Are you looking for a nature activity for your children that requires no special preparation or supplies? Has the last month left you burnt out from trying to keep your children’s’ days full of magical projects that you have to shop for, plan, and oversee? Are your outdoor adventures currently limited to your own yard? Then this is the perfect activity for you! Today we have the amazing Leslie Alvis, Ohio homeschooling mama to four, here sharing a timeless nature play idea that can be adapted for any age or situation – the nature fairy garden. It’s a simple activity that requires only the materials you find in your own backyard! Nature fairy gardens can keep kids busy for hours gathering materials, building their unique creation, and then playing with it. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate nature and imaginative play.
Building memories with fairy gardens
Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was just a toddler, I found myself with an unexpected block of time to play with her outside. We were on vacation and I wanted to do something fun outdoors with her. However, we didn’t have any special activities or materials. My son was happily exploring the woods nearby and the baby was napping in the cabin. I was searching for something special we could do in the yard. I remembered one of my favorite outdoor activities when I was growing up: building a miniature dollhouse out in nature. Years before fairy gardens were a thing, I loved to build miniature gardens and houses with bits and pieces of nature. I spent hours designing and creating these little fairy gardens, and then playing with imaginary characters inside them.
A magical nature fairy garden
My daughter and I collected some moss, sticks, nuts, and rocks. We found a hollow at the base of a huge oak tree and began to build our own little fairy garden. I didn’t realize the significance of our creation until months later, when we were back at that cabin. My still-tiny daughter grabbed my hand and tugged me out to that same tree, begging me to build another fairy house with her. Our little nature project had made a lasting impression on her.
Building a nature fairy garden was something she wanted to do again—and again, and again. Now, building nature-oriented fairy gardens is something both of my older daughters love to do, too. And occasionally my son might join in, making a stockade or a fort of his own. They put their imaginations to work and create all kinds of fairy garden spaces.
Getting your fairy garden started
Building a nature fairy garden is so easy! You may have to get your children started with some materials or ideas, but they will probably carry on with little help. Unless, of course, you’re having too much fun to let them play alone!
To start with, pick your location. We like to use the base of a large tree where the roots jut out and make a natural hollow. The more interesting the space, the better! One of my daughters just spent two days playing in a little clump of grass for her little fairy house. Basically, you can use whatever place catches your eye.
Gathering materials for your fairy garden
The next step for your nature fairy garden is to have your child(ren) scout around the yard, neighborhood or local park for tiny bits of nature: sticks, moss, bark, nuts, unique stones, leaves, and flowers. We usually gather some small sticks to build our walls and moss for the floor. You can also lay down leaves or bark for the floor, or just use dirt. You can poke sticks into the ground for walls, transplant plants to create a natural border or build stone walls. Nature fairy gardens are immensely versatile. They easily adapt to different seasons and situations.
Making a potted nature fairy garden
Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can gather materials for a nature fairy garden and create one in a pot! Just start with a nice wide pot full of potting soil or sand. Then see what you can collect on a nature walk in a woods or park somewhere (as long as it’s a place where it’s okay to pick up natural materials!). You can build a nature fairy garden for your porch or even inside. You may wish to purchase some small plants for your pot (succulents or flowers). Just check the labels to make sure they aren’t going to take over your entire fairy garden space as they grow!
Adding finishing touches to your fairy garden
When you’ve created your basic structure or space for your fairy garden, your children get to decorate it. Our fairy gardens are usually dollhouses of sorts, and they get furnished accordingly. Stones become tables and shelves; seed pods and nuts, food. Acorn tops make perfect fairy dishes. I love seeing the amazing ideas my children come up with. This week we had an oven (with flowers baking inside) and a table built out of stones and bark. Both girls’ fairy gardens featured a stone shelf nestled in an uneven bit of bark. My daughters also created a bed in a nest of grass for a pine cone doll, a room hidden under a moss covering, and countless flower dolls.
The joys of creating fairy gardens
Once kids start creating their own fairy garden, they begin to see everything around them with new eyes. Every little thing around the yard has new potential. I’ve found that while I might have to get them started, my children very quickly take over this project and play for hours (or days) without me. Their imaginations and the beauty of nature combine to make creative, delightful fairy gardens. To me, this is the great benefit of outdoor play like this. I love seeing my children enjoy nature, using their hands and their imagination to entertain themselves and create something beautiful. They come back to their fairy gardens over and over.
Have you ever created a nature fairy garden?
What unique spin did you put on it?
Hi, I’m Leslie Alvis! I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, wife to my high school sweetheart, and mom to four rascally kids. They love the outdoors as much as I do, and our yard often feels like the scene from “The Sound of Music” where you hear voices and laughter and can’t find any children until you look up into the trees. I love writing, photography, and all things outdoors, and do pretty much everything with my kids tagging along. We live in Northeast Ohio on the edge of Amish Country, where it’s perfectly normal to park beside a horse and buggy at the grocery store.
We homeschool, which basically means that I’m trying to teach my kids to use their minds without losing my own. While we follow a traditional curriculum, I weave every outdoor adventure I can into our educational journey. I believe that the lessons children experience firsthand sink deepest into their hearts and minds, and there is so much we can learn outside in the beauty and wonder of nature.
You can find Leslie online in the following locations:
Client work: @lalvisphotography
RWMC posts: Leslie Alvis