Why are toads so happy? They eat whatever bugs them!

Woodhouse toad

“It’s a great house, and the neighbors are nice. Hop on over for a visit!”

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Kid with pots

Kids are excited to help their animal friends – and each toad house is a proud work of art!

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Two tiled pots

Toad houses are beautiful and functional garden accessories.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Tiling the pot

Cradle your pot on a bag of macaroni for easy painting.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Placing the pot

Making a mosaic toad house requires few supplies, but the end result is worth it.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Painting pot

Kids like choosing where to put their toad house in the yard.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Despite their warts, native toads are yard-friendly. They’re mega bug-eaters, and your children will delight in watching these hopping critters make their way through your garden before bedtime. So welcome toads “home” by providing a safe place for them to rest and stay cool during the day – with a toad abode.

Making toad houses from terra-cotta pots can be easy or complicated. (Believe me, I learned this the hard way.) But here are my favorite kid-tested methods – and you won’t need to use a hammer or safety goggles (not even a Band-Aid®).

The Painted House

Basic Materials

  • 6- or 8-inch clay pot
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrush

Helpful Optional Materials

  • An unopened bag of rice, beans or macaroni

Method

Paint away!

The beauty in painting a clay pot is threefold: It’s cheap, it’s creative and it dries fast. I’ve had kids as young as 3 happily paint a pot for 20 minutes. The clay absorbs paint so quickly that it practically dries as it’s applied (literally in about a minute). And because the paint is opaque, additional colors and layers can be added almost immediately.

One tip that makes the painting easier is to rest the pot on a bag of rice, beans or macaroni. This cradles the pot at an angle, which is easier to work on than an upright surface. Keep turning the pot as kids finish painting each “side.” (Of course, this may leave little paint smears on your bag of beans, but it’s a small price for such great art.)

That’s it! By the time the kids’ hands are washed, the toad house is ready to be photographed and whisked off to a special spot in your yard.

The Tiled House

Basic Materials

  • 6- or 8-clay pot
  • Bag of mosaic tiles or glass beads
  • Mosaic tile glue
  • Cotton swabs or miniature spatula

Method

Glue it on!

Unless you’ve done mosaic work before, you’ll probably need to make a few purchases to do this method – but it’s still very inexpensive. (And yes, you can break up an old china plate and do mosaic the old-fashioned way – but that requires a hammer and possibly a Band-Aid or two).

Apply the glue to both the pot and the back of the tile or glass bead using a miniature spatula – the kind you use for makeup, not cooking. (Cotton swabs work in a pinch, but not as well.) Then just stick your decoration on the pot! Because this method requires more dexterity, I recommend this for slightly older kids (elementary and up). Sure, this is fun for kids, but even as an adult, I’ve had a great time designing these toad homes – and the end product looks quite professional.

Once your toad abodes are finished and dry, it’s time to think about location, location, location. No toads will want to move in if your clay pots are in a windy, sunny or open site. So choose a shady spot, and tuck the little houses into a corner, alongside the house or under a low-growing plant. Better yet, make sure your pots are fairly close to the outdoor faucet or a pond so the toads will have a source of moisture. Lay each container on its side and add a layer of dirt (not wood mulch) to the bottom. The toad will appreciate this “carpet,” as opposed to sitting on a hard clay surface.

The fact is, more and more children are unaware of the joys of encountering wildlife in today’s sterile environment, so make your kids and grandchildren the exception! What could be more fun than inviting these “wild” – and beneficial – animals to live in your yard? So enjoy those squeals of excitement as they get a peek at a toad moving into its homemade abode.