The Story Table is a vital part of my classroom. It is a miniature world of nature complete with animals.
STEP ONE: The Base – I like to use a strong base so children can push on it and it will not collapse. This is a shelf laid flat.
STEP TWO: Cover the shelf or table with cloth. I placed an brown “earth” color cloth on the bottom. Underneath the cloth I have placed a few wooden pieces to add height. Next I add a piece of blue fabric for the river. At this time, I created a late summer – so there is a deep green cloth. We added acorns, leaves, twigs and other found nature items.
STEP THREE: I found branches to put up as trees and log blocks for children to use to invent their own details and scenes.
I added green roving in the trees.
STEP FOUR: Add the creatures!
Pine cones make great trees as well.
I tell the children that the Story Table is a quiet place and the animals may not fight.
It is a peaceable kingdom.
The children race to be at the table. Stories unfold. . .
Sometimes a child will sneak over to the story table. . . . it a place of comfort.
Great post…. I’ll do my winter nature table…. It’s so great that you share your experience and knowledge with us…. Thanks a lot…I’d like to send you a pic… is it possible??
I need to add this to my list of Winter Break projects! I used to do something similar as a center, but it was in a wide-open space and there was a lot of running around and rough play with the animals. I think I need to find a cozy corner to set this in. Hmm..
I love this idea Sally with the link to it being a story telling zone. I did a similar thing this year with Australian Animals, but put them out on their own and asked-what do these animals need to give them a home? Children collected soil first, then twigs to make a tree for the koala, used foil for the river so the crocodile could swim, and pebbles for him to sun himself. They shared so much knowledge and learned so much but I didn’t extend it to story telling – will do so next year.
Early in the year I use an old empty kitchen drawer that measures 3×3. I painted the inside with ” water, grass and dirt. Besides being a portable space to develop as they wish it also serves as a seasonal sensory space. It can be covered up when not in use with a blanket. In the beginning of January we migrated to a room divider shelf and created a winter snowscape. We used all sorts do loose parts and recycled items with snow paint, fake snow and glitter and lots and lots of glue! When they were finished creating we transferred the winter animals from the ice filled sensory “habitat” to the snow world. It has been in the 70’s all month so this is as close to winter as most of us get!
Oh my word! I love this idea! Genius! Do you have photos? I would love to share them with my readers (with full credit to you!) if you are willing. . .
I am so happy exploring your site and learning new ideas to do in my playgroups. I have been working in early childhood for over 25 years and have found many new inspirations here. Thank you.
Greetings from Vermont!
I do something very similar and have had the children make smaller versions to take home by using cardboard coke trays or the lids to copy paper boxes. First the children paint the lid to match the season, and then we forage for items from nature.
Love the idea of fabric though, it adds more softness.
Thanks for the idea!
April! I love your idea of using reuse items like coke trays and copy paper boxes to make individual story tables! I would love photos! I would love to post it here on this post if you are willing! 🙂 What a rich idea.
Sally I am interested in your no fighting rule for the animals. How do you enforce it? How old are the children in the class?
With our 3s and 4s it seems to me that there is a lot self-initiated play centered around fighting, quite often inter-related with superheros. Many children engage deeply with the idea of making weapons and finding things they can use as weapons in the garden. As a staff we have a rule that anyone who doesn’t want to play such games can say so and the protagonists must leave them be. We also insist that children do remember it’s pretend, so they mustn’t actually hit/hurt one another. Children justify ideas in terms of fighting baddies. I don’t think anyone feels very comfortable with this sort of play and worries about it getting out of hand. At the same time we know it can be a valuable means of expression for children pondering about their place and learning how to negotiate, alongside many other things. I try to suggest positive scenarios and engage in discussions about what is happening in the game and why. The most difficulty is with the many children who don’t have English as a first language and many of these are at the earliest stages of learning English.
I love your investigation of fighting. I, too, allow the children to fight – in a very pretend way. I had a huge super hero interest unfold a few years ago. The children spent hours and days making swords. Last year I had a group of 4 children who made paper guns almost every day. Very complex and highly detailed paper guns (3D). I had a “procedure” for sword fighting that went brilliantly.
I do not let the children engage in animal pretend fighting because it has always ended in physical injury.
I turn to R. Steiner’s work. He said that we are human beings not animals. And that children imitate. Animals do not have impulse control. A fight is violent. And the children often take it too far. However, they can imitate being “noble beings” that can fight with a dignity and impulse control. I bring a procedure of dignity to the sword fights. It is so interesting. . .
Hi! I absolutely loved this idea, so my co-teacher and I incorporated it into our classroom, but the children have not taken to it. They love the animal and silks, but they are not interested in engaging at the table or elaborating with the other natural materials. We find that they are taking the animals to a big rug and bringing over the silks and small building blocks to create “homes” for the animals there. We are okay with this, I just found it interesting.
Thanks for all your lovely ideas, I feel very inspired by your newsletters!
I think it is important to model the storytelling with the elements. I often tell a story to the group using the storytelling table (sometimes that has meant moving it!) for a week. When the storytelling elements are deeply connected to the stories in the classroom – it will explode with activity.
Sometimes the story table and block merge and I agree – it is all good!
Well of course! I had talked with the children about the table and it’s purpose while setting it up, but did not realize that I had not actually modeled how to use it…I did that today. I told the story of Hansel and Gretel. It started with three children watching, but quickly the entire class gathered around. When I was done, a small group stayed and began telling their own stories to each other. It was wonderful! Thank you for your input.
I have tried this in a limited way and had problems with the animals/materials being used in violent ways (my current group is 15 boys to 1 girl–lots of testosterone going on!) Thank you for the phrase “peaceable kingdom”. I will set up a story table this week with a discussing first about HOW to play with emphasis on “peaceable kingdom”.
Let me know how it goes!
Great and stimulating literacy experiences! As a provocation, do you have the children initiate the materials that will be used in the area? Could they develop the expected behaviors for the classroom community?
I think it would be a wonderful conversation for the expectations in the classroom community! I provide the materials relating to the book or fairy tale we are engaged in, it’s up to the students to use them in their own way.
wow this is such a great idea, I will introduce one for my giraffe investigation, it will be awesome
Thank you so much. This is a wonderful idea. I love it and my students will love it also.
I really was inspired by this post for two reasons:
First I tried doing nature stories and the children were fascinated even correcting me when I held up a pine cone named *Sam when it was really named Rebecca. Oh, they were paying attention to the story. So I see how they truly have a need to connect with nature.
Second, Tuesday this week I jumped our fence to go to the pine cone grave yard. (We have a huge Pine tree near one of our play spaces.) Huge pine cones and a few pretty great long branches. I brought two brown grocery bags back to our classroom. Our science area has needed a boost for a while and now i know exactly what we can do.
Thanks again for inspiring us to create play spaces where children can truly wonder and connect with nature. I will send pictures.
What a wonderful story. I believe that nature profoundly connects us all. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures!
I love this idea. Sometimes being outside can be overwhelming to children. This brings Nature indoors and provides a safe place for children to create their own outdoor story.
I love your ideas thank you so much!!!
Thanks for this awesome idea.
Cant wait to share it with coworkers
Hi I am subteacher and to day I went to school for a few hours . I took the idea of story table. I knew these 4 years love animals. I ask them if they want to play a new game , they were shouting hooray.i ask them let’s make a story table with this animal.I remembered your story table and ask each child bring favorite animal on the table . They made different gats with bulletin borders, they put each animal in the place that they should be. With paper towel they made snow flakes and a place for white bear.one and half hours the children were busy to build, sharing their own story and funny experience they had in la zoo. It was wonderful and practical idea . The children decided to keep the round table as a story table every day. The teacher walked in the classroom and she was an amaized
I love this idea! It’s so attractive to children and gives them an endless opportunity to tell the stories their imagination creates. It is a gate to the world of people, animals and the natural world our kids feel strongly they are a part of. Thanks, Sally!
I love what you do. so inspirational
This is a brilliant idea I will try to bringing to my
Children at the nurseries on monday
Oh my gosh! The Story Table is a must. One of my favorite special spots in the classroom.
We used this idea in our classroom and were truly inspired by this! It inspired us so much, that the teachers did their own storytelling with natural materials for our staff retreat. We went on a hike together, gathered natural materials, had a moment to sit and write a story after our hike, shared our story with one another, and then shared it with the children 🙂
Thank you so much for so many inspirational ideas!
The best part is the Story Table being called the ‘Peaceable Kingdom’
Did it work?
Yes! When the story table is introduced, we have a conversation about the Peaceable Kingdom and what that looks like. The children take ownership of what it means. They create the expectations. Great question.