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August 2005

We are fortunate that our out-of-town grandchildren get to spend time with us each summer, and when they visit, our in-town grandchildren come over, too. It is always such fun for us to have them all here.

Laura is barely six, so she still spends only one week. We are waiting until next year to see if she's able to handle two weeks away from mom and dad, although frankly I believe she could have handled it easily this year (at least she felt she could!).

When we drove to Lubbock to pick her up, her mother Bonnie said, "Oh, I have something for you that we figured you could use for a project sometime." And she handed me a sandwich baggie filled with colorful little flocked teddy bears.

Sure enough, when Jenna came over to spend two nights while Laura was here, they decided they wanted to do a project with those teddies. Jenna is 9, but they get along beautifully and are quite imaginative in their play together.

I asked them, "Do you want to do something with furniture, or something that is out of doors?"
"Out of doors!" they said in unison.
"So," I asked, "What shall we do with these teddies in an out of doors setting?"
"They can be playing!"
"At a playground!"
And that's how our Teddy Bear Playground began.

DAY ONE

The girls took turns choosing which teddies they wanted. Then I looked through my stash to find little toys in a suitable scale. The toy trucks were originally attached to bobby pins; the tennis rackets were plastic buttons; I just cut off the little plastic loop on back. (And by the way, those cut off loops make great cup or teapot handles!) Others were tiny charms; some I'm not sure where I got them.

They selected items for each of the teddy bears to be playing with.

When I looked through my stash for containers, I came across these photo boxes, which have a place on the lid for a picture. This seemed ideal; we could have the teddy bears playing inside the box, protected from dust, and with a special photograph on top to remind them of their time together.


Sure, this will work. (That's a packet of dessicant which came in the box to keep it from getting musty, I suppose. Did you know the contents of that little packet look like tiny glass marbles?)

And by golly, this piece that lifts out will serve as a perfect pattern to make the playground base.

I suggested that the girls get their teddies finished first, so they started gluing the various toys in place; some held in the little paws, some propped against their feet, etc.

Here Laura checks to see if this pink teddy likes its hat.

Jenna's about finished with hers at this point; just needs to glue that little red ball into the mitt.

They wanted to use these tiny butterflies, but I decided to cut them out. It was a bit tedious even for me.

I used markers to color the white edges that showed after cutting. They added a dot of glue where they wanted the butterly to light, then I used tweezers to set it in place.

Here are their teddies, set aside to dry. Oops, that hat on the left is slipping, slipping ....

These little pull toys needed cords. It was hard for the girls to do this, so I did it. The hole was too big for a knot to hold the cord in place, but a tiny seed bead glued inside it closed the gap somewhat. Buttonhole twist was then run through the hole from the top and glued in place on the bottom and left to dry. Later I cut away the excess cord and the bead handle was glued on the end.

I gave the girls these little boxes to hold the teddies and their toys while we cleared the table for the next step, which was going to require more space. This was also a good time to stop for lunch and a break.

After lunch, I helped the girls cover the boxes' lids with plastic wrap to protect from paint. Then they used foam brushes to paint the inside walls blue to suggest sky.

Here Jenna adds a second coat where needed.

Time for a brief rest to let the sky dry and have some ice cream.

While they took their break, I used a serrated knife to begin cutting florist foam to make the playground.

A bit of piecing was required to make the bases fit the pattern (see the red peeking from under the foam?). The two were fitted together with toothpicks.

It was necessary to shave off certain areas so that the lid would close easily over all the teddies. (I always save all the little bits for other uses at another time.)

After the ice cream break, the blue skies were dry, so it was time for clouds. I showed them how to take a small piece of damp paper towel, make a little pouf and dip it lightly into white paint, dab most of it off on another piece of towel, and then pat on the clouds. They remembered doing this when we did the Rabbit Gardens in the wheelbarrows.

Even though most of this won't show, it was necessary to complete the illusion that the playground was out of doors.

They were satisfied with their clouds, so the boxes were set aside once more to dry while they worked on the playground bases.

The tallest teddies were the ones holding the balloons, so the girls dug the foam down deep enough that the lids would close.

It was time to place all the teddies and decide where the grass would go and where, if any, would be plain dirt or a path. Boy, that's a lot of little teddies on that small playground!

They used toothpicks to draw their path in the soft foam, and marked a small area for a garden (one teddy in each box is planting seeds). Then they painted the entire base with a mixture of brown paint and tacky glue.

Next they began sprinkling grass in the other areas. The mixture in the cup is ordinary sand, coffee grounds and bits of model railroad foam in various shades of green.

Here Jenna has sprinkled a sand mixture on her path and is patting some tiny bits in place in her garden area.

Laura's playground is on the left; Jenna's on the right. They are put aside to dry overnight because we are all tired and ready to quit for the day.

What a mess!

All the leftover bits of sand, coffee grounds and model railroad foam were dumped together into one container to be used as ground cover in another project. Then we cleaned up our work area.

They went on to play Monopoly and other games; I collapsed.

DAY TWO

They began gluing their teddies in place.

This one is playing with a toy truck.

I think Jenna may have said these two were arguing about whose turn it was to play with the block pull toy. Oh, notice the butterfly on the pink one's ear?

So far, so good, Jenna says.

Here's one fellow returning from a tennis match.

And here's another tennis player.

This is one of the gardener teddies with his flower pot. He may have been making mud pies with that pot, too.

Although it's a bit hard to see, this gray teddy's ball is on top of his glove. He got tired walking on the path from the ball field, Jenna says.

Here Whitey the balloon bear watches Greta the gardener with her packet of corn seeds.

This box is really filling up!

Here's another Whitey having a conversation with a squirrel.

"I see some brown paint where it's not supposed to be, Nana, so I better paint it over with the blue," Laura says.

Here Laura carefully paints the box edge to match.

And Jenna's tidying up the edges of her box, too.

I had taken their pictures together and singly soon after I knew we would use those boxes.

I have tried to remember to date our projects, so included that information with the photo.

Here's the way I designed the photo to go atop each box. The thin red border complemented the red of the box and gave a more finished look.

I had a difficult time getting Jenna's photo inside the opening, however, as I had printed their pictures out on heavyweight photo paper and it was too thick. I was still trying to get it straight when Jenna's mother arrived to take her home.

Although I wasn't able to get a photo of Jenna holding her box before she had to go, I reprinted Laura's picture on lighterweight paper and it went in more easily, although if I had been smart I would cut off some of it so it would be centered better. Oh well; next time I will know.

Here is Laura holding her Teddy Bear Playground box just before she left to go home to Lubbock.

"Mom will like it that we used the teddies she gave us," she told me.

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