Spring garden in a box

Back at the beginning of March, when I was getting excited about what I was convinced was the imminent arrival of spring, I started to introduce a few different seasonally themed activities for ToddlerGirl. Of course, UK weather being what it is, I was completely jumping the gun! I, along with probably the entire country, felt pretty cheated and the spring activities were put, quite literally, on ice.

Well, I have decided that the time has come to say a firm farewell to winter. I don’t care if it does snow yet again. The daffodils are out, the trees are bravely blossoming, the clocks have gone back for goodness sake – spring is here.

So today I resurrected a project that I started for ToddlerGirl way back when: a spring garden in a box.

After the success of the aquarium in a box, I thought I’d try out some more small world play with ToddlerGirl. As I may have mentioned, at the time of making this, I had spring fever, so a miniature play garden for ToddlerGirl’s little people seemed like a perfect idea.

I took a good-sized cardboard box and chopped the top flaps off, along with most of one long side and the two shorter sides to create a contained area with a backdrop that would be easy for ToddlerGirl to reach into and interact with. I kept the decoration simple: a couple of pieces of blue foam for the sky with some cotton wool pad clouds and a bright yellow foam sun. Everything else in the box is removable, which is just as well as my little girl can’t resist trying to pull off the bits that are stuck down – one of the clouds lasted for all of five minutes!

For the garden itself, I laid a few sheets of green paper down on the base along with a couple of strips of spiky green foam to represent grass. I cut some blue foam into a wavy shape to represent water and then decorated the rest of the scene using a mixture of props: a tree from our foam bathroom set, a container of plastic flowers, a scattering of paper flowers, a few plastic creatures (caterpillars, butterflies, frogs). To provide some elements for interaction, I included a play slide and half an egg carton that started off filled with the paper flowers, as well as some of ToddlerGirl’s Happyland people.

The whole thing was very quick to make one evening in front of the television and I left it in the middle of our living room for ToddlerGirl to discover the next morning. She made a beeline for it and was immediately pushing the figures down the slide, examining the butterflies and insects, peeling off the clouds(!) and generally giving the whole thing some very thorough investigation. It was lovely to see her reaction to it. I let her lead the play and every now and then made suggestions to draw her attention to different elements.

I left the box out for ToddlerGirl to return to over the next week or so before I put it away. It’s been amazing today to see how the way she’s playing with it has changed over just a few weeks. We started off in the same vein this morning but when I left her to her own devices while I was preparing dinner, she really began to create her own little game with it. Of course, this soon entailed the entire box being tipped upside down and everything shaken out of it… My lovely spring garden! It’s a good reminder that you cannot be too precious with these things when you are giving them to a toddler! And, in fact, that the point when all the stuff was flung out of the box was actually when the magic started.

All was quiet as I was making dinner, so I snuck into the room to see what was happening and found ToddlerGirl absolutely engrossed in her game. I have no idea what this game was but the loose pieces from the garden were being arranged on a couple of the pieces of green paper, rearranged, covered by another piece of paper. Then Bear was drafted in and sat very carefully on the paper while all the pieces were piled around him. Then the little people were rolled in the paper. Then ToddlerGirl and Bear clambered into the box and snuggled down into it. Then the little people were marched around the edge of the box and made to jump off the sides with a ‘wheeeee’. It was so lovely to watch, it really made me smile. And seeing her so clearly using her imagination to create her own game, I had a sudden feeling of ‘oh, my little girl is getting bigger’.

I have rescued the box this evening and am resurrecting it once again, but this time adding a few new elements to make it a spring park rather than a garden. So we have a sandpit, a trampoline, a slide and a swing for A to play with/destroy tomorrow.

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