Friday, May 10, 2013

Garden Totems

Saw these amazing garden totems on Pinterest, that I loved! Unfortunately, the link takes you to a Tumbler account that makes it nearly impossible to find the photo again, and there is no source information. 

Although the pin comment says "plastic and metal lids, the original looks to me to be made out of cut wood pieces. There are too many different shapes, they fit together too well, and the colors are the same for very different shapes and sizes of layers, leading me to believe they were painted, not found. If you are making a permanent sculpture, that may be an option if your woodworking capabilities are up to it.

For us, though, cheap and easy is how we fly. I think this one came out VERY similar in overall idea.

I've been having my clients, family and friends collect lids for me for almost a year. Not for this project, but for something else entirely. Now I need a few hundred more for several projects. 


Block of wood to drill atop
3/8 inch spade bit
Adjustable pliers large enough to hold caps
5/16 inch diameter 4 foot long zinc coated steel rod

I had everything else, and purchased the rod at Home Depot

While using my Dad's drill press would have been NICE, it's buried somewhere in one of their outbuildings. Not wanting to pay $1400 for one, I thought this would work JUST FINE. And it did.

Many of the lids have a center point that is apparent due to the manufacturing process. Those that didn't, I just guessed. The spade bit has a sharp point, so it's easy to get it set in the plastic. I found that going slower was better. It left a cleaner edge. Going too fast caused the plastic to tear up and not cut off cleanly. For those I took a utility knife and cleaned the edges up.

When done, I had a basket full of items and some plastic confetti to clean up. It took less than half an hour to do all these. That may be stretching it pretty far. We were hanging outside and I had other things going on and didn't time it. Enough to say it didn't take long at all.

With the rod being 1/16" smaller than the holes, the children are capable of easily taking the items on and off the rod. The rod is high enough not to take an eye out, but low enough that the 3 year olds can all reach well enough to get the items on and off.

We used found lids, but I also added in:

  • Mustard bottle
  • Ball pit balls
  • Mega blocks
  • Bottle nipple caps
  • Plastic cups and plates 
  • Used bubble bottle
I'm now on the look out for any type of lid or container with an interesting shape or color. We have enough to do another one, and I plan on having 3 in the garden once the garden is set up properly. Since this is an interactive children's garden, they can freely take the totems apart and put them back together in an endless variety of compositions. 

My client, Jen, who has been my secondary source of lids and is amazingly creative and smart, was the one who mentioned leaving some of the drink lids un-drilled and using the straw holes instead so that they would sit off-set. We did that. They fit on the rod perfectly. The children mentioned that it looks like a flower where we did those. It adds a great additional dimension to the totem.

The children LOVE this activity. Of course, it's new, but since it will end up different every single time they play with it, I think it will end up being a great addition to our outdoor play space. They like taking them off just as much as putting them on.

  • Fine motor
  • Gross motor
  • Artistic expression
  • Geometry
  • Spatial relations
  • Symmetry
 Tags: outdoor, play, playground, garden, preschool, pre-k, child, care, daycare, gardening, art, craft, totem, plastic, lid, lids, sculpture, artistic, create, fine motor, skills, child, children,

1 comment:

  1. Plastic lids can come in all sizes, shapes, colors, etc.....I collect them for my recycle art. I LOVE what you have done with the kiddies! I have a nearly two year old granddughter that I can make these with for our garden! Totally doing this! SO HAPPY I FOUND YOU!!!!