Fairy Garden, Inexpensive and Versatile, Nature

Building Fairy Bridges…

London bridge is falling down… falling down… falling down… London bridge is falling down, my fair lady! 

My toddler started to sing this as I shared the first piece we would make for our fairy garden – a BRIDGE!  My hope, though, is that we don’t end up with a ‘London bridge‘!

Since my toddler is only 3 years old and attention span is limited, I decided to focus on teaching and introducing just two (simple) parts to this project – measuring with a ruler and some simple elements of structural support for our bridge.

Branch Selection:

My toddler was very anxious to get started, so I made the decision on which branches to use.  A great discussion point with an older child or one with a longer attention span would be looking at the diameter, the surface and shapes of the branches and deciding which branches would be best for building.  I personally selected branches that were relatively straight (did not have knots or bends) and close to the same diameter.  In our yard, those branches came from what we believe is a sugar maple tree.

If you wanted to use materials that are exact dimensions, you could also purchase wooden dowels from your local hardware store.  These are relatively in expensive to purchase.

Measuring:

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My toddler marking our first branch. (Of course we had to use a pink tape measure and a pink marker so that they were “pretty marks”. Haha!)

I determined that a two inch width would be wide enough for our fairies.  We started off with finding the two inch mark on the ruler together and then measuring two inches down the first branch by marking them.

She lost interest after two branches but this was not a failure!  Not only was this one of her first introductions to a ruler and measurement, she now pretends to measure all kinds of things around the house with my sewing tape measure.

After she lost interest in our measurement activity, I abandoned measuring and just went straight to cutting and approximating the sizes to cut.  This made the bridge look more “natural”.

To cut, I had my toddler start off with using a miter box and saw.  Unfortunately our small saw was too dull so we changed plans and instead, I ended up using outdoor cutting shears.  Her grip strength was not enough to use the shears herself so I did it.

Construction:

Since our bridge would be arched, we talked briefly during construction about how the bridge would need to be supported on the ends (this would be considered a type of ‘abutment‘) and also underneath (acting as beams).

We ended up using a hot glue gun for attachment.  The reason for this was to keep the attention span of my toddler, since hot glue (especially high temperature hot glue) is great for use on wood but more importantly, it cures within 2 minutes.  If I had an older child, I would go more in depth in material selection – researching glue strength, cure time, melting temperatures, etc.  And we would also talk about other ways to attach the sticks together – perhaps using twine or rope. 

I am curious if the glue we used will be able to with stand warmer temperature in our area next summer.  If not, it will be a great talking point if the bridge fails next summer.

I held the bridge and she put the glue where I instructed.  She loved using the hot glue gun herself.

We used a couple thinner arched twigs as the beams, which also helped form the shape of the arch.  We also added sticks to the ends, underneath each arched twig as the abutments.

Our abutments were not exactly the same diameter on each end so the bridge was tilting to one side.  In order to help it stand straight and not tilted, we added some vertical beams.  These vertical beams  ended up being very cute visually.  My daughter decided that we needed a railing for the fairies safety.  For the railing, I cut off pieces of vine from my honeysuckle.  See below.

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We were able to make a total of two bridges.  One shorter one and one longer one.  I am excited to see how they hold up over the summer next year.  My toddler is equally excited to play with these!

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What do you think of our bridges?  Can you think of other ways to build these bridges or other fun educational aspects to building that I didn’t?  Do you have an idea for a fun element to include in the fairy garden?  Let me know in the comments or at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

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Fairy Garden, Nature

Coining a new phrase: Fairy God-Momgineering!

OHIO.  Rolling hills with gorgeous tree line views, rivers, lakes, creeks, beaches, ponds, gorges, waterfalls, farmland, marsh, etc.  The landscape here is beautiful and there are plenty of park systems with scientists, naturalists, biologists, zoologists, botanists, geologists, architects, ecologists and engineers that ensure that the beauty of OHIO is preserved for us to enjoy.

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Fairy house at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio

In our family, we do our best to spend as much time outdoors as we can.

Recently we went to our local arboretum and stopped by the Children’s Nature Play Area.  This area has climbing ropes, a reading area, balance beams, a small zip line and an area to watch birds, squirrels and chipmunks feed from the feeders.

But what was most exciting for the girls was a recently added Fairy Garden. They played with it for more than an hour before we had to bribe them to go.  So, that’s where the idea for our next family project began…

This winter, we will be building a fairy garden for our yard.

There are many fun elements to this project that incorporate aspects of STEAM (I’ll be starting to add the Arts portion to many of our projects too)!  Most of our materials will be found in nature or scrap that we have – other than some items we may need for attaching (like glue, nails, etc.).

Using items from nature will allow us to:

  • Identify trees / plants and their attributes for building,
  • Identify types of fruit / nuts various trees / plants produce,
  • Identify other items in nature that can be used for building / decorating,
  • Use our creativity and
  • Study actual structures out in the real world.  For example, go look at the structural aspects of a bridge – what holds it up?

In the words of William Wordsworth, we will try to “let nature be (our) teacher”.

This entire project will be a great introduction to many disciplines in the STEAM fields.  Key ones that come to mind for this project are Structural or Civil Engineer, Materials Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Safety Engineer, Naturalist / Biologist, Botanist, Geologist, Architect and possibly even Ecology.

I fully expect that as parents of two young children, we may be doing much of the work, but it will be incredibly worth every ounce of energy considering the tremendous amount of education and confidence that this will provide them.  And the final result will be so much FUN!

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Our first bucket of nature materials

Over the next several weeks / months, we will be collecting nature materials to use (started this weekend), taking photos of various structures that we want to build, planning our builds and finally, building several pieces and problem solving any (hopefully minimal) failures.

I will share each of the pieces in this blog – how they were made, what we would do differently and hopefully we will inspire some of you to do something similar!  Feel free to submit ideas that you have or items you think belong in a Fairy Garden – let me be your Fairy God-Momgineer (HAHA!) and bring these ideas to life! 

I am also SO excited to see the kids ideas come to life too.  Maria Montessori once said, “A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.”

All ideas in this post, as always, are my own.  Please reach out to me below in the comments or at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com if you have any additional comments, ideas or suggestions for our fairy garden.  I’d love to hear them!

And if you love this blog, PLEASE share it with family, friends, colleagues, etc. that you think would love it too.

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