Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea

Imaginative and outdoor play are a priority when it comes to facilitating play opportunities for my kids. Combining them together is gold.

We visited the beach a couple of weeks ago and then I created a beach scene for the kids to play with at home. It’s really so easy and cheap to set up and here is how I did it:

Beach play


Underbed Storage Container (or other plastic container)

Play Sand (you can get bags from Bunnings and places like that)

Small plastic container (that fits inside the underbed storage)

Animal Figurines

Blue Food Colouring (optional)

Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea Animals

Animal figurines - Fraser Coast

Set up

This can be set up on the grass (that way any sand spillage is no big deal) on a patio (where I set mine up; easy to sweep) or other outdoor space.

1. Tip the play sand into the underbed storage container.

2. Put a few drops of blue food colouring into the small container and fill with water. (When only a few drops are used, it’s very diluted and doesn’t tend to stain kids hands). Regular water works well too, but I think it looks fun when it’s blue!

3. Push the sand to one side to make space for the water dish.

4. Add the plastic figurines (a few rocks work well too!)

Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea Animals

Boats are great in the mix. The kids used a Lego boat; milk bottle lid boats or plastic bowl boats are great too!

Imaginative Play - sand and sea

Imaginative Play Scene - sand and sea

play figurines - turtle

I purchased the animal figurines from Mini Zoo.  I thought it worth a quick email to see if I could get a special offer for Be A Fun Mum readers because I love facilitating this type of play and giving back. After 13 years of parenting (and going through many different toys), plastic play figurines are in my top 5 best toys for usefulness, versatility and longevity (through different ages).

I chatted to Jason and he kindly organised 10% off storewide for Be A Fun Mum readers. Mini Zoo have over 5,000 products and every type of plastic play figurines you can imagine!  Free shipping is standard on domestic orders over $50. Just use the code beafunmum at checkout. The coupon code is valid until 3rd October 2014 and may be used an unlimited number of times so feel free to share the code with anyone else who would be interested.  Great Christmas gift idea too!


Small World Play Ideas

DIY Frozen Ice Skating Rink (for play)

Frozen Toy Ice Skating Rink

This is a gorgeous addition to play, especially for the warmer months, and it costs nothing to set up!  It’s a great activity idea for Disney Frozen fans!

What you need

Plastic (freezer friendly) rectangle container – as big as can fit in your freezer


Plastic figurines (Pictured is a Schliech Aguya Ice Skating girl and I found the Ice Tree at a discount shop) 

Large towel (to lay it on or do outside on the grass)

I’ve just ordered these figurines for Christmas for my daughter (found them at Fishpond for $14.95 – free shipping – yes!). She will LOVE it!


Tip: Battery operated waterproof fairy lights look magical for decorating a play space (suitable/age appropriate).

Set up

1. Fill the plastic container with water and allow to freeze overnight until frozen solid.

2. Set the container up on a table on a towel or outside.  The area will get a little wet as the ice melts.  This huge chunk of ice will last at least a couple of hours!  When the kids had enough of playing with this, I just put it back in the freezer for when they wanted to play with it again.  So easy!

Frozen Toy Ice Skating Rink

Frozen Toy Ice Skating Rink

Frozen Toy Ice Skating Rink

Frozen Toy Ice Skating Rink

The fun thing is as the ice melts, it’s easy to slide things along. Kids could make all sorts of things out of alfoil or other materials (like milk bottle lids) to slide along the ice).

A magical addition to play and my kids absolutely love this…and it’s just too easy!


Small World Play Ideas

Imaginative Play: Construction Sand Box

I enjoy creating small world play scenes for my kids. They are surprisingly easy to set up (read this handy post by Kate at Picklebums for tips).  Another great thing about this sort of play is you can set it up and it sparks the children’s imagination and I find they tend to play for hours; great for the weekend and holidays.  You can find previous play trays we have done here: Imaginative Play Scenes.

My son loves the sand pit at school, and we don’t have one at home, however, from time to time I’ll buy sand and use it in a large underbed container for play (like this Desert Island Scene). This time, we decided on a construction theme.

Materials Used

Underbed storage container (this is great because it comes with a lid which is handy for storage and keeps the sand clean when the box is not in use)

Play Sand (I used a 10kg bag – it was under $8 at Bunnings)


Small vehicles

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Set up

Set up is as simple as dumping the sand into the container, adding a few rocks and the vehicles. Boom!

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Construction Play Scene for Kids

Paver Roads 

We added paver roads to the play too, and you can read more about it here: Imaginative Play – Paver Roads.

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads


Wood Roads

Rock Play Garden

Imaginative Play Scenes

Imaginative Play – Paver Roads

Imaginative Play: Paver Roads

A few years ago, I put together a rock play garden for my son.  I found cheap pavers and we decorated them and used them as a garden border.  I noticed the kids often used the pavers in little backyard games they made up, and I made a note to buy more (they are really cheap!).  

We don’t have room for a sandpit but my son, especially, loves the sand and he often comes home from school with shoes full of it! We created a simple sand play tray (which you can read about here) and extended that by making paver roads. The kids loved it! So fun! So easy too!

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads


  • Pavers (I purchased 14)

(you can buy black or white pavers from Bunnings and places like that from about 60 cents each).

  • Paint pen (or for something less permanent, just you chalk and it washes off)

(I used white or if you have white pavers, use black)

Paver roads for play

Drawing the roads

Forming the roads was a simple process of drawing a dotted line through the centre of the pavers. We allocated a few bricks to be corners and did right angle lines to connect (or do double sided bricks: one side with straight lines and the other with corner lines).

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads


We added a few trucks and rocks. That’s it!

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Imaginative Play - Paver Roads

Pack up

The good thing about the pavers is you can move them wherever you want: on grass, on concrete or as a border to a play garden. This took me 5 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to pack up.  When packing up, I placed the bricks up against the house and the underbed storage container comes with a lid which is handy for keeping the sand clean.


Wood Roads

Construction Sand Box

Rock Play Garden

Imaginative Play Scenes

DIY Play Tablecloth

Box City Scene

Make a Fairy House (out of natural materials)

Guest Post from Zanni Louise from My Little Sunshine House

Make a simple fairy house out of natural materials - on

It was one of my first sleepovers. I was about eight. I laid awake, restless. Excited.

“Do you think it’s dark enough yet?” asked my friend.

We pulled back the covers, and with torches navigated our way through the living room, and into her back garden.

We looked under the table, we lifted leaves and we peered into bushes. No fairies.

“They probably don’t like the torch,” I told my friend. An expert, I was.

We looked a bit longer, but eventually relented. Fairies do not want to be seen.

Fairies were a big part of my imaginary world, as a child. I made houses for them in the back corner of my grandma’s garden. I wrote childish poems about them. I talked to them for hours, as I sat in the hollow of the old olive tree on our farm.

My nearly-four-year-old daughter talks to fairies too. She has borrowed the names “Harmony” and “Rhapsody” from the ABC for Kids series. I often hear her muttering to Harmony and Rhapsody as she makes things for them in the garden.

We made this simple, little fairy house together from bits we found in the kitchen and garden.

1. We took a 2L plastic milk carton, and I cut the top off. This project would work well with a 1L cardboard milk carton too, but if you use a 1L carton, don’t cut the top off – it will be perfect as a roof for your fairy house.

nature fairy house

2. Use scissors to cut a door into the carton. I cut a three-sided rectangular flap, so it could open and close easily. If it’s safe to pierce a hole into the side of the carton, you can also make windows.

nature fairy house

3. Place the carton upside down on a large plate.

4. Use bark and pieces from the garden to decorate the fairy house. We used paper bark, as it is so fine. We tore it into little pieces, and used craft glue to collage it on. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect – the fairies won’t mind!

nature fairy house

5. Sprinkle the fairy house with petals from the garden. Fairies love colour (so they told me), so go crazy. A young child can easily take the reins in this step.

6. Decorate the plate with moss, fern, grass, or just plain old weeds. We used a combination, and collected enough to completely cover the plate.

7. Use a short, stumpy stick as a chimney. Ours just sat on the roof, but you could also glue it.

8. Hide your fairy house somewhere in your garden for the fairies to enjoy.

Our little fairy house has survived a week of rain in the garden. Turns out paper bark is a surprisingly durable building material.

Do your children play fairy games? Did you believe in fairies as a child?

About Zanni Louise

Zanni Louise is an emerging children’s book author, freelance writer and blogger at My Little Sunshine House. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Nature Crafts

Rock Fairy House

The Magic of a Backyard Garden Wreath

Imaginative Play Scene — Island

I confessed that I don’t get down and play with my kids all that often, but I do constantly facilitate and watch them play.   One of the things I enjoy to do is help set up play scenes for the children.  I was first inspired by this concept by Kate from Picklebums and I highly recommend this post from her: Imaginative Play at Home.

Fostering imaginative play is important to me as it’s evolving play: it starts with the building phase, then the play phase, and the play evolves with the environment. Plus, as a bonus, this sort of play lasts for days!  This imaginative play scene is island inspired and below is how I put it together.

Imaginative Play Scene -- Desert Island

How to Make

A Desert Island play theme is a fun idea for the summer months. It was easy and inexpensive to set up. It can be used outside on the grass, under a patio/veranda or even inside (if you’re game) on a large towel.

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- materials


Large shallow rectangle box (I used an underbed storage box from Bunnings)

Round laundry bowl (you an also use a standard kitchen bowl — I purchased this from Bunnings)

20Kgs double washed sand (I purchased a bag from Bunnings)

Blue food colouring (optional)

Note: You only need a small amount so it’s very diluted and doesn’t seem to stain the kids hands or clothes

Washer or tea towel (I bought a $1 tea towel from Best & Less and cut out a rectangle)

Decoration items/toys

  • Pebbles
  • Shells
  • Duplo palm tree (make your own palm tree by threading a large leaf on to a stick)
  • Mermaids
  • Pirates
  • Rocks
  • Boats
  • Treasure box
  • Barbies

Most of the materials we found around the house, however, because I want a large box dedicated for imaginative play scenes, I purchased a few of these items.  The sand, the under bed box and laundry bowl came to a total of $30.

Step 1: The Island

Fill the round laundry bowl with sand and smooth to create the Island.

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 1

Step 2: The Sea

Place the Island into the underbed storage box and fill the box with water to the level of the laundry bowl. Add a little blue food colouring if desired.

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 2

Step 3: Create the Island

I cut up a cheap tea towel for a beach towel and used pebbles for a path. We used a Duplo palm tree to create the island look; or a large leaf on a stick does the trick.

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 3

Step 4: Add Toys

Here are some ideas: Barbie, mermaids, fish, sharks, boats.

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 4 add toys

Step 5: Play

This sort of water play is perfect for the summer months!

imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 5 play

Step 6: Create

The best part of this sort of play is it evolves and grows as the kids use their imagination. Last time I checked, this is what their play looked like. I helped create the basics and the kids did the rest, including the leaf trees.

Imaginative play scene -- desert island -- step 6 create

Kind of dreamy really.

imaginative play space -- desert island -- finished

Other Imaginative Play Scene Ideas

Imaginative Play Scenes

Imaginative Play Scene — Tree House

Kate from Picklebums first introduced me to the concept of Imaginative Play Scenes. Since then, the kids and I have a lot of fun creating environments for the kids to play in. Setting up a play scene doesn’t take a lot of time and the play benefits last over days.  Pop over and read Kate’s post for some more ideas: Imaginative Play at Home.

Imaginative Play Scene — Tree House



Paint (optional)

Patty Cases

Other items to decorate the tree (see the picture below for ideas)

imaginative play space -- tree house

Paint the box (optional) and cut out a door before positioning it in a tree. To see how we made our house, click the picture.

Imaginative Play Space -- Tree House

Use craft glue to fasten patty cases on to a few leaves.

imaginative play scene -- tree house

Decorate with ribbon, pine cones and any other decoration. Click the picture to see more ideas.

imaginative play scene -- tree house

Add toys and play!

We extended this play scene into a magical fairy land. You can read about it in this post: Magical Play Space.

Other Imaginative Play Scenes

Desert Island

White Christmas

Magical Land

Creative Kids: Just Add Flowers

I opened my email this morning and read a post from Kate (Picklebums) titled Imaginative Play At Home.  In the post, Kate shows easy ways to set up open-ended imaginative play spaces for children.  I felt inspired as this reinforces many of my own values when it comes to children’s play. 

Something as simple as fake flowers, can open up a world of imaginative play for children.

Just add flowers…

just add flowers


Activities for young children

What do you add to your child’s play to stimulate the imagination?

For more play ideas, check out this week’s We Play link- up at  Childhood101.

Be A Fun Mum Links


Wood Picture

A Fairy’s Home or a Pirate Trap

Snowman Without the Snow

Paper Dolls

3D City Skyline

The Best Dad For Me

Balloon Fight Fun

Nature Hunt

Op Shop Cubby

A Pile of Straws

We Play: Blu Tack

Inhibiting Play

Make Scramble Eggs Tonight, Have Fun Tomorrow

External Links

Natural Parenting: Pretend, Make Believe, Imagine, Play, Learn

Imaginative Play at Home

Childhood101 We Play