Submitted by Dave
Mom and two daughters gone on a Sunday morning. Left on my own I would probably drink a 1/2 pot of coffee and putter around the house (i.e sofa) or catch up on work. But I have The Boy who is always game for making something big. Really big... and he's not much of a coffee drinker.
The Boy likes to build. The Boy likes to help. The trick is finding equilibrium between his 5 year expectations with his 5 year old skills and attention span. I pondered building a screech owl house but that would require an errand for wood and materials, the use of power tools, tight planning and supervision, and waiting. I wanted to make this an easy project that we could do in a morning, have fun, and not worry about someone sneaking up behind me and costing me a finger. There's a reason five year olds aren't hired to hang dry wall or install crown molding. Can they set up a 12 foot ladder? No, they absolutely cannot.
Fortunately, two weeks ago I had cut down a 1/2 dozen small trees on a space we've slowly been turning into a garden. The trunks are still awaiting cutting but I had trimmed off all of the smaller branches and had hauled them to the edge of the woods. Plenty of material for a building project that wouldn't require planning or painting.
We decided to build a stick tee-pee. You might call it a playhouse. I call it reasonable transitional housing between living with Mom and Dad and your very first grown-up apartment.
The only tools and material required besides the branches were a pair of pruning clippers, twine, zip ties, and a clamp. My son got a little practice with a small hand saw with dad not worrying about wasting a perfectly good piece of lumber.
We selected the best 4 branches to make the main vertical supports and I zip tied them together at the top with support from a clamp and my helper. We then tied three horizontal branches around the base for stability. All we had to do at this point was lay and weave additional branches to make the walls which is something that kids can do as well as adults.
A few branches needed to be tied with twine so the basic shape could be retained and any branches on the inside can be trimmed to reduce poking (eyes!). Even though the basic structure is finished, sturdy and play worthy there's always room for more sticks or details that could involve the whole family throughout the season, getting me back on the sofa with my coffee on a Sunday morning where I belong.
The entire project cost pennies, involved us both equally, is perfect for reenactments of our favorite scenes from "Lost", and took just a little under 90 minutes from start to finish.
We were done in plenty of time for a father/son picnic where I needed to explain why it can't have a moat and electricity.