(Photo from cover of "Fairy Houses...Everywhere!")
You're hiking on a winding path through the trees, taking in all the shades of green and the sounds of birds and squirrels, when something suddenly catches your eye. There, at the base of a giant tree with a little rivulet of water flowing by is a tiny hut made of fir boughs and bark, no more than a foot tall. The little stepping stone path leading up to the entrance is so inviting, and the little leaf cups and bowls look as though they were set up for an afternoon forest luncheon. You can't help but wonder who must live here and call this home. It sets your imagination to wandering.
It's a fun project to do outside that engages children and adults in the smaller microcosm of nature around them. Instead of looking at the views of far off hills or the forest's edge, you may find yourself scanning the forest floor with keen eyes for just the right stick or bit of moss to add that finishing touch to your creation. Some parents have told me they would love to build fairy houses, but their child doesn't believe in faeries. For that scientific-minded child, may I suggest you build toad, chipmunk or snail houses. They certainly can't deny the existence of these abundant forest creatures, and the project would be equally fun and for all purposes the same. The experience would be equally magical. I was one of those children who had not really heard a lot about faeries, and didn't give them much thought. My little structures were often built with frogs in mind.
Another exciting aspect of building these little houses is coming back later and seeing if they're still there. The seaside fairy house we built one January was still there when we returned a year later, only a little ruffled from winter storms. We went on a hike along the China Creek trail at Washburne State Park last month, and came upon the basic frame of a fairy house we built along the trail three years ago! The kids were so excited to see their handiwork withstanding time and the elements. Backyard fairy houses are fun to spruce up and work on in the spring. Children seem to enjoy the jobs of clearing away leaves and re-arranging little acorn cap bowls on stone tables. They take great pride in their caretaking and small-scale housekeeping.