Miniature Gardens with little ones

Since the interview with Caroline Webster of Small Fry Outdoors, we have been inspired to take more of our indoor activities outside in our quest to play outdoors. The boys love to pretend play and it is encouraging that Superhero play isn’t the only play we do and especially if you have lots of other characters about. This is our newest family members to our play characters box.

With the weather being so nice and the collection of natural items we keep collecting on our walks we decided to make a miniture garden for our new family. This whole thing was an idea we had together. The boys wanted to build a garden for them and I felt having a portable one would be better for us and a more realistic target.

How to make a miniature garden

  • Use a tray, shallow baking tray or any item with sides to contain soil.
  • Collect lots of ingredients to make the garden such as soil, rocks, moss, twigs, dried flowers. Be inspired by the season and your imagination from your garden. We found it best to heap the items in piles around the plate to help inspire us.
  • Plan your garden using the resources you have available.

Getting Started and Assembling a Miniature Garden

  • Cover the table with newspaper
  • Build up your garden.

Decorating Your Miniature Garden Imaginatively

Add your washing line by using two twigs and some thread. Wind the thread around the twigs. Cut out clothes from a magazine and glue or tape to the line.

  • Push each twig into play-dough that affixes to the tray. Cover the play-dough.
  • Add people to your garden and let the imagination begin.

Miniature gardens bring a little of the outdoors indoor and provide an ideal play starter or activity to use with imaginary play and story telling.

Cultivating gratitude in the Early years

Children love helping especially when it comes to food. If you listen to Raising Playful Tots show #35 Memetales, I share some recent experiences of fruit picking with the kids.

At this time of year there are a lot of fruit and vegetables in season. Traditionally, it’s the time to celebrate the Harvest.

Having lived and grown up in a farming area, this time of year is a busy one. The combine harvesters are out ploughing the oilseed rape, the onion, the sugar beet, the little midges, the manure fertilizer. But my biggest memories around school is the Harvest festival. Each child brought in some can gifts. They were all set out like a large supermarket during assembly. I loved to see all the different types of food, ones I didn’t usually see or ones I had never known. Someone would always bring in the bread made into a plait and one in a sheaf. It was amazing to me that bread could come like that.

If you were in the top classes, or the oldest children in the school you got to gather with the help of a senior teacher the cans and produce into baskets and boxes. There were always bunches of carrots with the stock, fresh garden produce from many gardens. It was a physical reminder of how blessed we were. I think as kids seeing so much food and knowing we all had a hand in it really made giving tangible to us.

Those baskets were taken to select people in need. Thinking about it, they had to be people who would accept enthusiastic 4-5 year olds bounding in their space. As no matter how we were told or knew how to behave seeing my 4-year-old I can imagine how much we took up their space!  The mere act of going to another person’s house or group home when you’re so young was too exciting. We’d then get thank you cards, usually handwritten that our teachers would read out and we’d feel warm inside about helping.

I still remember harvest festival time and the hymns we’d sing of thankfulness for the bountiful harvest.
I guess the feeling was gratitude.

When you work on the land or work for your food you feel a little different about it.
Whether it’s starting a vegetable garden or picking your own fruits this is the perfect time of year to plan to include the children. It’s an easy time to express gratitude for what the earth has given us.

The boys had an opportunity to shell peas. Something I had done on occasion when I was younger. I remember siting with my mother, talking and shelling. We had good conversation. When Grandma came in with fresh peas from the market they were really hesitant to join in. They didn’t know about peas, distrusted the process and frankly were more interested in their Lego creations at the time. But Grandma stayed and shelled peas. They wandered over and asked what she was doing and kept coming back with more questions. Soon they were sitting down and trying it themselves. Guess what they ate for dinner that night?

I was able to thank them, oh and Grandma, for the lovely peas. When that rogue pea fell of their plate, as they do, they scooped that little one back on. They didn’t want to lose it. This is in stark contrast with other mealtimes where food is left, abandoned or dropped without a moments thought.
They were grateful, perhaps. Curious? Their fingers ‘hurt’ from stripping and popping peas. In other words, manual work was hard.

How are you sharing opportunities for gratitude and sharing with your young children?

Are there special traditions or memories you have about this time of year?

Shame old lady

We had our first totally family holiday with Grandparents and inlaws. We all went to Jamaica. My parents were both born there and as a child I have been there quite a few times. However I’ve not been back as an adult.

This was the perfect opportunity for my parents to share stories of their childhood, including games and adventures, let’s put it that way, that they used to do many years ago. All the adults there were fascinated but the grandchildren loved them even more. Stories and experiences just tumbled out wherever we went.

This video is one of these stories and memories we’ll all forever hold dear.

Dad was walking around with the LO in the Villa’s grounds showing him plants and walking him up and down the little hill. ( Something about boys and hills) He stumbled across this plant and came rushing back to tell us all.

I’ve not seen something like this before and neither had the kids. My parents knew it as the 10 o clock plant or “Shamy lady”. After a bit of searching I found that it is also called Shame old lady.

Watch the video below to see what happens.

Shame Old Lady from M Avila on Vimeo.

Stories and history are important for young children. Here we had three generations doing the same thing; gathering around and playing with a native plant with the same glee. I can see how it could keep you amused for quite some time. It was a big attraction and highlight of our holiday. Who knew a plant could do this?

Another story

Hope you’re having a great summer and remember to tell your stories…………

Do you have any interesting experiences to share about your summer?

This post is part of  Tara of Sticky finger’s The Gallery and Wordful Wednesday.

Outdoor products for the summer

Welcome KMGH-TV Channel 7 Denver viewers! Thanks for watching this morning and stopping by for more information about the products I featured on TV.

While you’re here, you can learn more about me and my work on my profile page.

Featured products

Sport Brella

At the park, beach, pool or campsite, the SKLZ Sport-Brella gives you instant protection from the sun, rain, and wind with its domed shape, side flaps and 125 SPF. Its umbrella action open mechanism allows it to be set up in just three seconds and fits the whole family. Includes top wind vents, side zippered windows for efficient airflow and additional visibility, internal pockets for gear and valuables, convenient carry bag and tethers/ground stakes for use when necessary for additional stability. $69.99,

Thermacell Outdoor Lantern

The ThermaCELL Outdoor Insect-Repellent Lantern is the best option for keeping mosquitoes and other insects in any outdoor setting. The Patio Lantern is both a powerful insect repellent device and a functional and portable, long-lasting outdoor LED lantern, with both functions being usable separately or together. Providing a 15×15 ft mosquito-free zone, it is 98% effective (tested and used by the Department of Defense and the United States Army), making it the most effective insect repellent device on the market. It is also non-toxic, safe and non-intrusive, being DEET-free, silent, portable and odor free. Rather than a harmful toxin, ThermaCELL utilizes allethrin, an artificial version of a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers. Weighs only 13 ounces. $31.99,


Pottyflip is a full size, clean, safe, portable, disposable and biodegradable child potty that folds out from a palm-sized package. Easy to carry several in any purse or handbag, it is also easy to use. Just unwrap, flip open and it is ready to go. After use, fold it back up and dispose of the whole potty. No mess, no fuss. No more dirty public restroom seats or trying to find some hidden corner for a child to go to the bathroom. Also environmentally-friendly, it is fully and rapidly biodegradable. $24 for a pack of 12, or at stores throughout North America.


The Snack-Trap is a child feeding product (designed for toddlers/kids ages 1-5) that minimizes wasted snacks and saves associated clean up time while promoting the development of self-feeding skills among infants. Consists of an attractive, colorfully imprinted, tip-resistant, handled cup that allows toddlers to grasp and hold the cup themselves with a unique, patent-pending lid with slits that allow toddlers to see and retrieve food with ease themselves but automatically closes when the toddlers remove their hand. 4.99,, or at retailers throughout North America.

I’m giving away these 4 items. All as seen in the TV segment.

  • Green Sport Brilla
  • ThermaCELL Outdoor Insect-Repellent Lantern
  • Potty Flip (2) unopened.
  • Green snack trap with a dinosaur.

Four winners will be randomly chosen, each person winning one item.

To enter, leave a comment and tell me which two of these products you’d most like to win and why.

Please leave your e-mail address so I can reach you easily if you win.

For bonus entries, you can do one or more of the following – be sure to leave a separate comment for each extra entry:

  • Follow me on twitter at @playactivities and tweet “@playactivities is giving away awesome outdoor products at . Enter today!
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed for
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  • Subscribe to the Raising Playful Tots newsletter found here
  • Post an entry on your own blog about this giveaway and link back ( trackback)
  • Subscribe to Raising Playful Tots, the play activities podcast through iTunes. Come back and leave a comment here.

Contest details ( closed)

The contest will close at 11:59 p.m., MST, Friday 2nd July 2010. Four winners will be chosen using I will do my best to match the item to the person’s first or second choice, however I cannot guarantee that. If a winner does not want the assigned item, another item will not be offered, they will forfeit their win and another person will be chosen. After e-mailing the winners, they will have 48 hours to respond before I draw another name. I will publish the winners first names on my site after they have confirmed. Continental U.S. Entries only.

Disclosure: I was not paid to appear on TV or review these products. I did receive free products so I could show them during the segment. I was given the option to keep all of the products, however, I am choosing to share the love and give them away to readers. I will personally pay shipping fees to mail products to the winners.

Good luck 🙂

Earth day family project

Happy Earth day!

We’ve been working on a project all week with the extra time.  Something that we’ve all been able to do together.

It’s been a great lead up to Earth day.

Here’s how we made seeded paper.

Gather the materials together

Day one

Tear paper into the smallest pieces to great music.

Tearing is better than cutting or shredded paper as the rough tear works better with absorbing the water. It was also a great family night activity sitting around talking and tearing.

We had quite a few times when the LO decided that shredded paper was a lot more fun if it was floating. I think he wanted to rescue the paper.
Here’s our torn paper pile

Cover with warm water and allow to stand for 24 hours. Stirring every now and then. You want very wet paper.

24 hours later……..

Scoop paper and a little water into a blender and pulp in batches by pulsing. ( The kids loved this part- machines, water, pouring)

Tip into a colander so the pulp can drain while you’re batching the next set.

Use a bowl that fits inside of your colander to squeeze further water out of the draining pulp. We had strong man contests to see who could squeeze the most.
This is what we had left after tearing, soaking, blending, squeezing and draining– Paper pulp.

Empty the pulp back into the bowl and add seeds liberally. ( We used one packet per child.)

With the seeds mixed in now it was time to make the homemade paper press.
Living in a dry climate has it’s advantages. We could do this outside.
Everything was in a layer.

I cut a bin ( trash) bag in half then added a tea towel. Bag was to protect the bottom surface from water. It was our patio table so it was fine but if you’re inside then I can see how this would be important.

Place the pulp and mixed in seeds on top of the tea towel and spread around in a rough rectangle.

We all took turns smoothing and moving the pulp into place with a spoon and our fingers.

Cover wet pulpy seed paper with a second tea towel and finish with the other half of the bin ( trash) bag.

Weigh the layers down with books, rocks and whatever you have to squeeze the water out and produce a homemade press.

We left ours in a sunny spot. Each day we peered at it. I changed the top tea towel once and we let the sun in for a couple of hours. I also added a few rocks to the top. It dried flat in 3 days outside for us.

4 days later………..

Seeded paper

With the seeds in the pulp and now the paper has dried. The seeds are inside the paper. If you plant this paper the paper should biodegrade and with sun and water we should see flowers.

Both boys are excited to share their project with their teachers and we get to plant seeded paper too. Flat enough to go in the mail.
They were pretty amazed that the seeds were inside the paper. Even though they did the work and saw it every day they are convinced of magic 🙂

This post is part of the monthly unplugged project at unplug your kids

Thanks for visiting!

What are you doing for Earth day? Do you have any projects? This was our longest project what’s your experience of longer projects?

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Fruits of summer

Happy Wordless Wednesday!

Find out the story behind this Wordless Wednesday post tomorrow.
For more Wordless Wednesday posts go to and

Getting outdoors: Garden update

 In time to play outdoors , you saw how we’d started some container gardening with the kids. Last year although we tried our veggie garden didn’t yield much. We did get some veg but nothing like what we planted.

This post is an update on how we’re doing so far.




Tomato plants planted in three different places this time.

It’s never to late to plan and start your garden.

                             Gardening with Children         A child's garden    root-shoots-buckets & boots


How is your veg garden coming along?

Time for play outdoors

Raising our children to be caring citizens without having to get a pet. Possible?

Recently I’ve been talking about social responsiblity by doing activities that promote sharing, doing activities we find hard or challenging, talking through our failures, perseverance, using imagination.

Are you crafty?

What are you thinking?

Rotating books- play activity really?

Last year we started a very small vegetable garden. It all started really well but in the dry climate of Colorado and perhaps the poor soil of my garden we didn’t yield as much as expected.

We had fun, learned lessons and now here we are back in May.

I was reading tasting garden  container garden and felt at ease that we’re not the only ones struggling with gardening but persevering still.

This year we decided to move towards more container gardening as we can get a good amount of soil and not rely on the yuk stuff in the ground. We asked lots of questions at our local garden center too so hopefully we are better prepared.


spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers,onions, zucchini, eggplant and carrots. We did put some in the ground. We found some mystery seeds we think are sunflowers from last year so they went in as well.

The boys helped choose the seeds and plants. They helped pot up and water. They’ll be watering all summer- responsibility without the long walks 😉

It’s that time of year. Why not start a small container garden with your little ones?

  • Go to your local garden center and check out the childrens section
  • Find some great kid  friendly tools
  • Get some advice about what to plant and where
  • Look out for fast growing varieties.
  • Strawberries are a great hit- easy to plant and yield a lot.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Choose according to your budget. One container start is very managable.

What better way to spend time outdoors than starting a garden.

Need more inspiration?

Scribbit: Gardening

What’s growing in your garden?

This post is sponsored by Eco-friendly green play activities for babies

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