Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tepee Fun

I picked up a really fun book for free from another homeschooling mom a couple of years ago called, "The Amazing Outdoor Activity Book" by Angela Wilkes. I believe it is currently out of print, but there are used copies available at amazon. I would also expect your local library would carry a copy.

The Amazing Outdoor Activity Book includes color photos and step-by-step directions for projects involving all kinds of outdoor fun such as building bird houses, toy boats, kites, corn dolls, nature journaling with pressed flowers, map making, animal tracking, preparing a picnic for your outdoor adventures, along with many other activities.

Since we live in Southern California, we have an abundance of black widow spiders all over our yard so it makes things a bit challenging with little ones exploring in heavily covered areas. I would LOVE to make a tepee with bean sprouts or of flowers and would highly recommend this for those without widows in residence, but in our case, I know who would move in and we can't risk a widow bite, so the next best option is to make something that we can easily collapse at the end of the day and bring inside to set up another day.

And this is where a tepee comes into play!

Here's what you need:

- paint, brushes and a cup of water to rinse your brush
- an old sheet (or fabric) about 5 ft by 16 ft
- 5 or 6 large bamboo poles (we used 5, but they recommend 6 preferably 6.5 feet tall)
- 4 or 5 shorter bamboo poles (we used 4, but they recommend 5 preferably 2 feet in length) You should be able to find bamboo poles in the outdoor section of any hardware store
- string with which to bind the poles
- a couple of rubber bands

We did this over the course of two days. I should have gone to the fabric store to purchase the exact size we needed, but we're on a budget here so I used an old twin sheet that we weren't using (it was too small, as you'll see, but we still had fun!).

We got out some old paints from the girls toddler days and set to work, using them up.

Anything goes here, so you can see that the artists were inspired to paint some jack-o-lanterns and spirals, flowers and "duck feet".

This was their finished product. We let it dry in the sun!

Day 2 of the project consisted of the assembly...

First, I wound the rubber bands around the top of the long poles and opened it up on the ground. It was literally that easy!

Our first explorer wanted to play inside the structure before we finished set up...

She was quickly joined by her twin...

And they shared some tender moments :)

After, we trimmed the shorter bamboo poles and attached them with string to the lower sections of the larger poles. We also attached one last one on the entrance about 2-3 feet down from the rubber bands to serve as the door frame of the tepee.

Then we tried out our sheet...a bit too small...

So I found a huge old king size blanket that had holes in it and put it on the frame to provide more coverage until we can fix our sheet issue. (My plan is to use another twin size sheet we have and cut/sew it to fit after the girls decorate it)...but in case that takes me some time (I don't own a sewing machine), I wanted to post this for those interested in creating this for summer fun.

We do have grass allergies so we had to lay down our picnic blanket from the girls auntie. And we were ALL SMILES :)

Thanks for reading and have fun making your own tepees! This would be great for those studying Native American history. I'd love to add a sageing ceremony and maybe do a rain dance, which we will desperately need this summer!

Here is a wonderful link to some Native American Indian dance, art, ceremonies and traditions, along with this beautiful poem:

I have "seen the Red Man dancing
To sustain the World Throb penned
Alive between his ribs,
Not like a ballerina's, in her toes,
But next to where his life is,
Heart, breath, and bowels of him; moved
With the desire to make the world work well with God."

~Mary Austin, The American Rhythm


  1. Wow that was a very cool project to do with the girls! You are a great mom, Happy belated Mother's Day.

  2. Thank you, Shauna! Happy belated Mom's day to you, too.

  3. I love it! What a rocking project! I just went to amazon and got that book for 11 cents, so I am one happy camper right now. Thank you for the recommendation. The girls, are so darn cute, by the way. ;-)

  4. What a great project! I bet the girls are really loving it. Must try this, my girls would go bonkers for it.

  5. Hi Jen, I enjoyed exploring your site. How informative and creative! Thanks for sharing.
    Hug my grandaughters for me.
    love Mom D

  6. thank you for this. i just posted about wanting to make a teepee here
    i wish i would of seen this earlier, i've would of put a link to it. anyhow, the kids made it awesome by painting it. i will definitely have to do this with my daughter...