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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.