A recent development since I opened my shop on Etsy was to introduce some sets of open-ended little pieces with which the children can build their own fairy worlds.
I have found that it is massively more satisfying and absorbing for children to create their own small world setups than play with a ready made detailed plastic set that has been manufactured with all of the pieces made up for them (into castles, houses, vehicles etc).
It also hugely develops their imagination to stretch it and wrap it around a few simple open ended pieces. I have found through repeated experience and observation that children’s imaginations can become stunted and atrophied if all they are given to play with are push button toys or detailed plastic replica sets.
Natural materials such as wood and felt have that added textural element which plastic lacks. Wood and wool are warm, alive and comforting to hold, and stimulate a child’s sense of touch in the way that a bland and smooth piece of plastic never can.
With a few pieces of felt and some pebbles and gems, a child can create their own little universe.
The act of creation produces a wonderful sense of ownership and wellbeing, and also boosts a child’s self-esteem naturally when they look at the beauty of their creations. This is the secret behind the kind of contented, totally absorbed free play that I see when children are playing with this kind of resource.
Acting on the children’s feedback, as time went on I have added some more pieces to introduce more possibilities, such as little felt flowers, acorn cups and mini bird nests…
and I have been having immense fun collecting and making lots of other little open ended pieces to spark imagination explosions!
The children showed me that one of the most exciting resources to include in this box were some simple slices of tree branch of various diameter and thickness. We use the tiniest log slices as stepping stones, and the slightly bigger ones as seats for peg dolls, and also little table tops.
They can be painted or left bare, as you wish…..
I added one or two larger pieces for creating little caves and wild houses or landscape components, made very simply by sanding down one side of some bits of log and bark which I found waiting to be burnt on the fire!
On walks through the woods, very exciting treasure can be found; and this is a wonderful journey to take with your children. I I now like to take little ones on “treasure walks”, where we see what we can find on the ground when walking through the woods, and then take it home and use it to help build our little worlds: pine cones, twisty branches, interesting shaped bits of log; all can be made into the most rapturous of fairy worlds.
I recently partnered up with a professional woodturner who has been making me some beautifully simple little turned wooden trees.
This was a decision I took after getting very frustrated with flat jigsawed type wooden trees, which kept falling over. I wanted something rounded which stood up nicely. Most of the time I stand my little trees on tiny log slice bases to make sure they stay up.
After carefully observing and joining the children in their small world play, I saw that for the child, this miniature world is very real to them, and they need the objects in it to behave themselves! So a tree that keeps falling over is an interruption and a frustration that they don’t need. It blocks the free flow of imagination somewhat to have to keep righting something you’ve just arranged that won’t stay put. After much experimenting with different designs, I came up with some beautiful, simple and functional little trees that the children absolutely adore.
Using techniques learnt when making felt balls for my rainbow box, I tried out some little felted hills, which were great for attaching the tiny felt flowers onto.
I also trawled florist websites and found a kind of decorative mossy pebble (it probably has a synthetic foam core) but it acts just like fuzzy felt, with the little felt flowers sticking to it beautifully! The children really love these fuzzy pebbles.
We also use the Grimm’s wooden pebbles, as well as ordinary beach pebbles, which have been a fantastic addition.
This set goes very beautifully with any wooden stacking toys, such as the Grimm’s Rainbows and the Glückskäfer sunsets and arch houses; and of course the pegdolls have found a home in the little forests. I started making Forest Elves and little animals to inhabit these worlds too!
In the spirit of a child’s desire for tiny homes and territories for the little people, I needle felted a cave and some little woolly nests and beds, as well as ponds for simple little felted and polymer clay birds…..
……and we added some resin gems as well as real gemstones and beach pebbles for decoration. The glass pebbles were also very happy to join in the fun!
Usually all I need to do for hours of peaceful contentment is begin to set up a Fairy World play invitation….
….and the children will take over and do the rest!
I have now teamed up with some Nepalese feltmakers to offer thick, handmade felted playmats as well! We find these are not only perfect as bases for little playscapes, but also as baby “tummy time” rugs, storytime seating, even for creating room-sized creative open ended board games!
I hope this gives mums a bit of encouragement to go natural with the playroom and see for yourselves the value of free creative play.
All these resources can be found in my Etsy shop, where I sell all the various loose parts you’ll need, as well as Forest sets (all the pieces in one box):