Modern living keeps us all indoors for longer than is healthy in terms of body, mind and spirit. Research has shown that children who are able to play in and explore gardens and green spaces in an unstructured way are better able to remain grounded and in tune with nature as adults. Even without trees to climb, there are more possibilities for adventure in a garden than indoors and, with a little guidance, some basic equipment and a few plants, kids can transform the smallest space into a blooming oasis they can be proud of.
Children learn best through play. It’s in their nature and helps them develop skills and gives them opportunities to try out new ideas. Encouraging opportunities and providing space in the garden for children to play will add to their appreciation of nature and foster new concepts about their environment. Every garden from the smallest container garden to a giant vegetable plot offers children a rich sensory playground full of interesting things to discover and learn about. With the changing of every season they’re surrounded by nature’s art and there is space to run free and use their imaginations.
Crafting small-world gardens, or fairy gardens, is a perfect way for children to be creative. A fairy garden is basically a miniature garden made of natural materials such as pebbles, wood and living plants. It’s meant to be an enchanted green scene for tiny magical creatures such as fairies, but also gnomes, dwarfs, and elves that are thought to bring good luck to your home. A garden usually include several components like fantastical figurines, but also miniature benches, houses, pathways, bridges and rivers that create this unique small universe and give it a charming atmosphere.
Dinosaur gardens and princess gardens are also examples of themed small-world gardens that can be as big or small as space allows. They can be built in a patch of soil, a plant pot, half of a water barrel, an old wheelbarrow, an old suitcase, a wooden treasure chest, or a large plastic dishpan.
Follow these simple steps to create a small-world garden:
♦ You’ll need to make a few drainage holes in the base of whatever container you choose. Next place some small stones or pebbles in the bottom and top with potting soil.
♦ Adding moss and/or bark mulch makes a nice forest floor to build on.
♦ Now children can start creating a home for the garden fairies, princesses or other inhabitants. They might need a house that could be crafted from pieces of wood or from a small flowerpot. Pebbles or gravel make good pathways.
♦ Plants that work well in small-world gardens are hens and chicks, celosia, asparagus fern, moss rose, impatiens, golden scotch moss, and verbena. Edible plants like strawberries, spinach, or various herbs are also good options.
Another related activity that has become popular in many cities, including Atlanta, is the creation of Tiny Doors. Scattered throughout the city, these are no more than 6” high. For a special field trip with children this summer, check out the Tiny Doors Atlanta instillation (www.tinydoorsatl.com). Cherokee County Garden Clubs have picked up on the tiny door adventure: Look for one at the Arts Center in Canton, a second at Ball Ground’s Botanical Garden and a third at the Rock Barn in Canton. Using all sorts of leftover bits and pieces that are around the house such as popsicle sticks, twigs, yarn, moss, buttons, or pieces of old jewelry, children may easily create tiny doors for their gardens.
Small-world gardens are a great option for putting a green addition in small spaces like a living room or a balcony. Building them encourages creativity, and children are more likely to invest in caring for small-world gardens that they can fill with their own special ideas. By providing a few basic supplies, all you need is to stand back and watch the magic happen.