Tuesday, April 3, 2012

building a house of branches.

What are  your favorite outdoor memories from childhood?  Ask an adult of our generation this question, and their is a good chance that their reply will include making cubbies, shelters, forts or dens.

Young children love places to call their own.  Places to hide from the prying eyes of adults.  Places to create their own world.  Places to retreat to.  Places to hang with a few good mates.  Places to pause and be still.

A cubby doesn't need to be elaborate or an expensive store bought concern.  In fact, it is often better if it isn't.  Give children the bare bones and let their imagination and creativity do the rest.

Last week's cubby began as nothing more than a pile of loose materials: tyres, bamboo poles, branches, wooden pallets and tree cookies.

We dug 2 branches and 2 bamboo poles into the ground, tied the tops together to make a make-shift teepee.  And then stepped back.  Minutes later, the girls took up residence and set about renovating, expanding and making it their own.

Fake flowers, willow branches and a tablecloth became the walls:

A mat for the floor, and a door mat (no dirty feet allowed in this cubby please):

With plates for lunch all set out, the teepee became the kitchen:

Chairs on the wooden pallet became the verandah:

When it was bedtime, they needed a place to rest their weary heads.  They asked me for a mattress (we used a blue mat) while they ran off to fetch the pillows and blankets from inside:

Kitchen - tick.  Verandah - tick.  Bedroom - tick.  All that was needed was a living room, and the tractor tyre did the job nicely.

Of course, girls don't like to be confined to the house all day long so a car was needed to take them to wherever their imaginations led them:

The wondrous thing about this experience is that a pile of old junk can become a place of beauty in their eyes. 

The outdoors - with the addition of lots of loose materials and the freedom and time to use them in their play - enhances the children's creative and imaginative play.  Resist the urge to step in - unless invited - and you will be amazed where the play takes them.  I promise.


  1. I remember as a child in Mexico, I used to take out boxes of Christmas decorations & decorate my grandmother's patio! She used to get mad, I would respond, "I promise I'll pick everything up and put everything back in the boxes". When she wasn't looking I would take her pots, pans, spoons, dishes and make mud soup & mud tacos with leaves! Those were my happiest days ever! :)

  2. isn't it great how the play yard can look gorgeous with loose parts and natural materials, yet we spend thousands on equipment that is brightly colored and borderline offensive looking?