This learning activity has been created by Professor Lorna Dawson & Fiona McDonald as part of 'Soil, Science, Society and Sustainability', our soil-based learning resources developed with the James Hutton Institute, SRUC, and SEFARI.


This is an activity for children of any age to think about, plan, design and build a farm landscape. Children will make a miniature version of a farm landscape using natural and found objects such as old toys, sticks and stones. Seeds can also be sown and if patience allows allowed to grow and to be included as part of the growing and changing landscape.

It will take about 30 minutes to draw out and gather all the materials together and about one hour to build (plus a few days waiting time in between if you have sown seeds) and as long time as you wish to play with it, watch it change and look after it.

This activity can be done both indoors and outdoors! If indoors, Please put down an old newspaper underneath and tidy up afterwards…

I would encourage you to think about different types of farming that you can find, from upland extensive sheep grazing on the hills where your lamb comes from, through mixed livestock farms where your beef comes from, to intensive arable farms in the lowlands where you get your vegetables from.

The main objective is to allow your ideas to develop and let your imagination create a farmland, and in doing so, think and learn about farming and the natural environment around us. Once it is created, you can imagine and test activities, such as cutting the grass (e.g. growing cress) and making sileage (e.g. squashing the cut grass). 


  • A paper and pens to plan the design of your landscape.
  • A shallow dish or tray to keep your landscape in one place.
  • Stones and pebbles for drainage into the base of the tray.
  • Soil and or potting compost to plant some seeds into to see the growing landscape.
  • Seeds (cress is good as it grows quickly).
  • Plants you can get from a garden centre or better still grow yourself, or take cuttings from your border (with an adults permission of course)!
  • Pebbles (painted blue to represent a river running through your landscape).
  • Gravel for paths.
  • Mirror or metal tin to represent a pond or loch.
  • Lollipop sticks, modelling clay, moss, pine cones, twigs etc.
  • Twigs to form fences and sheds.
  • Toy animals to live in your landscape.
  • Miniature people to fit in with the landscape scenario you have created.
  • Toy tractors and harrows to work the land.
  • And much more….let your imagination grow.

The landscape could be linked to a book the children are reading, for example. Let the characters move across the landscape; let a mini rainstorm fall; see the effect down-stream.#

Step by Step Guide

1. Design on a piece of paper how you want your landscape to look.

2. Lay out your materials and start with some pebbles in the foot of the container.

3. Fill the container with compost and or soil; level off with the side to create an even surface.

4. Following the paper sketch plan, add in the hard structures such as paths, rivers, mirror lid for pond, twig fence and bridge.

5. Place plant material such as carrot, parsnip and celery tops in a lid full of water to sprout into trees in a few days. You can also use small plants or rooted cuttings.

6. Add natural materials such as twigs, berries, nuts and pine cones to the landscape.

7. Sow seeds which grow quickly such as cress over patches where you want to create a grass effect. Place a layer of sieved compost over the seeds and sprinkle with water. You can put your seeds and seedlings in a plastic poly-tunnel to help them grow too.

8. Leave for a few days for the seedlings to grow.

9. Add in the cuttings of broccoli and cauliflower florets, herbs, flowers and shrubs to create a nice tree effect and you can also use the tractor and trailer to collect the broccoli from the fields to take to the farm shops.

10. Add in any figures and vehicles which link to your landscape theme.

11. And most of all, enjoy your farm landscape. Then mix it up and start again: perhaps with a farm in a different area or maybe an upland sheep farm this time? Cotton wool and matchsticks may be useful.