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How To Make a Fairytale Terrarium

I’ve been coveting terrariums for some time now (These ones from Frog, Goose and Bear and Pollyposs are particularly beautiful), but I’ve been far too afraid to try one myself. You see, I am NO green thumb. But I just knew they’d make perfect gifts for my mum and mother-in-law who both love their gardens. [...]

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A Backyard Space for Play and Learning (and Reading)

We’ve been spending quality time in our backyard lately, and I thought I might share this little corner of our home with you.The arrival of spring always instils a fresh new love for our backyard, but since bringing Ike home after an 8-day stay at the Royal Children’s Hospital, the kids have just delighted in the opportunity to spend as much time in the backyard as possible, a place where there isn’t any stifled air or dull, restricting walls.

You’ll see that our backyard is really quite simple but it inspires wonderful play and provides opportunities to engage in play-based learning.

Let me take you on a little tour of our backyard space:

Australian backyard cubby house_ My Little Bookcase

Santa built this cubby house for Cammy a few years ago. It is a mini replica of our little 1950s weatherboard home (I might have given Santa a few specific design instructions- wink wink!), and I just love it- so do the kids!  It is certainly the hero of our backyard. Sure, I enjoy being up there with Cammy and Ike, but I also love getting a glimpse of it as I hang the washing on the line and every now and then, when I’m shutting up the windows and door, I’ll steal a few extra minutes to sit up there by myself. It is just so tranquil and innocent.

Books are important to us so they have certainly influenced the décor in the cubby house.

Possum Magic Cubby House Bunting_ My Little Bookcase

I made a beautiful Possum Magic bunting for Ike’s first birthday party, but it was such a windy day that all the flags just gathered into a little bunch, and it sort of went unnoticed. So as not to waste this beautiful piece, it now hangs proudly  in the cubby house.

Cubbyhouse artwork and book display_ My Little Bookcase

The walls are adorned with some of the kids’ own artworks and gorgeous illustrations we cut and framed from the My Little Bookcase 2013 calendar , along with the Ikea spice rack bookshelves that Cammy proudly painted herself. We rotate the books seasonally.

In the cubby house there are a few specific spaces:

A reading corner

We rotate the books seasonally.

Cubby House Reading Corner_ My Little Bookcase

A play kitchen

The play kitchen is filled with a mismatch of unused furniture and surplus toys.

Cubby House Kitchen Corner_ My Little Bookcase

A Dressing table (that doubles as a writing desk)

Cubby House Dressing Table_ My Little Bookcase

A round table set

This table used to be in our home before we re-organised the writing station for the kids, and then it was moved into the cubby house. It is sometimes used as a dining table here and other times it becomes an art desk.

Cubby House Art Space_ My Little Bookcase

At the beginning of every season, we like to give the cubby house a bit of a spring clean: a dust, a window clean, and a wash down of the toys. We rotate the books in the reading corner and add a vase of fresh flowers from the garden.

Cubby House Spring Clean_ My Little Bookcase

Cubby House Spring Clean_ My Little Bookcase

At Christmas we enjoy jazzing it up with some seasonal decorations.

Christmas Reading Corner_ My Little Bookcase

I specifically asked ‘Santa’ for a double story cubby house to create extra space in the back yard. We haven’t really created a specific use for the space under the cubby house,  other than adding a few nails in the structure to hang pots and pans and a swinging sign for Cam’s Cafe (which we converted from a piece of Cammy’s artwork). It’s a great place for the kids to create mud-kitchen recipes and run little pop-up cafés though (Print your own mud kitchen recipe book template for outdoor cooking).

Outdoor kitchen/cafe_ My Little Bookcase Outdoor cafe/kitchen_My Little Bookcase

Cammy loves creating all sorts of concoctions (which is where I got the idea for a mud kitchen recipe book- you can download and print a template here).

It’s been five years since our extension and we still haven’t planted flowers in our garden beds, which is okay because Cammy likes to use them to create fairy gardens. We’ve got quite a few around the place. Fairy gardens provide a wonderful opportunity to build an interest in writing.

My Little Bookcase Fairy Garden My Little Bookcase Fairy Garden

The back fence is a canvas for all sorts of art- I simply provide a bit of chalk, paint or mud.

Backyard Literacy_ My Little Bookcase Backyard Literacy- Painting with Mud_ My Little Bookcase

and the generous grass area provides space for gross motor activities, impromptu play and planned outdoor literacy and book-inspired activities.

Outdoor Alphabet Hunt

MORE BACKYARD AND OUTDOOR INSPIRATION:

Check out some more of my favourite Australian backyards and cubby houses.

Children’s Books Daily: A cubbyhouse that became an art studio

Mummy Musings and Mayhem: Easy recycled pallets for outdoor play

Adventures at Home with Mum: A marvellous mud kitchen

Happy Whimsical Hearts: A magical children’s garden

Learn with Play at Home: A simple mud kitchen

Suzie’s Homeschool Adventures: A DIY outdoor kitchen

Be a Fun Mum: A makeshift tinsel tent for drawing

Octavia and Vicky: Tissue box traffic lights

Mother Natured: Spider Web Obstacle Course

Also visit Childhood 101 for a host of inspiring outdoor spaces

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About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

TOTTIE AND DOT and Marshmallow Tea

Tottie and Dot. Review by My Little Bookcase

This book had Cammy and I at ‘marshmallow tea’!  You see, we are both tea lovers. A stopover at T2 is an essential part of our shopping routine. We can’t walk past without trialling their latest tea concoctions. More on marshmallow tea later though.

Tottie and Dot is a visual and literary feast. It is filled with incredibly cute illustrations in rich, pretty colours and the sweetest of nouns (marshmallow tea, apricot sandwiches, gumballs, strawberries and a lemon drop tree). This book was a delight to read for a mother and daughter who love all things lace and floral, tea and cake, dresses and parties.

There is a very meaningful undertone to this book though, and I think the issues presented in the story are becoming more prevalent for young people today. Following friends, keeping up with latest trends and trying to exceed peers are the issues that Tottie and Dot face. Their attempts to outshine one another lead to some crazy scenes that simply aren’t maintainable; and they eventually realise that being yourself and doing what makes you happy are of greatest importance.

Book Details:

Author: Tania McCartney

Illustrator:Tina Sterling

ISBN: 9781921966491

Publisher: EK Books (Exisle Publishing), September 2015

Available to purchase from The Kids’ Bookshop

To find out more about the book, follow Tottie and Dot’s Blog Blast.

Make your own Marshmallow Tea

Marshmallow Tea Recipe by My Little Bookcase

Just two pages into the book when Cammy was asking how to make marshmallow tea, I just knew we’d have to trial a marshmallow tea recipe. After reading Tottie and Dot we took a trip to our local T2 store. We smelled and tasted a range of teas and eventually chose Sweet Spice for our marshmallow tea experiment.

T2 Sweet Spice Tea


You will need:

  • Tea leaves or fruit tisane of your choice (We used T2’s Sweet Spice but their Vanilla Slice, Strawberries and Cream, Just Rose or Jungle Chai teas would also be delicious with some marshmallow milk)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 6 marshmallows

How to make marshmallow tea:

1. Combine 2 heaped tablespoons of tea with 2 cups of boiling water, and let steep for a few minutes.

2. While tea is steeping, make marshmallow milk: Over low heat, melt 6 marshmallows in ½ cup of milk. Ensure the milk doesn’t boil.

3. Strain tea into a tea cup and top with marshmallow milk.

4. Stir and enjoy.

My Little Bookcase reads Tottie and Dot with Marshmallow Tea

We made the tea together then sat out in the sunshine to re-read Tottie and Dot. We sipped and read, giggled and cuddled, and enjoyed basking in the sun. You’ve got to love a book that offers you this type of experience.

Like this post? Stay connected:

Be sure to join one of our communities for more literacy-based inspiration, or subscribe to our mailing list so you don’t miss out on future posts.

About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase