Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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How to Make a Fairy Garden With Preschoolers

Making a fairy garden has been on our to-do list for literally years. We finally got to it last year and have loved it so much (and had so much fun playing with it and talking about it) that I decided to tell you all how to make a fairy garden...just in case you're wondering! I'm including lots of fairy garden tips for preschoolers too, since the biggest reason we made one was for our little people. At the end I'll tell you why I think fairy gardens are a fantastic addition to any home or center based preschool -- I really think all kids should have one!

How to Make a Fairy Garden:

Your fairy garden can look like anything you want it to, but in setting it up you'll need to cover these aspects:

1- Location (the garden)
2- Plants
3- Fairies
4- Accessories
5- Putting it all together

1- Location (and setting up the fairy garden)! 

The first thing you need to decide is where your fairy garden will be. You could put it in the actual ground, in a wooden stump, in a barrel, in a giant flower pot, in a fountain, in an old (big) boot, or anywhere else you want!

One thing to consider at this point is how much access you will be giving your kids to the fairies and the fairy garden. I wanted my kids to be able to enter the fairy's world, play with them, move them around, and enjoy them, so I needed a very accessible location. We have a small garden (about 3 x 4 feet) in a corner in our back yard that I decided to use.

And, just to get your brain spinning with possibilities, here are a few pictures of fantastic fairy gardens in other locations:

Once you have your location chosen, you need to prepare the garden. Since ours was actually outside in the ground, I weeded and then put down "weed paper" to deter future weeds. On top of the weed paper I layered more top soil and a little bit of mulch. Finally, I lined the garden with paving stones. This both created a border that I liked AND created a natural boundary for the kids so that (when the fairy garden was in place) I could easily remind them that the fairies stayed inside their magical kingdom. I did not want the fairies to go for a walk and never come back.  ;) 

If you are using a pot or wheelbarrow (or anything with a solid bottom), make sure you add drainage holes so your garden doesn't grow mold. Depending on what your pot is made of and where you put it, you may want to treat it to be water-proof as well.

2- Plants for a Fairy Garden

When I first started thinking about a fairy garden I wanted to make it an herb garden with fairies in it. When we actually started setting things up, though I (and all the kids) wanted flowers. I think it's important to point out that your plants can be anything that makes you happy!

For us, I wanted lots of flowers growing on bushes that were as tall as fairy homes. I wanted them to seem little to us and big to the fairies. I wanted relatively low maintenance (I often forget to do things like water or weed), and I wanted to be able to trim the flowers back if they got too big (without worrying about killing them). Since I am not a flower expert, I explained all of this to a lovely lady at a garden shop associated with an Ace Hardware near us and she gave me some great suggestions. We bought two bushes that she recommended, one flower that my kids liked, one ground cover plant, and some dried moss. When I told the garden lady that I imagined real moss growing along a fake river in our fairy garden, she suggested we just transplant some moss. We live in Houston and it is really easy to find moss growing on the top of the soil in cool shady spots (like under trees or bushes). So we just scraped off an inch or two of moss from a couple places and set them in our garden too.

I decided not to put plants in the corner closest to the sidewalk since it would likely get trampled and played in.

The kids helped me plant the plants. In the end, the flower died because I forgot to water too many days in row (and late summer is really hot in Houston). The two little bushes did really well, and kept blooming until January (when we actually had overnight lows below freezing). We're almost to March, though, and they both have little buds and are getting ready to "come back!" The ground cover I picked had a hard time with the heat, but it is also starting to grow now...I'll need to remind the kids to water it when it gets hot again!

I still think that having a fairy herb garden would be cool, but we are totally in love with what we have! I looked around the internet to find some other plant ideas for you that I think are really neat:

3- Fairies for a Fairy Garden!

What's a fairy garden without fairies?!! Picking out the fairies was probably everyone's favorite part...they can also be the most expensive part of your garden, so it's good to plan how many fairies and what kinds you will be getting.

We let each child choose a fairy and an accessory (see the next section).

My favorite fairies are made from resin--they make me happy and I really love how they look:

Amazon affiliate links:

We got some from Amazon, some from eBay, and some from the garden shop I mentioned earlier. I still love these fairies (and they are still my favorites), but if you're building the fairy garden for young children there are a few things you need to know:

* Resin breaks. I know this is a little obvious, and your kiddos will probably be as careful as possible, but we had a couple fairies with broken wings about three weeks after we had everything set up. This actually was not stressful for us...the kids just redistributed the wing magic throughout the garden. With wings in lots of places, there was extra magic in the garden. We also learned a really cool secret: fairies can fly with invisible wings! Sidenote: I did intend to try to fix them, but never actually got around to it...  

Despite the broken wings and a couple broken feet, the resin fairies remain our favorites...they just feel so cool and it's probably the only fragile item these preschoolers can play with whenever they want.

* Resin fades. But not very much and not very fast. Again, if you expect your little fairies to be pristine forever, you may be disappointed, but ours have been outside for almost a year and still look fantastic (minus a few wings).

If, on the other hand, you want fairies that will probably not break with an average preschooler's use, you may want to get something plastic like these (they look really cool too!):

Amazon affiliate link:

4- Accessories for a Fairy Garden

Accessories are super fun and can be as fancy or simple as you want. A fairy garden in a small space may just have a pebble path and a magical door while a fairy garden in a bigger space may look like a small kingdom!

I gathered accessories over the course of about two months from any shop we went to that had them out for a good price. We found fun things at a dollar store, Wal-Mart, our back yard, Amazon, and the garden shop at Ace Hardware. I let each child choose one accessory item ($10 or less) from the garden shop when we bought the plants as part of the final preparations. 

You can see  a lot of our accessories here...

...and a couple other ideas to inspire you:

Fairy Garden Set (these are actually for sale, but they can inspire you to make something similar)

Fairy Garden in a Big Planter

5- Putting the Fairy Garden Together:

We prepared the soil and gathered/bought the fairies, plants, and accessories in advance. I helped (a lot) with planting the plants. Then we laid all the fairies and other supplies out and my kids put the rest of the garden together! They did an amazing job, and I really enjoyed watching them work with each other, share ideas, and find solutions when they didn't agree. If I only had preschoolers, I might have taken a bigger moderating role, but since I had kids from preschool age up to nine years old I decided to give them a chance to build themselves. The nine-year old definitely assumed a leadership role, but the younger kids made sure their ideas were listened to too. 

You could actually plan a whole project like this for a STEM or STEAM activity. The kids used science reasoning skills as they figured out how to put all the garden components together, they used shovels when they planted the flowers (learn more about technology HERE), they used engineering skills as they designed paths, rivers, and three bridges, they used math when they chose and budgeted for their accessories and when they helped me measure the weed paper and paving stones, and the final fairy garden is a work of art!

Here is the view of the whole corner from a few feet back...we've added some chimes during the last few months too:

Why Preschoolers Should Have Fairy Gardens

Fairy gardens encourage imaginative play. In a world where kids get told "No" so often, it is important that they can escape somewhere where anything is possible. The fairy garden is a world like that. You can fly anywhere, win anything, do anything, and be anything. You still have to contend with nature, dragons, invaders, or anything else that you dream up, but you can do it however you want.

Imaginative play gives kids a chance to practice language skills, thinking skills, problem solving skills, and (if you have more than one kiddo) social skills. It gives them experience creating and finding solutions with absolutely no stress.

Imaginative play also gives children an outlet to role-play or vent emotions. They often re-enact some version (often a more magical or fantastic version) of experiences they are dealing with, trying out possible reactions and outcomes. I've even seen the same "story" unfold more than once with different endings. Wouldn't it be nice if we could redo some of our endings?! In the fairy garden, you can have a different ending as many times as you want!

The fairy garden also lets kids create magic. This can be a controversial topic, but I think that sometimes kids are just not ready for some of the harsher realities in the world around us. They want to create magical places and people to help them rest and relax, and I think that's perfectly fine and healthy. I still escape there too sometimes.  ;)

And, since I am a serious biology nerd, there is evidence that bacteria in the dirt trigger your brain to release anti-depressants! True story! You can learn more HERE. Now, I bet you really want to get playing!!

Happy Educating,

Amazon Affiliate Links:


More resources from Preschool Powol Packets:

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

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