A favourite spot in our garden classroom, this fairy garden design is great for promoting magical imaginary play, and a delight for the senses.
How to make a fairy garden for magical imaginary play
We’ve had this imaginary play section in our garden classroom in one form or another for about five years. We started with one tub as a dinosaur land, and we’ve added new sections as the children have grown older and their interests have changed.
Want to come and have a little tour, and I’ll tell you the special aspects of it that we love and that are the best for promoting play?
You can see from the photos that the area is made up of several different tubs, all fitting together to make the imaginary land. This has happened partly by chance, as the children bring in new ideas and materials. My daughter made one of the gardens at an event she went to, and the saucepan full of moss happened naturally after it was left out over the winter! The others are plastic under-the-bed storage boxes (with drainage holes stamped in) and plant pots.
The higgledy-piggledy nature of the garden is wonderful. It makes it so interesting, with lots of secret nooks and crannies. It also gives a group of children space to all have their own zone when they’re playing. And it means areas can be revamped and replaced over time to suit how everyone wants to play, or what is growing well or needing fixing.
The fairy garden is accessible from all sides, so we can have several children playing at once. Most of the tubs are filled with compost, so we can include lots of real plants in the garden, making it rich sensory space and letting the children get right in with the natural world as they play.
Some items you might consider for your own fairy garden might be:
plant pots for houses :: tree stumps :: moss :: shells :: fir cones :: plant saucers or little pots for pools :: pebbles :: pieces of bark :: gems and jewels :: little fairy dolls or other characters :: pieces of slate :: grasses :: herbs
We’ve included as many different materials as we have been able to collect. The total cost of making our fairy garden is zero – everything has been borrowed in from other parts of the garden, collected on nature walks, or recycled from the kitchen or playroom.
We have a mix of territories making up our fairy kingdom. They’re all different sizes and at different heights, which I think makes the space more interesting and prompts more play and storytelling.
Above is the original dinosaur world, with grasses and a big rock.
There’s a little village of shell houses (see how to make them here)…
fir cone standing stones for special ceremonies, and a shallow pool of water filled with pebbles and shells.
Do you have a fairy garden in your outdoor play space? How did you make yours?
More play and learning inspired by the garden
My book, The Garden Classroom will give you ideas to transform your science and math, reading and writing, imaginative play, and arts and crafts all through garden-based activities. Come and take a look inside and you can download a free Garden Journal to get you started.