What you will need:
After a great time visiting the Gallery of Modern Arts, Fly Away exhibit with Nanny, Cakes was all a buzz talking about birds, their nests and how they look after their babies. As we are still trying to establish a garden (a year after starting) for her to play in and care for, I have been trying to come up with ideas to draw animals and creatures to her garden. With this interest in mind it was the perfect time to work on a bird's nest distribution centre (a place for birds to collect materials for their nests).
Firstly we had to decide on a design. As we have a neighbourhood full of cats it was important it would be up high and not along the fence line. With inspirations from a broken link on Pinterest I decided to use an old coat hanger as the casings. I then thought I would add some fine netting around a few sides so that it would keep everything Cakes put in it in there though still allow the birds access. Cakes and I collect a variety of items to place inside the casings. She chose ribbons, materials, cotton wool, pipe cleaners and straws.
Big Cousin H and Cakes set out to add a variety of materials to their casings. This started with several minutes of both children investigating the materials. They discussed how things felt, the weight of the items and what they were going to place in the casings. Big Cousin H got caught up in the excitement of cutting. As many of the items were thick or hard to cut children scissors were not given to the children and adult scissors were being used. Cakes is still developing an understanding of how to use scissors and strength in her hands. Big Cousin H was enlisted to do all the cutting with the help of Aunty Teen. Cakes watched what items Big Cousin H put into his casing and chose items similar to his.
They were very proud to show off their bird nest distribution centre. Despite the rain both the children, Aunty Teen and I went down in the back yard to find a suitable place for the birds to collect their resources. The children helped us find a place that was high enough away from the cats and away from the fence line. We are yet to see any birds take any pieces for their nests as we have not had a clear night since placing them in the yard. I hope Cakes is fortunate enough to see a bird take something from the casing.
On our way home from swimming today we stopped in at the "rock shop" to see what rocks Cakes was wanting to start her garden path with.. We had been to the rock shop several times with no purchase as we just never seemed to be able to commit to completing a particular section of the yard. Thanks once again to Papa Coco (donating more pavers) we had finally completed the paved edging for the front of the garden. About a week ago I went along the edging and along where we wanted a path with the poison though there was still a healthy patch of grass. My impatience and our lack of planned activity got the better of me. This was enough motivation for me to get the arch and the start of the path done today. Cakes had the option to say no but I knew the rock shop and a promise to purchase was enough for her to say yes.
On arrival to the rock shop Cakes headed over to the samples on the shelf and commenced touching each and every one (even the chicken manure) and umming and ahhhing. She was aware that this purchase was coming out of her pocket so she was taking her time to make the correct decision (she is a clever little thing and will see if Mummy or Daddy will swipe the credit card for her purchases). When she had narrowed it down to three selections, large pure white for $11 a bag, large salt and pepper for $9.90 a bag and large multicoloured for $7.70. We discussed this as lots of money, some money and a little bit of money. Being the frugal little person that she is Cakes chose the large multicoloured rocks. I thought these were the prettiest rocks there though didn't want to sway her as she will have many opportunities to add a variety of rocks to her garden. As she headed over to the man (who was watching her and asking questions the entire time she was making her selections) with her $10 note he said "Thank you little lady, seeing you are paying cash I will give it to you for $5". I thought this was very nice of him and made sure she said thank you very much and told her she got a discount. She even thanked him for the discount. The poor little thing was a little confused when she handed over the money and received more money in return (we tend to use the credit card and only use cash if we have the correct money which isn't very often). On the way out to the car to pull it around to the rock piles Cakes spotted a white cockatiel. The bird was so friendly and was at the edge of the cage trying to get to her. I asked the man if it was hand raised and he not only answered me he showed me. He took Pretty Boy out of his cage and placed him on Cakes's arms. She was so excited to have the opportunity to hold the bird and busted out a "Thanks man, hold bird" all by herself. We drove down to the rock pile, got our rocks and headed home.
After a quick snack and a jump or two on the trampoline we got all the required resources to build the arch Cakes bought for her garden over a year ago. So with the arch, a screwdriver and Cakes's tool kit we headed down to the back yard and started to work. Cakes was in charge of unpacking and did a wonderful job. I sorted the pieces out and we took turns at screwing the pieces together. Needless to say the pieces I screwed in stayed together better than the ones Cakes did. However the fine motor skills and hand eye coordination she was developing during her part in the task could not have been planned for. After several turns with my screwdriver Cakes headed off to use a variety of her tools. She used these all in different ways and used her imagination to continue working on the arch. Towards the end of the construction I realised when getting Cakes to pull all the pieces out I should have been more focused or she could have lost one of the screws in the grass. A few moments later I lost not one but two screws. After a quick scour of the ground and recruiting Cakes to help I ran off to the shed to find a similar screw. With no luck I headed back to the grass and spent twenty minutes looking for the last two screws. Eventually I found them and silently apoligised to Cakes for second guessing her ability to look after the equipment needed to complete the arch.
Next came insulation of the arch. Due to my impatience there was living thick grass be dug up. All decked out in my slippers (great attire for gardening) I pushed the shovel in and used my big fat foot to slam it down and to my surprise it slid in easily. After I dug out the edges of a section, Cakes took her handy little spade and made sure we left most of the dirt in the ground and got rid of the grass. While digging Cakes noticed a worm and turned out functional digging experience into one of investigation. She looked at long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, juicy ones; ooey gooey, ooey gooey worms. We discussed the variety of colours, shapes and sizes of the worms. As I am paranoid of chopping them in half I always try relocate them out of the hole we are digging. This lead to further discussion from Cakes about the worms home, their family, their status within their families and their daily routine. She always surprises me with the conversations she initiates. Once we had our two holes I picked up the arch and had Cakes guide it into it's final resting place. We both pushed it down (which was easy as the ground was so soft) and Cakes used all her muscles and sound effects to get it in place. She then laid down on the ground and said "yes same Mummy", she must have seen Grandad doing some leveling because I hadn't even thought about making them even. Once this was complete we dug out the middle to put the rocks down.
Cakes spared a few pails full of sand to place under the paver (another freebie from Papa Coco) to help with leveling. This lead to a long and enjoyable play in the sand pit which gave me time to run over to Splinter's house (our next door neighbour and my husband's godmother) to borrow a few sheets of newspaper to use a s a weed shield. We placed the paper in under the paver and started to ferry the rocks down from the front yard. It would have been easier to bring the whole bag of rocks to the backyard though I had the slight problem of not being able to move the bag (how I got it out of the car I do not know). This only took 3 trips backwards and forwards with our three primary coloured buckets. Finally the rocks all surrounded the paver and we had about half a bag to spare. This should be enough to continue the path over to Cakes's concrete slab if we taper it in a little. I asked Cakes what colour we were going to paint the leaf paver and was very quickly told "green now please".
So we headed inside for a quick wardrobe change and a snack. Then I quickly organised all the necessary items from the shed. As I am a strong believer in making the colour you want by mixing primary colours I had to get two paint cans and a mixing jar. Again the paint we used was the free paint from Masters so this project at this point has only cost Cakes $15. I asked her what colours we needed to make green and she proceeded to tell me we needed "booe and yellow", this is the third time she has been able to tell me which primary colours are used to make a particular secondary colour. Though having a very good grasp on the concept of colour I think this one was merely from keen observation as I was carrying the blue and yellow paint tins. Cakes painted the leaf with a slight hand around the edges. I really should have got her to paint the leaf before we put in the rocks as a few have a smear of green now. The minute she was finished and on her way into the bathtub the sky opened up and shared the sun shower my husband told me about only thirty minutes earlier. I could have looked up an known it was coming but really didn't think about it. A quick save with two buckets and the sandpit cover. Cakes asked if we can paint the next paver and put in the rocks tomorrow. When I said no that we were going to Dreamworld with her little pixie friend and Aunty Weeze she said "oh no, nuver day Mummy. It's okay, you can come". I think she was more worried I might stay home and work on her garden if I didn't go with her.
As usual I had several projects on the go already with Cakes's garden and found this awesome idea on Reading Between the Lines and decided we needed one. As my husband doesn't like to wipersniper I felt it was important to ensure they were in the ground low enough to not effect his mowing. We have too many cats in our neighbourhood to put down the pinebark like the hopscotch we got inspiration from. I also thought if I poisoned the grass where we wanted to place the pavers I would just be putting out the welcome mat for the weeds. These are the steps that were taken to complete the hopscotch for Cakes.
First we spent weeks looking at pavers at various stores, the dump and in the local paper. As Cakes was paying for them it took weeks before we found a price that I was willing to let her pay. Fortunately Papa Coco (Cakes's newest Uncle) was throwing out some pavers. They were a little bigger than what we were after but with a price tag like that and Aunty Teen delivering them how could we go elsewhere.
Next Cakes and I painted the pavers with two coats of left over white undercoat. She only painted a tiny bit and lost interest and played outside allowing me to finish all ten pavers. Once dry I printed out the numerals using the Queensland font that Cakes will learn when she heads to school in three years time. Once these were printed and cut I placed them in the middle of the pavers and painted around them with the paint samplers we got for free from Masters (during a promotion they had when you spent $10). As yellow is Cakes's favourite colour I made sure the extra colour would be yellow. I am sure this has no relevance to her now though I am hoping she will notice this in the future.
Then the digging commenced. As I decided not to poison the grass, it was very tough around the edges and took sometime to dig. Over several weeks I slowly dug out each hole and placed in the pavers. Cakes and Big Cousin H helped using small shovels to level out the holes. This process would have been much easier if I had seen the Better Home and Garden's segment on making a hopscotch that shows you how to level it out. Though the way we did it was a little harder and more time consuming our final outcome is still better than I was hoping.
After the mow test these held up to Daddy's standard, it didn't get in the way and looks just as good each time he mows. Cakes is still yet to master the hop, though enjoys jumping on them, sitting on them, counting the numbers and colour matching things to them. We are hoping this hopscotch becomes a well loved part of our back yard.