I haven’t been much of a fairy person, but I’m a huge fan of my 8-year-old daughter. When she took an interest in fairies and fairy gardens, I decided to do a month-long unit on fairy gardens for our homeschool curriculum. I thought about all we could learn from it – measurement, area, perimeter, project planning, environmental education…but what I didn’t plan on was getting swept up into it with her and having a ton of fun!
I checked out some books from the library to get us started and inspired. Soon thoughts of fairy gardens permeated our minds and conversations all day long. When we walked to the park, we kept an eye out for interesting found objects for our garden. When new flowers popped up in our yard, we dreamed of creative uses for them for the fairies. Not only were we looking around and appreciating nature more, but also our creativity was running wild and it was exhilarating!
When I initially thought of making a fairy garden with her, I envisioned us carefully designing and planning, then purchasing items from a store to build the garden. Instead, we used mostly nature and found objects, and it really worked out well! One of the unexpected benefits of using natural objects was that occasionally the weather destroyed the fairy garden, so we had a forced opportunity to redo it and try new things. Our fairy garden was a place we could visit to constantly tinker and repair.
One memorable experience occurred early on in our fairy garden unit. We were on vacation and visiting a new park with a small grove of pine trees. I watched as she frolicked in them, searching for the best place for an impromptu fairy garden. As I walked with her, I observed, encouraged, and praised her efforts. I was holding back, though, and not really engaging with her in this endeavor. I’m not very good at imaginative play and tend to be more hands-off in nature, despite my best efforts to dive in.
Soon my curiosity got the best of me. I started wandering in my own directions, searching for things to point out to her that she might use. I came across some tree stumps that were recently cut down because the trees were rotting. Curious about them, I noticed that the center of the stumps had jagged pieces of wood. When I touched them, pieces either fell off or could be removed with very little effort. I started intentionally breaking some small chunks off and it was actually pretty fun. I got my daughter and pulled her over to join me. Soon we were both breaking off bits of wood for a border for a pretend vegetable garden for our fairies. We found some large pieces of bark that had come off that same tree that would make a good roof and wouldn’t you know it, I was hooked.
We hauled our found treasures back to the ideal fairy garden plot and started building. My husband captured us building together and I treasure this photo of my daughter and I. When I see it, it reminds me of the value of diving in and engaging in an activity with my daughter.
Different than I expected, the best thing about our fairy garden endeavor was not the end product; instead, it was being in awe of nature, side by side with my daughter.