Garden Activities for Kids :: Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars

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Sharon Lovejoy on Making Childhood Magical Sharon Lovejoy is the children’s gardening guru we all know and love from her many books, including Sunflower Houses and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots.

Join me in learning more about her latest book, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks which is aimed at grandmas, but is perfectly wonderful for parents as well.

It includes lots of garden activities for kids, nature crafts, recipes, and more—all written in a way that just seems to make childhood magical.

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a signed and inscribed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars at the end of this interview.***

JEAN: I love the warmth and caring that shines throughout, love all the ideas, love your illustrations and the photos of your grandchildren. Every grandmother (and mother) should read this!

Did you say that you had to redo all of the illustrations? Incredible! What a job that must have been!


SHARON:  Well, it ended up that the custodian [at the publishers] threw away 238 of them. The 13 pound box of originals went to the crusher and ended up in the dump. I stayed in bed and mourned them for a few days and then got up and thought, “If I don’t start over, I’ll never finish this book.” So it was up to ME to get going, and I finally did.


JEAN: I understand that your own grandmothers played an important role in your life as a child. What do you think they would say about your new book? 

SHARON:  I think they would be very happy to see many of their traditions and projects carried on with their great, great grandchildren. Simple things that are shared and carried on like a never ending chain.


JEAN:  What made you write a book focused on grandparents and grandchildren? 

SHARON:  I didn’t have much interaction with my parents and felt that I could better write for grandparents and grandchildren. When I raised my son Noah (I was a single mom for a long time), I was so busy working and scrabbling along I didn’t get to do lots of these things with him. But we did garden, have nature experiences, bake bread and cookies and other things, and we did art projects, but not to the extent of what I do with my grandchildren now.


JEAN: What would you say is the best thing a grandma can do to connect with her grandkids?


Go on walks, explore the five senses, cook up some simple recipes, LOVE their art creations and give them a place of honor. Just do simple things and they are memorable to children. 

You should hear my grandchildren reminiscing about our traditions. It shows me that they’re firmly planted in their minds and in their souls. It reinforces the value of time spent together.

We make a point of taking them on small trips to art galleries and festivals and asking them what they like, why they like it, and if they would do something similar. We value their answers, and they love to be questioned.


JEAN: I just love the magic and sense of wonder that comes through in your books! How is it that you still have access to that? And why do you think it’s important for children to experience magic and wonder?

SHARON:  Childhood is the time to root wonder firmly. If it hadn’t been for my Grandmother Lovejoy, well, I can’t imagine where I would be today.

I love this quote by D. H. Lawrence:

“There is a sixth sense, the natural religious sense, the sense of wonder.”

I believe that if you have and nurture a sense of wonder, every day will be a magical adventure filled with simple things that become meaningful and precious.


We all need sweet simplicity. We all need to be in touch with what is important: family, friends, beliefs, nature, love of all sorts, but NOT what we can purchase. That is not the important thing in life.

JEAN: Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is full of wonderful activities, from nature memory cards to potato faces. I’ve already marked so many that I want to do with Maia! What are your favorite activities in the book?

SHARON:  Oh my gosh Jean, that is a tough question because I love so many of them. 

I love all the nature experiences ESPECIALLY the Andy Goldsworthy outdoor ephemeral art projects. When I was an artist-in-residence at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan, we provided sticks, stones, cones, leaves, pieces of plants, etc., and a broad swath of ground for children’s masterpieces, and believe me, they did create masterpieces. 

The children became totally absorbed by their creations, and they turned out beautifully.

Fav bird words

I also love learning to really listen to the “Bird Words” with children. I just read a book that explained that there are “sonic niches” and “soundscapes” in nature. Naturalist Bernie Krause, who records animal sounds, said that, “Birds, mammals, and amphibians in healthy habitats occupy sonic niches that allow each creature to express its voice without competition from others.”

I think it would be great to go outdoors with a child both day and night and record the sounds around them. 

I loved making the leaf stained glass windows. They are really exquisite and children adore them. Also, if you noticed the leaf boy and girl on page 193, that was a fun project and so easy to do with the proper small scissors. I tried doing the people with child-safe scissors, but they’re not exact enough. You need real adult ones for the cutting.


Another project I loved was doing “Learning from Leftovers” or gardens from garbage.

What an eye-opener to children to see how much life is contained in a piece of leftover vegetable, or some shriveled beans from the cupboard. Especially wonderful was the project of growing peanuts in moist white yarn.

JEAN: Sometimes it’s hard for us mamas to distance ourselves from the day-to-day routine. Grandmas have a little more distance and leeway, as well as years of experience under the belt. If you could share just one or two tips with us parents in the trenches, what would they be?

SHARON:  Oh how well I remember being a parent in the trenches. I think I would encourage you to think twice before saying too many NOs. Also, step back and watch the play-work your child does and then praise, praise, praise. Even the most reluctant child blossoms with praise. 

Take time for yourself and your child and step outside, both day and night, and revel in the glories aroundyou. Just a five minute break together outdoors can help restore your cabin fever and encroaching insanity.

But most of all, enjoy every second. My Noah is a grown up now, and I think back fondly on his “cities” on our living room rug, the cities I tripped over and stepped on, and griped about. I wish I could re live those days, and in some ways, I guess I do now with my grandchildren. I’m much easier going now and feel much more childlike myself. And it feels GOOD!


JEAN:  Thank you, Sharon! What a wonderful gift you are giving families around the world through your books and your work!

ToadCottagesReaders, friends — Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is an excellent book that I urge you to seek out. As I said above, it includes lots of garden activities for kids, nature crafts, recipes, and more. Lots of ideas to make childhood magical.

Please spread the word and pass on this interview to as many grandmas as you can! Mamas, too.

And remember than you can follow Sharon on her blog as well.


Readers who leave a comment by Thursday, February 18th at 8am EST will be entered into a random drawing for a signed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting
Stars with a personal inscription of your choice. Giveaway now closed.

This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. says

    I’m determined to not let gift-giving occasions catch me off guard this year; I’d love to win a copy of this to give my MIL for Mother’s Day. The approach is right up her alley, and I think she’d love it as much as I do!

  2. Pomme says

    I love Sharon’s books. I’ve been reading Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots and I am so excited for spring to arrive! I would so… love to have her new book as well. Sharon is an inspiration and her books are magical!

  3. alicia says

    I’m so thankful for the thoughtful people in the world who come up with great activities we can share with our kids. Looking forward to reading this book.

  4. Solstice Mama says

    Wow! This book looks lovely. My mom is this kind of grandmother to my girls and we are so lucky to have her. I would love to give a copy of this to her.

  5. says

    You are amazing. Thanks for the great interview, which I hope reaches many wonderful readers.
    Oh, and don’t bother to enter me in the drawing since I seem to have quite a few copies of this book.
    Love and thanks,
    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  6. says

    Thanks so much for this interview. I love Sharon’s other books and can’t wait to see this one.
    And I love this blog, it is such an inspiration for me to keep crafting with my little ones!

  7. Aly says

    I’ve really enjoyed Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. Would love to get my hands on this one too. Great interview, as well!

  8. Leslie says

    I have really enjoyed her books for myself and for planning with my children! Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to get a signed book!!

  9. Katie D says

    The book sounds lovely! I’m looking forward to reading it and using it with my two year old Charlie.

  10. Tamrah T. says

    She really sounds like such a wonderful lady. I really enjoyed the interview and admire the process she’s gone through to get her first book written…I’m just happy to know she pressed on! Look how far she has come :)

  11. says

    Love her books and this interview,especially the reminder to enjoy this time with my children and that fabulous quote about wonder. Look forward to checking out this newest book and eager to send copies to my mom and my mother-in-law.

  12. Danzel Bond says

    What a lovely thing to read to read this morning. This book looks absolutely wonderful. I think I’m going to have to get it, whether I win it or not!

  13. Jennifer Heap says

    I’d love a copy to send to my Mom. She runs “camp Grandma” at least twice a year. All of her Grandchildren come to sleep in sleeping bags on her living room floor and to spend a wonderful time making memories with someone who doesn’t have to worry about work, healthy eating (LOL), or “rules”.

  14. Kelly says

    I’m a working mum and my family’s sole provider. Your blog is an inspiring source of after-work activities for me and my two boys (2-1/2 and 4-stb-5). My mom, “Gram,” who lives nearby and spends many hours with her grandsons would enjoy Sharon Lovejoy’s book with all three of her grandchildren! I will also look for Roots, Shoots, Buckets, & Boots.

  15. allyson pollard says

    Can not wait to get a copy for myself and a copy for Grandma. Thank you for a wonderful interview.

  16. Syl says

    What a wonderful interview! I’ve never read any of her books, but they are definitely on my library list now! Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Kate says

    Can’t decide whether I would want to keep this book, give it to my Mom, or give it to my mother-in-law. Hmmm… maybe I need three copies!!!!!

  18. Rhiann says

    I’d love, love, love to own a copy of this book!!
    Also, I’m a new reader to your blog and completely LOVING it!!!

  19. chandra says

    I’m not a grandma, but would love to check out this book. Of course, I would then share it with my MIL!

  20. Jesse says

    I like the idea of learning more about the garbage to garden concept!
    What a neat thing to introduce to children, and a great way to minimize waste.

  21. Sandi says

    I can’t wait to get this book. Thank you for the chance to win a free copy. Somehow, I am sure that Shay’s grandma and Shays mama (me!) will end up with copies. Love Sharon’s other books. Thank you for this lovely interview.

  22. says

    What a wonderful interview. Thanks so much. I have been a fan of hers forever, and as a gammy of 3 1/2 grandbabies, I look forward to reading it.

  23. Amy says

    Well, I’m planning to get a copy for both my mother and MIL for Mother’s Day this year, either way…
    Thanks for the interview, Jean!

  24. says

    I’m so excited about this book. I’m always checking out her others from the local library and this one looks like it will be just as great :)

  25. Wanda says

    I can’t wait to get a copy of this book. I have the book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots” and love it. My girls and I have made many things from the book and we are very excited to see what’s coming in your new book.

  26. Martha Bernhard says

    I love the book, so beautiful.. I am looking forward to use it with my group of toddlers in our herbal garden.
    Many thanks for the amazing and interesting interview.
    Martha Bernhard

  27. Jenn says

    My family and I recently purchased our first house with plans for all kinds of things in the garden! This book would be great for my little girls and I (and their Nana!)

  28. brenda says

    what a wonderful reminder to grandparents (and parents) to stop and enjoy each other and our world thats full of discoveries. Thanks for getting it down on paper!!

  29. Ashley says

    I’m a Preschool teacher for an outdoor classroom preschool and would love a chance to sift through all her activities!

  30. Elizabeth says

    We have Sunflower Houses and Hollyhock Days. I would love a chance to have this book also. I have a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old who are wishing to start their own gardens this spring!

  31. Mary says

    This book sounds like it will have many unique projects to share with my preschool class. I’d love a copy!

  32. Monique says

    What an awesome grandmother!! Looking forward to checking out the book. Thanks, Jean, your blog rocks as always!

  33. says

    I loved the sunflower house we made roughly following her example in Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots, it would be fun to see what else she has in store in this book. Thanks to both of you, Jean and Sharon, for the interview.

  34. Heather says

    Thank you for the chance to win this book. I have always maintained that grandparents are such a wonderful blessing to their grandkids. I miss my grandma soooooooo much!!!

  35. Mea says

    Jean, thank you for introducing us to Sharon, and her new book. Please count me in for a chance at this generous giveaway! Thanks, too, for providing a forum for parents in search of doable, inspiring art projects. I check in with you (your site) several times each week for new ideas to share with my 4-year old daughter. Kudos to you!

  36. says

    I am so inspired by her story of rebound after the tragic loss of her illustrations, and by her whole world view. Thank you for the wonderful interview, and thank you for the chance to win a copy!

  37. Michele M says

    I checked out Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots from the library based on your last recommendation and LOVE IT! I would love to see what ideas she presents in this book as well…
    Thanks for the interview!

  38. Bonnie says

    I love Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots! Looking forward to giving this one to my mom to share with my girls.

  39. Jodi says

    I love the idea of this book and it’s so great to get in touch with the authors. Thanks for introducing us to it and even if I don’t win I am going to run out and buy it!

  40. says

    This would be the perfect Mothers’ Day present for my mother. She loves to be outside with her grandkids and would adore this book!

  41. Trina-Lea Briggs says

    Oh my, this book sounds wonderful. Being the very proud grandma(Lola)of two beautiful grand-babies I would so love to win a copy. Thank you.

  42. Jennifer says

    Thank you for introducing me to Sharon Lovejoy. I’m getting myself a copy of one of her books to inspire me with for the spring!

  43. toasted says

    I just got Roots. Boots, Buckets and Shoots from the library after you mentioned it recently. And then serendipitously, a friend of a friend is staying with us who runs a community garden. I showed it to him and he loves it too. And, after I complained that I want to garden more but don’t know what I’m doing, he pointed out that I could do some of the projects in the book and learn WITH the kids. I know it’s kind of obvious, but sometimes you just need a little nudge for whatever reason.

  44. Prerna says

    thanks for the interview, would love to get a copy for my Mom as she is always asking around for ideas…..

  45. rebecca says

    I requested this book from the library as soon as you mentioned it on your blog. I’ve been waiting very impatiently and will be very reluctant when I have to return it. I would love to own my own copy. I have loved the Lovejoy books for years. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Thank you.

  46. Allison says

    Wonderful interview! This would be an amazing gift for my son and his grandmother who used to have a deep love of gardening. Maybe it’ll bring that spark back into her life and create one anew for him!!

  47. Tracy says

    What an incredible book. Grandparents are amazing people…full of fun and wisdom.
    I would love a chance to win such an amazing giveaway.

  48. says

    This is such a wonderful interview! What an amazing woman. I only wish I lived closer so our children could meet her in person. I am currently in posession of two of her other books and would LOVE this one!
    Thank you (to both of you) for this opportunity!

  49. Lisa says

    What a lovely interview. I’ve been coveting Roots, Shoots for awhile, now I have another to wish for.

  50. Lauren says

    Great interview! I’m forwarding it to my Mom. And if I don’t win the book, I’ll buy it for sure!

  51. says

    My mom taught me everything she knows about nature and gardening. It has helped me with my two sons in our love of Nature. It would be wonderful to give her something back in return for all her years of being the best mom and the best grandmother.
    I would love to win this book for my Mom.