Build an Outdoor Play Shelter with Materials from Nature
Building a shelter with found materials is a fun way for kids to spend time outdoors while exercising their imaginations and problem-solving muscles. Using found materials like sticks, vines, and stones, your child can create a nature-inspired play space that can be decked out with “furniture” such as logs for stools and tables and can even be “landscaped” with a rambling stone path leading to it! Whether it’s a cubby for one or a cave big enough for the whole family, hours of fun are sure to be had!
Nature cubby materials
- Branches of various sizes
- Vines (use invasive species such as English Ivy or Kudzu), or twine
- Logs or large rocks
- Small stones
- Make sure to respect the environment!
- Don’t cut down live trees or bushes.
- Do use windfall and found materials to construct your shelter instead.
- Don’t let ticks, snakes, or poison ivy take the fun out of shelter building.
- Do your homework and be aware of potential risks for your area.
Building your shelter
- Head to a local outdoor space—a park, wilderness area or perhaps your backyard—where you have permission to play outdoors.
- Gather materials and decide on the shape and size of the shelter: do you want to build a dome or a teepee-shaped shelter? Will the structure take advantage of trees or natural landforms, or will it stand alone?
- Build your structure.
- Move in and have fun!
There are so many different ways to create a natural shelter, so if there isn’t a woodland nearby don’t despair! Bamboo plant stakes can be lashed together with twine to provide an internal structure on which to drape cloth or blankets. Pop-up tents and beach shelters also make a good base for layering on natural materials like branches and leaves. If you want to make a living shelter, try planting willow branches or growing pole beans or vines like honeysuckle at the base of the sticks!