Creating a miniature farmyard in a tray is actually a really fun thing to do with the kids. There are many opportunities to add in scavenger hunts and there are some great learning opportunities to be had as well.
Suitable for: 3 Years + (they will need a lot of extra help)
How long will it take? If you are on a tight schedule, allow 3 hours. However, it is easy to come back to the following day if you are a bit behind. Although, you could also make it an activity that will last the entire day. And plenty of play days after too.
What do I need to make the farmyard:
- A big tray to build the farm in (we use this one)
- Sand (play sand or sharp sand)
- Herb plants
- Farm animals (not real ones)
- Moss or Grass (turf)
- Evergreen plants or clippings if making post spring
What are the benefits of making a farm?
There are plenty of sensory experiences to be had when making a farm. If you are fortunate enough to have some herbs in the garden, you can put these into the farm and children can experience the different smells and textures of the herbs.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are an important part of a child’s development. From building the fences to planting the field, this will involve attention to detail. Once your farm is build, if you are playing with the farm inside, you will be able to sow some cress seeds in the field to add an element of excitement and some real life farming!
This very much comes after making the farm. If you have a good set of animals to hand, children can turn this into a working farm. Along with the fine motor skills, sowing a cress field will offer a great experience for children to watch things grow. Best of all, you can eat it afterwards – sadly the chickens won’t be laying any eggs!
And not to mention that the farm will provide many hours of entertainment.
The scavenger hunt
One of the best parts of making the miniature farm is the scavenger hunt! Many of the plants and natural materials that you are going to need will be found in and around the garden. Probably the only exception is the compost and the sand – however, you could use play sand if you have that to hand.
Tip: Choose some herbs in advance and ask the children to find them in the garden. Perhaps show them some pictures so that they can recognise the herbs in your own garden.
How to make a miniature Farmyard in a tray:
1Get a plastic tray
In order to get the best out of your farmyard, you want to purchase a big enough tray. This will help you with two things;
1. Your farmyard won’t be too small so that you have to make everything really miniature
2. It will give children enough space to play once you have finished making it.
We love that our tray is made from recycled plastic and also has a great depth to it. You can find our tray on Amazon It is a great size – measuring 60cm x 60 cm x 7cm. You can also find this tray in many garden centres.
2Fill it with compost
To make our farm we used an ordinary compost. You will want to ensure that the compost is fairly weighty as opposed to a dusty compost. This is only to ensure that it is easy to compact for when you are making the fences.
A standard 50L bag will be plenty if you are going to use turf.
Whilst you can get compost delivered from Amazon, you will normally find some good offers at the local garden centre.
This is great fun for little ones and will take some time fill it up.
3Get some turf
*A bit for the adults*
For the grass in the farm, we simply dug up two small squares of grass from the lawn. The patches where great as they contained a little bit of moss. You can use moss for a true miniature feel if you have access to it.
For us it doesn’t matter too much as we are going to be making a sunflower den this year so we just used a bit that we cut out for that. We will be providing some more details on that very soon.
4Add the turf to the farm
If you have got great digging skills, you will be able to remove enough of the soil from the bottom of the turf. However, if you are like me, you will probably end up with a little too much.
Use a small trowel to remove the excess. You might also need to remove some of the compost from under the turf so it is level with the top of the tray.
You will want to ensure that there is a 1cm gap between the turf and the top of the tray.
5Collect some twigs
*A bit for the adults*
For the next part of the farm, you are going to need some twigs. You normally don’t have to go very far to find some twigs but you might need to go to the local park and gather some up. Certainly worth thinking ahead. If you need to make them smaller, a pair of secateurs may be of some help.
6Make the fence posts
The fence posts are really easy to make. Simply take the twigs that you have just found in the garden and simply cut them into smaller twigs. It is worth cutting one and getting an idea of the size that you are going to need as much of this will depend on the depth of your compost.
Once you have your size, use it as a template to cut the rest.
7Making the fencing
This bit is quite fiddly and the children are probably going to require your help.
There are probably many ways of making the fence but we found it easier to tie a knot at one end and then use the twine to wrap around the rest of the fence posts. When you reach the other end, simply tie a knot and then cut off the excess. Its really quite effective!
8Adding the road and the barn
In our version, we have two fields, a pig area in the bottom right and a barn which we made out of some bark we found.
We’ve then added a road to the farm so that the tractor can get around and care for the animals and crops. For this, you can use either child’s play sand, or even sharp sand if you have it. We have used sharp sand as it has a real gritting feeling and looks nice and rustic! Once you have put the sand in, make it nice and compressed using something flat.
9Add some herbs
This part really is quite fun.
By adding some herbs to your garden, you are able to turn it into a great sensory experience for little ones. We took some cuttings and simply inserted them as crops into the farm. We have used; mint, lavender & rosemary. It really does look quite effective and again a great opportunity to go on a scavenger hunt around the garden to add any woody growth that you are able to find. Even some daises would be very effective.
Complete the farm with animals
We had great fun making the farm and we now enjoy at least 30 minutes worth of play a day. We also have the Melissa & Doug farmhouse which makes a great accompaniment to this real life farm .
Whilst you may also think of the farm as an outside toy if you are fortunate to have easy cleaning surfaces in your home, it can quite easily be used indoors as well.
Most importantly, have fun!
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