Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earth Day Activities: Terrariums

Have you subscribed to Mental Chew? Receive new posts via RSS or email (off to the right) starting today!

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I adore Kristina of Icing and Crumbs. She is the Pinterest mom. She is crafty, a great cook and she regularly takes her kids on amazing adventures. When I asked her to join up with me to do an Earth Day post, I was thrilled when she agreed. The topic, terrariums. I went on a Pinterest pinning frenzy, pinning every terrarium I could find. The next day, she had her post ready for me. My goodness this woman works quickly. I didn't even open it because I didn't want to change my plan based on what she created. So, you get a 2-for-one deal: Kristina's version and mine.

Terrarium Treasures by Kristina Hoy of Icing and Crumbs

“Sometimes the tiniest flowers smell the sweetest.”
(Emilie Barnes)

Gardens are magical places. And tiny gardens enclosed within a small glass structure seem even more so. With Earth Day approaching later this month, I wanted to find a project I could complete with my two young children, and creating our very own terrarium seemed perfect.

Terrariums are not only simple to make, but can become a beautiful feature in any room. They can also be customized to fit into any space – large cookie jars, fish bowls, bell-shaped jars, mason jars, old jam jars, and even light bulbs can all house these little landscapes.

We decided to make a sand terrarium, as these are not only simple to construct, but they are perfect for growing air plants, which need very little care.

Eyes full of excitement, my young, almost-five-year-old daughter scanned the pictures we had collected and announced she was making a butterfly garden. Our trip to the shop didn’t take long – arms piled with round, frilly-necked vases, pink and white sand and a number of colourful, silky butterflies, we were ready to start!

We did the following:
1. Each glass vase was wiped clean with paper towel.

2. Alternating layers of pink and white sand were poured into each. The jar was gently shaken to allow the sand to settle evenly.

3. Colourful glass stones were placed around the outside of the sand, taking care not to touch the sand with our hands (we wanted the sand to remain flat on top, and shaking after placing the stones resulted in them sinking into the sand).

4.  A small air plant was trimmed, lightly sprayed with water and placed into each.

5. Butterflies were attached to the outside rim of the jar.

These tiny terrariums can sit happily on a shelf inside. The air plant does not need direct sunlight, and just needs a light spray of water every now and then.

These also make great gifts or would be a good hands-on activity for kids at a garden-themed party.

by Val from Mental Chew

As I spent time looking through terrariums, I envisioned my son and I sitting side by side working on our delicate structure. About 5 minutes into this activity, the Lil Man asked if he could go play with his trains. "Sure."

I have come to the conclusion that it is ok to just have activities for me and I think this is one of them. It could have been the fact that I was terrified his little hands weren't aware of the delicate nature of the glass containers while he was throwing the rocks in or wanted to spill all of the sand in to the top of the container. There are certain things that I want just so. This was one of those. Perhaps the best answer would have been to have more than one container so he had his own. Yes, that usually is the best option and would be my suggestion for you. Have one for yourself to model what you could/should/would do and one for your child to explore with on their own.

Here is what we I did:
  1. We gathered our supplies: playground sand, white decorative sand, white decorative rocks, four varieties of succulents (look for varying textures and colors), top soil, moss, tweezers and 3 stones from the garden.
  2. We cleaned the container so it was fingerprint-free.
  3. We filled the bottom half of the container with alternating layers of rocks, sand and moss, ending with the sand. (I would love to say we ended up with perfect layers, but we didn't. I think the helpful hint here is make your layers thick.)
  4. I used the tweezers to carefully pull small sections of the succulents from their containers and place their roots into the sand.
  5. I sprinkled a very thin layer of top soil around the plants.
  6. I placed the 3 stones into open spots and then sprayed the entire terrarium with a spray bottle of water.
That was it and to tell you the truth, I wasn't impressed with my terrarium until the next day when I saw the plants perk up and it actually looked kind of cute!

Two very different outcomes, both representing new growth to acknowledge our awareness of our planet.

Here are some other fun Earth Day activities:

We will be doing the last two! What will YOU be doing this Earth Day?


  1. Love it! We definitely had fun making these (and although my vision was more like yours, my daughter is in love with her little terrariums:).
    Enjoy sitting and reading in the forest (I think we might have to do that too:),

  2. Aloha,
    I'm popping in from the UBP to visit and follow along (I'm following you on pinterest and would gladly follow you here too if I can figure it out-- I'm a bit slow if it isn't spelled out for me in all caps);) I'd love it if you'd visit and come "join the ride". The world is beautiful from atop this wave and it'd be even sweeter if you were on board.
    I have a teensy tinsy Hawaii earth day post I thought you might enjoy, here's the link:


  3. Val I love this!!! What a great idea not only for Earth day but for Mothers day as well! They came out great!!!

  4. Great ideas you have. I'll stop back after the UBP to go over your blog better. So glad to have met you!


Thank you for sharing your feedback, questions and comments. The back and forth is what it is all about! If you would like to leave a link to one of your posts, follow this format in your comment and it will be a hyperlink.