Mornings at home are for “school,” but after that, it is outside time. The fairies are usually the first destination. It seems to be a good transition space from indoors to outdoors. Often, before fairies, I would send the children outside only to see them at the window a few minutes later, as if they suddenly felt a bit lost and needed to return inside to the familiar. Now, the fairies help them adjust to the outside world - a lovely place where nature meets creativity and inspiration. And by the time they are done with their fairy work, they are inspired to move on to other outdoor adventures.
Fairyland is a small little corner of the yard, unseen from the house. Their camp is outside of my influence, it never needs to be cleaned up, and they are free to use whatever bits and bobs they find. As E. Nesbit says, “If you play near windows, someone inside generally knocks at them and says, ‘Don’t.’” Sometimes they work within a flower pot, in the dirt, or on a dead tree stump. Their use of “loose parts” really connects with my daughter who is my three-dimensional artist. Here she finds an excellent avenue to express her creativity with the recycling bits she retrieves from the bin. Bottle caps, corks, buttons, cardboard, plastic containers, string, etc. all find a way to be utilized here. Additionally, found bits of nature are incorporated in magical ways: rocks for boundary lines, tepees made of sticks, flags from leaves and acorn pottery to name a few.
After a little world is created many things happen . . . They love to give detailed tours sharing their creation. Often they will sit and admire their world . . . . Many times they will sketch the area, and of course, they play. One of their favorite ways to play is “trading.” They barter for other bits and offer nature exchanges. This has developed advanced skills for negotiating, collaborating, and learning how to cope with disappointments. It also teaches a robust sense of value, and an active understanding that what one person values another might not . . . which is a surprisingly difficult idea. All this occurs without adult supervision to “help” them learn these skills.
If a storm blows through we rarely shelter anything. There is an ephemeral nature to their art. They are not making permanent installations - it is dynamic! The next morning is a fun treasure hunt to see how far things have traveled, what has been lost, and if anything has been destroyed. This only becomes an opportunity to rebuild, create new things and perhaps to set up camp in a new location.
There is an added element of magic that has found its way to fairyland. Every so often a fairy may mysteriously move in the night, fairy bits may be hidden or captured with clues left to their whereabouts, and the most enjoyable discovery is new treasures placed nearby to be found in the morning. One never knows when this may occur, so its unpredictability is always an exciting discovery.
Fairyland has become a sweet rhythm to our day . . . a way for them to play in nature, to work out inspirations from literature and to use their minds to create imaginative new worlds.