Rolleston's Fairy Garden

Rolleston's Fairy Garden

The recent construction of a fairy garden at Rolleston Playcentre has ignited imaginations and extended play for the centre’s tamariki. Kendal Partridge told me about the inspiration, the construction, and the impact of this magical project.

A fairy garden, as you might know, is a place outdoors for fairies to visit, kind of like a garden doll’s house. The hope is that if you create one, then the fairies will surely visit.

Inspired by the arrival of spring, and a freshly weeded garden plot, the parents at Rolleston Playcentre looked at their children's interests. “This brainstorming stage was very exciting for us as adults, to dream up all sorts of magical ideas. The comments ‘I'd love to play with that’ and ‘I would have loved that as a child’ came up a lot,” Kendal says. Eventually they decided on the fairy garden. 

Following on from the planning, the plants were sourced, including some seconds that would otherwise have gone unsold. These were planted on session with the help of children and their pint-sized garden tools. “Each session adults worked alongside the children to add a few plants here and there as the tamariki became engaged and interested. We also had some sneaky fairy dust sprinkled around the garden after a couple of days, so the tamariki knew the fairies had found the garden. There was a surprise gift, mini unicorn horns, left in the garden by fairies on another session,” Kendal continues.

The creation of the garden led to numerous spinoff activities and learning experiences for the children. “Some adults set up a rock painting play invitation for the tamariki, to decorate rocks in the garden. This came after we identified an interest in paint and colour mixing for some on session. A mum and one of our older children made a cute craft stick bench for the fairies too.”

The creation of the garden has involved “huge learning” across all five strands of Te Whāriki, Kendal suggests, as well as “lots of fun.” Central to the experience was Playcentre’s philosophy of child-led learning. “The tamariki are leading the direction of it and making it their own by taking ownership, sharing ideas, contributing to the care and continuity of the garden, and building their relationships with adults on session as they work together. It has also been a wonderful way to link our sessions and build on our centre-wide feeling of whanau and community through an ongoing whole centre project that is added to each day.”

When I asked Kendal how if felt to complete the project, she replied “we're not sure it is complete yet, as it will grow and develop as the plants and interests of tamariki evolve.” It is the garden’s ability to burgeon and adapt as the children themselves change that is perhaps its greatest strength.  

I wondered if Kendal had any words of wisdom for other centres interested in attracting fairies to their gardens. “Start with a small area. We have big garden dreams but it has been good to start small so we know we can manage it. Get the resources - such as gardening tools, plants, and craft supplies - on session as soon as possible to make it easy for people to get stuck in straight away. And resist the temptation to have a right or wrong way to plant or create so tamariki and adults, regardless of their skill level, can feel welcome to contribute.”

“We had the phrase coming up a lot when people were worried if the flowers would live - after some rough handling, or too much or too little water, or being planted in the wrong place - that ‘if it’s meant to be at Playcentre it will survive,’” Kendal says. I’m sure that Rolleston’s creativity and community spirit, aided by just a little bit of fairy magic, ensured that the plants thrived.

It’s a great time of year to be planting, whether you’re sowing summer vegetables, or colourful blooms for bees, butterflies or fairies. We look forward to hearing about the learning happening in your centre’s gardens this summer. If you would like to know more about Rolleston Playcentre’s fairy garden in particular, you can contact them here: https://www.facebook.com/rollestonplaycentre/

Posted: Monday 6 November 2017