Or…How to make a Teepee without any skills (or Teepee building know-how.)
Making a teepee for your kids to enjoy is a project that can involve the whole family. Google “How to make a teepee” and there are literally hundreds of examples from indoor forts decorated with blankets and fairy lights to the more heavy duty, traditional teepees. But before you head down to the local hardware store, consider sourcing from your own back yard and surrounds.
I’ll admit I started out all Maggie Dent, enthusiastically involving my offspring in the rewarding process and sheer joy of being one with the land. This rapidly morphed into a Bear Grylls kind of vibe (minus urine drinking), but tapered back into a calm creative kid zone on teepee completion.
Here are the very basic instructions for making an outdoor teepee:
Step 1: LOCATION
Ideally you want a cleared, flat surface and one relatively free from creepy crawlies. Nature is awesome but there’s not much point encouraging its wonders if you have to deal with screaming children who’ve been attacked by a horde of angry insects because you’ve built on an ants nest.
Step 2: MATERIALS
Think like a magpie and go find all those left over bits of ribbon, twine and string you’ve been hoarding in jars and boxes for years. Relish in your Gollomness for the time has come to bring those precious’s out, they’ll come in handy. Cable ties are also a cheap option and an excellent choice for strength and longevity, they just don’t look as pretty as Christmas curling ribbon or multi coloured balls of wool.
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Of course you’ll need sticks, twigs and possibly branches depending on the size and effort you want to put into your teepee. If you’ve got little ones send them on hunting tasks and you’ll be surprised with what they come back with. Try to encourage the fallen variety of foliage, nobody wants a teepee with a birds nest attached to it.
Step 3: FORM THE TRIPOD
There are many different methods but I started out with three large strong branches of similar length and laid them on the ground in a sort of pyramid formation. Tie together at one end weaving your tying material (I used thin rope swiped from my husbands tool box) in and out of each branch. You’ll need a fair amount and some left over to tie up once it’s standing.
Hoist the branches up and maneuver in place to form a tripod. You may want to fiddle around a bit with this part as where it’s anchored into the ground will help form the shape and position of the teepee. You may also require help so grab a willing adult or an older child who can assist holding up a branch or just offer moral support when coordination waltzes away.
Step 4: COMMENCE CONSTRUCTION
This is where a willingness to shun all logic and any engineering reason comes to play. Start going through all those sticks, twigs and branches and begin attaching to the foundation branches. As shown in the pictures, I used a combo of flamboyantly coloured wool and twine to attach each bit to the next. This was quite a colossal size so once we’d run out of long branches and sticks, we got creative with puzzling and fixing each to the next. Think of it like a big Tetris teepee. Then have your kids google Tetris.
Continue attaching and fixing, occasionally dropping, fixing again, balancing, hydrating, tying, tying and tying again.
I used a reef knot as it is the only knot I remember from girl guides circa 1985. But do whatever works for you. I in no way endorse this as a knot for safety purposes. I have been informed that a blood knot or a clove hitch works well, however google away on the many appropriate knots one might use on a teepee. Our teepee still stands after three month’s worth of storms, possums, kangaroos and our own teepee loving monkeys.
Step 5: ENTRANCE
Don’t forget to leave a gap for the entrance. The entrance is the reward, because after all the stuffing around with the whole tetris caper you’ll be ever so relieved there’s an opening that can be as wide as you deserve.
Step 6: DECORATE AND ENJOY
At some point it’s good to recall this is about child involvement! The decoration side of things were a highlight and the kids enthusiastically foraged around for daisies, lavender, leaves, weeds and gum nuts. I had to draw the line at the living variety, but they certainly got into the creative spirit.
The teepee can be a continuous work in progress. If you have the space and are happy with your outdoor area temporarily turning Blair witch for a bit, let the kids imaginations run wild. Add ribbons, scraps of materials, fairy lights, feathers, drape sheets, perhaps even paint it! Go nuts with tinsel and Christmas deco for the Ho Ho season and what bunny wouldn’t love to drop its chocolate goodies in a teepee!
Just be sure to check (or teach the kids) for wildlife before entering particularly after a lapse in use. It would be pretty irresistible to a passing lizard or your friendly neighborhood spider not to take up residence.
Clearly we live on a bush block, so nature provides a smorgasbord of supplies. However we also tried this in my Dad’s very suburban backyard and made a successful smaller version.
Google away "How to build a teepee" but this was the best link I found: