helps you connect with your inner self? I would love to hear your story.

Rashmie writes about creative and natural learning for children at Mommy Labs. She takes inspiration from art, travel, books, photography and most essentially – the spiritual energy of nature to nurture a sense of wonder in young souls.

Crushed Flower Experiment

Now that summer is coming to an end (sniff — I’m kind of in denial — you?), it’s a good time to harvest some of your last blooms for some flower-painting experiments.

Crushed flower experiment

We took a walk around the neighborhood and picked some weeds from wild roadside gardens, and also selected a handful of flowers and leaves from our own yard.


For this project you’ll need: assorted flowers and leaves and paper

The experiment lies in testing the flowers to see what colors actually emerge from them as they’re crushed and smeared onto paper. We were surprised by the blue hydrangea’s brownish-green hue, but also got some more predictable amazingly brilliant yellows and purples from our roses and dandelions.

Crushed Flower Experiment

More Artsy Science Experiments

If you’re interested in more experiments that lie at the intersection of art and science, you might also enjoy Invisible Ink: A Citrus Painting Experiment and the Egg Geodes Science Experiment.

More Flower Projects

For more with flowers, you’ll have a lot of fun Pounding them into Flower Bookmarks or maybe you want to learn how to press flowers. Zina at Let’s Lasso the Moon has a lovely idea for turning a huge sunflower harvest into back-to-school teacher gifts. And, there are over SIXTY amazing ideas in the Tinkerlab Flower Creative Challenge that will keep you busy with all your harvested flowers.

And similarly, here are some ideas for making vegetable-based egg dyes.

What are your favorite ways to use, preserve, and harvest your end-of-summer flowers?

Make a Terrarium

Today I’m joined by my friend and colleague, Amanda E. Gross, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with at the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum. She has an incredible eye for all things related to creativity and kids, and today she’s here to share some tips on how to make a terrarium. I’ve wanted to make one of these for a long time, and thrilled that Amanda is here to give us some guidance.

How to Make a Terrarium

Terrariums are the perfect project to stoke both the imagination and a curiosity for nature.

Before building your terrarium, you might like to start by reading a book about an outdoor critter (i.e, Eric Carle’s Very Quiet Cricket, Leo Leonni’s Inch by Inch, or Patricia Polacco’s The Bee Tree). After reading the story, find out if your child wants to build a home for the critter with materials from outside. Talk about the critter’s habitat and its other likes and wants that might be incorporated into your terrarium.

As alternatives, you could guide the project with a focus on fairy houses or on terrariums as little ecosystems. To begin, discuss the seasons and/or plant life cycle, and how the terrarium will incorporate sunlight, soil, and water, just like the plants’ environments outside. The little world your child creates will foster a sense of eco enjoyment and responsibility.

How to make a Terrarium

Step One

Take a stroll outside, getting up close to wonderful sensory experiences like dirt, pebbles and lush green plants.  Gather interesting leaves, sticks, acorns, etc. to use in the terrarium.  Soil, pebbles, and moss may be collected if available, or purchased.

Step Two

Bring your materials home and spread them out over a plastic sheet, and play around with combinations and the possibility of making a critter house.

How to make a Terrarium

Step Three

A clean fishbowl or Mason jar makes the perfect terrarium container.

How to make a Terrarium

Step Four

Add about an inch of pebbles to the fishbowl, for drainage. Pile on an inch or two of soil mixture, with chunks of activated charcoal for filtration and fertilizer. I’ve been told that pyrite is a good mix-in, but not necessary.


How to make a Terrarium

Step Five

Make small valleys to add plants, while their roots are still moist. I bought a succulent to add to my terrarium, a low-maintainance green buddy (it only needs water about once a week) that is fun to watch grow over time. Next, arrange moss, sticks, leaves, and other bits. I used the top of an eggplant for the roof of my critter house.

Step Six

Tailor the terrarium to your child’s interests and skill level. If appropriate, make a little critter friend to add; I made my bug out of plasticene clay and sticks for legs. You could add a literacy component by making a collage poem or haiku about the terrarium after creating it, using words and pictures from magazines.

Place your terrarium in indirect sunlight and make sure to water it every week or so if you have a succulent nested in there, and more often for temperate plants.


Making Terrariums so Simple
Make a Kid-friendly Terrarium
Terrarium as a learning too for children
Twig: Purchase supplies for moss terrariums and other small worlds
Terrarium Figurines on Etsy
More Terrarium Figures on Etsy

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Natural Playground with Tree Stumps

Let your walks now be a little more adventurous.
– Henry David Thoreau

Build a Natural Playground with Tree Stumps,

Do you have a natural playground in your yard or near your home? A natural playground is an outdoor play area that’s landscaped with materials such as logs, dirt, grassy hills, sand, natural bridges, and streams instead of plastic playground equipment.

Aside from our beloved plastic playhouse, our small suburban garden is full of natural loose parts and I’m constantly looking for ways to develop it into an inspiring, open-ended, natural play area.

Why a natural play scape? 

In Children’s Outdoor Play and Learning Environment: Returning to Natureplayground designers and early childhood experts Randy White and Vicki Stoecklin, found that when given the option of imagining an ideal outdoor play space, children would choose things like water, sand, and vegetation over jungle gyms and slide; a surprising conclusion considering what most of our neighborhood parks actually look like. The reason? “Traditional playgrounds with fixed equipment do not offer children opportunities to play creatively (Walsh, P. (1993). Fixed equipment – a time for change. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 18(2), 23­29.) and promote competition rather than co­operation (Barbour, A. (1999). The impact of playground design on the play behaviors of children with differing levels of physical competence. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 14(1), 75­98.).

Start with Tree Stumps

Tree stumps are useful for walking on, turning into seating for impromptu fairy tea parties, using as a base for bridges or tables.

We live near a children’s museum with a large-scale spiral tree stump path that will entertain my kids for hours. The stumps are of various heights that challenge children to climb, crawl, skip, walk, and jump. When they bump up against each other, as they move in opposite directions, they have to negotiate the space and make concessions. In short, it’s brilliant.

Ever since I first discovered this neighborhood treasure, I’ve been on the hunt for some tree stumps of our own. No small feat, though! We don’t own a chain saw, our trees never get trimmed, and I had no idea where I could find these beauties.

My radar was tuned and then low-and-behold, I spotted these guys, hard at work.

Tree stumps for nature play scape, from Tinkerlab.

I asked them if they would be so kind as to share a few pieces with my stump-loving kids, and they said yes. I’m indebted. My car was soon overloaded with heavy lumber and I was beaming!

So how do you find tree stumps? This one stumped me for some time (how could that pun not be intended?). I was on the lookout for tree trimmers, and lucked out that my trunk was empty and these guys were generous with their time and muscles. I would caution you that trees can be infested with termites or other dreadful bugs and diseases, so it could pay to secure your stumps at a cost from a local lumber yard. These stumps appeared to come from a healthy tree that was getting trimmed away from a power line, but I’m no tree expert. If you know more about this than me, please let me know if our stumps are healthy!

Tree stumps for nature play scape, from Tinkerlab.

I got these beauties home and my kids wanted to play with them right away (notice the tap shoes — ha! — these two crack me up). I put the stumps in our front yard until we could find a good place for them, and of course our next door neighbor friends wanted to come over and play too.

How to score tree stumps for your play scape, from Tinkerlab.

I think I have a good spot for them now, in the dirt and under a tree, and I’ll share more of our natural play scape ideas as it comes together.

natural playground with tree stumps

More Nature Play Ideas

How Climbing Trees Builds Critical Thinking

Finding Nature

Plant a Garden with Kids

Thrifting for Natural Materials for the Garden

Theory of Loose Parts (Let the Children Play)

Easy Peasy Rock Painting

rock painting

This is such an easy project and my kids (almost 4 and 20 months) have gone crazy for it. And I have to confess that I really enjoyed it too. Very addictive. I chalk their enthusiasm (and mine) up to a couple things:

  1. Painting or drawing on a 3-dimensional surface is a fun challenge
  2. The colors of the paint markers are vivid and opaque (i.e. pretty), and very easy to use.

rock painting

There are lots of ways to paint a rock, for example, we recently painted a big rock with watercolor paints. But the method I’m sharing today is so easy and the mess is minimal.


  1. Selection of smooth river or beach rocks
  2. Paint markers. We used Elmer’s Painters Pens
  3. Covered table (the markers leave a mess on the work area that you’ll be happy that you prepared for it).

rocks rock painting

If your markers are new, you’ll want to shake them a bit and depress the tips until the paint starts to flow. Just follow the directions of your paint. 3-year old N wanted to make each of her rocks unique.

rocks rock painting

And her sister, Baby R, enjoyed the challenges of learning to hold the marker and controlling the lines as they hit the rock.

rocks rock painting

N was so proud of her creations, and actually hid her favorites (not seen here) in a closet for Father’s Day. Phew, guess I’m off the gift-giving hook.

The rocks really are spectacular and seeing them makes me so happy.

A small clean-up caveat: the ink will get all over your kids’ hands, but don’t fret. The mess would have been much worse if you’d given them a bowl of acrylic paint and brushes. And it will all come within a day or two.

More Rock Painting

rocks magnets

Jen at Paint Cut Paste shows you how to make thumbprint rock magnets. Tweet Tweet.

rocks rock painting

This is one of my first posts: Rolling Rock Painting. It’s like rolling ball painting, but a little bit more unpredictable.

rocks rock painting

I love homemade games, and this rock domino set from Martha Stewart would make me so happy.

Have you or your kids painted rocks? If you’re a blogger, feel free to share a link in your comment.