Your Guide to Building Fairy Houses
Spring is here! The birds are singing. The frogs are peeping. The crocuses and forsythia are blooming away. It’s a time of rebirth and hope (especially this year). It is also a great time to search for fairies with your kids. Maybe you’re a believer in the Magical Folk, maybe you’re not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that looking for fairies is a wonderful way to spark your child’s imagination and get them observing and interacting with nature. It’s also a great way to get kids outside for hours of independent, creative play.
Fairies to look for
One of the coolest things about fairies is there are so many different kinds! Did you know that humans all around the world believe in fairies? Most fairies bring good fortune, so humans have tons of traditions for finding them, enticing them and making them happy. Fairies from all around the world could be hanging out in your backyard. They are magic, after all! Here are some of my favorite fairies to search for:
❖ Kobito—These Japanese fairies live in small holes in the ground and are crazy for all kinds of human food.
❖ Kappa—Take care if you meet this water-dwelling imp. It looks like a cross between a frog and a turtle, but its head is hollow and filled with water it can pour out, flooding rivers or streams. In Tokyo, people used to write the names of family members on cucumbers, Kappa’s favorite food, and toss them into rivers for protection. Today a cucumber-filled sushi roll is called kappamaki.
❖ Djinn—These wish-granting Arabian fairies can be found in caves or wells. If you are spot one, be ready for it to shapeshift into a cat, dog or bird.
❖ Leprechaun—You’ll have more luck spotting this Irish elf if you are holding a four-leaf clover. Follow one and it might lead you to its treasure!
❖ Pixies—Another Irish fairy that likes to dance on your fireplace hearth while you’re sleeping. To make it more inviting, clean the hearth and decorate it with flowers. Leave a bowl of water which the Pixies can use to wash their babies.
❖ Menehune—These Hawaiian fairies live inside volcanoes, but often hide inside hollow logs. You can lure them out with their favorite foods—bananas and fish.
❖ Inktomi—This North America trickster spirit can disguise itself as a spider and travels around on the backs of coyotes and wolves.
Aires—Found mostly in Mexico, these water sprites live at the bottom of rivers, pools and waterfalls. If you see ripples across calm water, that’s a sign of Aires below.
Ekkekko—The popular Bolivian spirit of abundance even has his own holiday. During the last week of January, Bolivians decorate their Ekkekko statues with miniatures of things they are hoping to receive that year—new shoes, money, even a car!
Duendes—These forest guardians in Central and South American are invisible to adults, but kids can often see them. If you touch one, it can make you invisible too! They can disguise themselves as anything—a shadow, spider, even a stick. One of their favorites is to transform into a cat and sneak into your house for a nap.
❖ Asamanukpai—If you find a piece of quartz with a hole through it, it could be a sign of these African fairies. They dance on the stone with their backward-pointing feet. Leave them clean water for a bath and they might grant you a wish.
Huldufolk—There are even fairies in the frozen north. The people of Iceland are known for diverting roads and other building projects to avoid harming the invisible settlements of the Huldufolk and bringing bad luck.
Fairies love nature in general, but they are especially drawn to flowers. Sometimes flowers are useful to fairies, but sometimes they just like curling up inside a blossom to sleep the day away. Whether in your backyard or a window box, here are ideas for planting a fairy-friendly garden:
- Bluebell—some fairies are summoned by the ringing of bluebells.
- Daisy—wearing a daisy chain will protect you from fairy tricks.
- Foxglove—fairies use these flowers to make hats and gloves. Look closely and you will see tiny spots on the blossoms—fairy fingerprints!
- Jasmine—this sweet-scented flower attracts fairies from all around the world.
- Marigold—to see invisible fairies, pick a marigold, swirl it in some water and dab a few droplets on your eyelids.
- Pansy—many fairies use this flower to make love potions.
- Primrose—put some on your porch to let fairies know they’re welcome in your home.
- Pussywillow—the soft, silky pods make perfect fairy pillows.
- Rocks—fairies are attracted to all kinds of shiny stones like agate, quartz, or crystal. Use them to decorate your garden and give the little ones a place to sit.
- Shiny things—fairies love to look at their reflection, so include shiny things like a mirror or a dish of water in your garden design.
Just like you might build a birdhouse to attract birds to your yard, the best way to attract fairies is to make them feel welcome by creating a nice space for them to live. Here are some tips for building a fabulous house fit for a fairy.
- Choose a spot in nature. While your child may be tempted to build a tiny fairy house in their bedroom, fairies definitely prefer living outside. They are secretive creatures (which is why you don’t see them all the time), so pick a spot that’s a bit hidden, especially from humans. At the base of a tree, in the branches of a dense shrub, inside your bean tripod.
- Someplace hidden from sight.
- Use natural building materials. Fairies are creatures of nature. They don’t want to live in a house made out of man-made materials like plastic. Build your fairy house out of the natural materials you can find in your backyard or a nearby park, like:
- Bark—Slabs of bark are perfect for making the floor, walls and roof.
Sticks—you can use sticks to build walls, then cover them with leaves or moss. Sticks are also good for building fairy furniture like a table or chairs.
- Pinecones—the perfect size for fairy chairs and couches.
- Acorns—acorn caps make great fairy plates or cups.
- Rocks—use rocks to make a walkway up to the fairy house. A flat rock could also be a table top or bed.
Shells—fill a big shell with water to create a fairy bathtub. A small shell can be a sink or bowl.
- Moss—moss works for everything fairy-related. It can be used to create a soft carpet, luxurious bedding, or even rain-proof roofing.
Don’t forget to decorate.
- Use flowers, shiny stones, or colored glass to add some zhoosh to your cozy creation.
- Leave a note. Once you’re all finished building your fairy house, write a note and leave it for your guests. Tell them you built the house for them and you hope they like it and will stay. With luck they’ll write back. Look carefully for tiny fairy notes they might leave for you. Definitely leave the occasional fairy treat, but don’t pester them to grant your wishes. Fairies are not Santa Claus.
In most cultures, fairies are the guardians of nature. They protect waterfalls, whole forests or a single tree. If kids want to find fairies, they have to respect and care for nature, too. Looking for fairies gets kids outside, crawling around on their hands and knees, noticing the dew on the grass, the bee on the blossoms, and the nearly invisible slug trail looping across the dirt. Whether they find fairies or not, they will be out in nature, having adventures and connecting with the more-than-human world. Just like we do at Trackers.
To learn more about fairies around the world and how to find them, check out this picture book I wrote Finding Fairies, for kids and fairy-lovers of all ages.