Children love to imagine what it would be like if gnomes and elves lived around us. Many times, when walking through the forest, children might see roots or hollows which would make perfect homes for fairy-tale creatures like gnomes, fairies or elves. By creating miniature homes using natural found materials, children are able to explore their imagination while spending more time outdoors.
Look for a place to build a gnome house. Often, the best places are in the roots of large pine trees. Between two roots can be one home, so several homes can be built between the other roots to form a gnome or fairy neighbourhood. Look for an area where the two roots are fairly close to each other. They will become the beams of the gnome house and support the roof. Each area should be about 30 cm x 30 cm (1 square foot).
Sweep out the area of debris like loose twigs, gravel, fallen bark or pine needles to prepare for building the gnome house.
Gather your building materials. Small pine twigs 2.5 to 5 cm (1 or 2 inches) tall can be planted around the perimeter of the area as a fence. Taller, sturdier sticks should be lined up next to each other 10 or 12.5 cm (4 or 5 inches) away from where the two roots meet, leaving a small triangular area to become the interior of the house. Leave a few sticks aside to make the door. Make sure that the walls of the house formed by the sticks are about the same height or just a little lower than the height of both roots. The walls can be made stronger by pushing large flat pieces of bark directly into the ground in front of the stick supports.
Decorate the inside of the gnome house. Some possibilities might include an empty seashell for a sink, a little bundle of lichen tucked into a walnut shell for a bed, and a shiny mussel shell for a mirror. Fill nutshells with berries for the gnome's food storage. If you are lucky enough to find one, a toadstool makes a great table. Leave other little gifts for the gnome, like pretty feathers, flowers, or small smooth white pebbles. The nicer it looks inside, the more likely they are to move in!
Add the roof. The best way to make a roof is to gather loose, lightweight flat bark and lightly wedge it against the side of the tree, laying it on top of the sticks which form the wall. Work gently and patiently with this small house so that the materials do not break or fall over. Patch any holes in the roof with small pieces of moss, colourful leaves, or lichen.
Work on the front garden for the gnome's house. Make a pathway using small white stones leading to the front door. Using flowers and berries, make a small garden near the path. Another seashell can be used as a well; fill it with raindrops or a little water. Taller parts of plants, wildflowers or bright leaves can be pushed partway into the ground to become trees.
Completion of the gnome house is open-ended. Over the next few days, revisit the gnome house with new findings, to rebuild a wall, or refill the well.
Other possible additions to the gnome house are endless -- build a small pond or swimming pool by lining a dugout hole with pebbles, make a lean-to for a barn in another section, or make a whole neighbourhood with different styles of houses. If you live near a beach, there are many more options, like seaweed, white sand for the floor, sea shells, beach glass and creatures like dried sea urchins which would be wonderful addition to the garden.
Always be cautious of natural dangers, especially poison ivy, insect bites, and ticks. Do not consume any of the collected berries, flowers, mushrooms, or nuts as they may be toxic.