Monday, 27 February 2012

8 Simple, cheap and free ideas for making a bare outside area interesting to a toddler

I'll begin by saying my back yard is small. Probably smaller than your living room.. it is also very plain, boring and tree-free. There is no lawn, and no garden bed. Apart from a very narrow strip of dirt along the fence, the whole thing is paved. It is also a rental property, so there's not much I can do to change it. My toddler loves the outdoors, and is at his happiest out in the fresh air, and I would love to be able to give him a large lawn area with a garden for exploring, for growing vegetables, and some trees to climb when he is older. But I have what I have, so to make my tiny space interesting for him, I have had to put my creative hat on. 

Things from nature. I wanted to bring some nature in to our bare space, for little one to feel the different textures, the different weights, uneven objects to stack and sort, the coldness of stones and the warmth of wood in the sun:

 ~ Stones. I found these stones in the local bargain shop for 75 cents per kilo (of course if you are lucky enough to live near a stream you could probably find smooth rocks for free). I placed them in a bright bucket, and when little one discovered them he proceeded to move them one by one into a plant pot, then moved them one by one back into the bucket. 
Cost: stones, $1.50, metal buckets $1 each.

 ~ Pine cones and large seed pods. I found these while we were out walking one day, brought them home and put them in another bright bucket. They get played with every day, mainly used as digging implements. Cost: free.

sorting the stones

 ~ Branches. I found some branches which I intended to cut up into tree blocks. I gave up this project after manually sawing about ten blocks.. it's hard work! So I was left with a couple of branches which I left in the narrow dirt space along the fence, and surprise surprise, they get picked up, closely looked at and dragged around. Cost: free.

sunflowers sprouting
Things that grow. Probably the most obvious things you are likely to find in any normal garden are things that grow. Not mine though (not when I moved in anyway) so I have had to make a bit of an effort to introduce them. Not having a green thumb has made it a bit of a learning curve, but now we have lots of growing things; tomatoes, basil, capsicums, cucumbers, baby corn, lettuce, sunflowers, mint, beetroot, rosemary, strawberries, rocket, zucchini, aloe vera, and green beans. Little one loves to sit and watch the strawberry plant, as he now knows that's where his favourite fruit comes from. Sometimes he is lucky and spots one then lets me know (by saying ooh! ooh!) so that I can pick it for him. Beans and sunflowers are particularly good for kids to grow as they grow super fast. 
Cost: about $2-3 for a packet of seeds, $3-5 for a bag of potting mix. Pots starting from $2, Styrofoam boxes for planting, free.

watching the strawberries
Styrofoam fruit boxes make excellent planters.
These are beans.

 Things that move - These two mobiles took maybe 15 minutes each and cost me absolutely nothing. I recycled some old CD's, attached some string I found in my laundry, and made the first mobile last night. Here is a video I found of a similar one in motion. I hung it up at about 10pm last night, and little one was amazed to find it hanging up outside this morning, he kept pointing and saying ooh! I collected twigs for the other one on our walk this morning, and tied them to a length of string. The move gently in the breeze, and are out of reach of little ones hands. Cost: Free.

Recycled CD mobile

twig mobile

Things that are colourful. 

 ~ Bright orange rag rug from the discount shop, because bright colours make a space happy. Cost $4.

 ~ Colourful kids sized chair, because even little bottoms need somewhere to rest. This turns into a step, and was a great garage sale find. Cost: $3.

 ~ Floaty fabric - I found this scarf in an op shop, and bought it for the bright colours. I haven't thought of a use for it until today. I tied a piece of string across my gate, and used it as a line to hang the scarf from using pegs. It floats in the breeze, and also provides a bit of privacy from the street. Also makes a great peek-a-boo playing spot. Cost 50 cents.

So with all of those small things, our outside area has undergone a little transformation. I'd love to hear your ideas too, of any cheap and easy ways to add a bit of interest to your garden. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Door Stop!

I have had a fantastic suggestion this week of making something like my rattle blocks, but as a door stop! I think it's a great idea, and something I will definitely make for myself, so this afternoon I designed a small, cute fabric door stop with a carry handle. I think I will make more of these to list on my store, and will use the suggestion of selling them empty with an opening underneath to be filled when purchased, to save postage costs for the customer. They would cost a bomb to post filled!

The first one I made out of African kitenge to go with my crazy mismatched living room. First I put a plastic bag inside the opening at the bottom, just the type of small bag you get from the fruit & veg. I then filled it with lentils (only thing I had suitable in the pantry) but you could use rice, wheat, sand, small pebbles, anything really. After I poured in the lentils, I tied the bag up and pushed the ends inside, sealed up the opening (I will attach snaps to do this neatly), and voila! A unique door stop. 

the empty door stop

with a small plastic bag inside, which will become the lining

pouring the lentils in
and tying up when full

The second one I made from scrap corduroy fabrics, I was happy with the first design so I made it exactly the same. I am thinking of making a triangular shape, maybe..

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Flip Out Sofa Cover - Goodbye Buzz and Woody


My little one was given a flip out sofa by his Nan, and he loves it. I think its great too, what I don't love are the huge pictures of Toy Story characters all over it. After looking at it for months and thinking, I really should make a cover for that, this afternoon I decided to get around to actually doing it. I planned to make it out of mismatched African kitenge fabric, three different patterns but then I decided to use only two with some plain dark blue just to tone it down a little. I didn't use a pattern, and it shows, but it does the job. Not using a pattern meant I had to put the cover on before each step, and figure it out along the way. A bit exhausting getting up and down constantly for a couple of hours, but it's something I know I won't need to make again. I know the brightness and boldness of this isn't everyones cup of tea, but it goes pretty well with my colourful little home. And no Disney in sight!