A dinosaur delight in the garden

Many of us adults are privileged to have enjoyed a hearty childhood. Staying outdoors until sunset, running home with dirt-crusted feet, flushed cheeks, and that shimmer of happiness gleaming in the eyes.

Exhilaration was simply a natural part of living, every day. Whether it was building sandcastles out of mud, catching butterflies, or falling out of trees, life had a certain simplistic joy. Today, however, we live in ever-increasingly built-up areas. It may be difficult to give children the daily outdoor time they need in confined spaces. Aside from that, experts are recommending that children spend at least 2 hours per day outdoors, which can be difficult to achieve. A simple activity, like our dinosaur delight in the garden, will invite children to spend time outdoors while it gets them acquainted with the joy of gardening.

The idea behind this garden is to encourage children to build a dinosaur world as they imagine it. If children think of items they wish to add that are not on our list, let them go wild! There’s something profoundly rewarding about planting a garden and nurturing it to fruition. Once the dinosaur delight in the garden is complete, add to their dinosaur collection occasionally, and watch the children enjoy the outdoors as they play in their very own creation.

What you will need:

  • An old tyre
  • Some acrylic paint (let your children choose their favourite colour/s)
  • A paintbrush
  • Some potting mix
  • A double layer of weed barrier cloth
  • A staple gun (optional)
  • Small plastic dinosaurs
  • Some small rocks and/or stones
  • Plants (like ferns, moss, Coleus etc)

Let’s get started:

Step 1
Give the old tyre a good wash the day before you begin the activity. Consider this the phase where you prep your tools. The tyre needs to be completely dry before you can use it.

Step 2
At this point, we’re going to take measures against weeds popping up and invading the children’s creation. You can either use a staple gun to secure a double layer of weed barrier cloth to the tyre, or you can lie a double layer of weed barrier cloth down on the space you’re going to use for your dinosaur delight garden. If you decide on the second option, ensure you’ve cleared and the ground and made it fairly level.

Step 3
The children can now get busy with the paints! Let them make some dinosaur footprints along the top of the tyre, arrows, leaves, or anything else that works with the theme. Remember to leave room for creative play, if it’s not exactly on theme, that’s fine too. Let the children lead with their own ideas.

Step 4
Once the paint is dry, you can place the tyre on the weed barrier cloth (if you chose not to staple it to the tyre).

Step 5
Fill the inside of the tyre with soil, leaving enough room for the plants you’re going to be adding. Dinosaurs, rocks, and other small items will also need to fit in. At this stage, it’s great to talk to children about soil and its importance in sustaining life. We often take for granted that children understand what soil actually is. It’s so much more than just dirt. Have them feel its texture between their fingers and appreciate that it’s thanks to just a few centimeters of fertile topsoil covering the globe, that we exist. Talking about the world we live in is all part of the bonding and sharing experience of the exercise.

Step 6
Now is the most fun part of all. Plant the plants, paying special attention to leaving space for the dinosaurs. Remember to choose plants based on the location of the tyre. Some plants will not thrive in full sun, while others require it. Once your plants are in, it’s time for the dinosaurs make their entry. Place them in position and add rocks, shells, and other items that tie into the theme.

A dinosaur delight in the garden
If you really enjoyed this exercise, repeat it. If you end up with more than one tyre-garden, you can link them elegantly by extending small bridges across them to each other. Your children could even create a dinosaur village of tyres, over time! Add some grassy plants as a backdrop, like lemongrass or even Elegia elephantina and make it a feature. You’re not just growing a garden, you’re growing confident, proud children at the same time.

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