A garden in a tub with plants and dirt makes a great place to play pretend!

Gresham (6 years old) loves to play with realistic toy animals.  We have a collection of Schleich animals, and recently he has gotten in to the Safari Toob animals because their small size enables him to them around with him.  After Christmas, I made him a felt play board for his animals, and that has been fun.  He decided, though, that his animals needed a more realistic play space also.

So we planted a garden for imaginative play!

Plant a Garden for Pretend Play! Great for toy animals, LEGO guys, and more!

To make the garden, I recycled a plastic tub that used to hold toys but now has a broken lid.

Supplies Needed:

  • A large plastic storage container
  • Top soil
  • Rocks – to layer in the bottom of the tub to help with drainage
  • Small plants
  • A plastic container to be a pond in the garden
  • Drill
  • Small shovel

Step 1:  I used a power drill to make some holes in the bottom of the tub for drainage.  The boys were fairly impressed that Mom could figure out how to use Dad’s drill! (It was really easy to make the holes, but it’s fun to be a hero!)

Plant a garden for imaginative play

Step 2:  Cover the bottom of the container with a layer of rocks to help promote drainage.

Plant a garden for imaginative play

Step 3:  Cover the rocks with a thick layer of topsoil and plant your plants!  We chose plants from the $1.74 ground cover options at Home Depot.

Plant a garden for imaginative play

Aidan (age 9) had so much fun taking some of the photos for this post (which is why I’m actually in one).  In fact, he was having so much fun that he took forty pictures of the drilling the holes step.  What a goof!

Gresham asked if he could have the water dish that we purchased for our little box turtle that didn’t make it to use as a pond, and I said he could.  It really made a great pond.  If you don’t happen to have an unused pet dish lying around, any small plastic bowl would be just as fun to use as a pond!

Plant a garden for imaginative play

Plant a garden for imaginative play

In addition to animals, the garden is the perfect place to play with Lego minifigures!

Plant a garden for imaginative play

The best part about this garden is that it can be played with outdoors or indoors – just be sure to put a couple of towels under it indoors if you drill the holes in the bottom of the container!  My boys seem to play with it more indoors, and I think it’s because when they’re outside they have the entire yard to play in anyway, but inside plants and dirt are a special treat.

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  1. Jenny @ The Brick Castle Mar 23, 2013

    That's great. I love the pond. We also have Lego Star Wars minifigures involved in most of our small world play!

  2. Gwen Mar 23, 2013

    what a great idea!!!

  3. Emma @sciencesparks Mar 24, 2013

    Oh wow, I LOVE this idea. Adding it to my list :-)

  4. Tina@ Mamas Like Me Mar 29, 2013

    This is going to be a HUGE hit in our house full of boys! Love it!!

  5. Tamara Dillon May 26, 2013

    I love this simple idea! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Faye Mar 18, 2018

    Awesome, Love It!!!!! I plan on making something like this with the children I care for.

  8. Deb sefton Feb 15, 2021

    I love this idea. Such a great way to engage children, especially boys!

  9. Mrs. Lindholm Mar 9, 2023

    I'm a 1st grade teacher in public school. I LOVE your ideas and use them in the classroom. This is a great idea for the study of plants with a dinosaur attraction!


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