The long days of summer were made for kids—all those warm daylight hours to play in the yard and pretend to be anything and everything from a cowboy or cowgirl to a wilderness explorer. What child doesn't love finding a secret place that's all his or her own? Whether it's a secret clubhouse or fort or tent, a playhouse is a great place for children's imagination to roam free.
How to help a child build a playhouse? Here are two easy ways:
THE BOX PLAYHOUSE uses a cardboard appliance box as the basic structure.
STEP #1—If you or someone you know recently purchased or plans to purchase a refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or other large appliance, save the shipping box. The size is perfect—just large enough to be comfortable for a child yet too small for an adult. If you can't find an appliance box, call a local appliance or department store to ask if they have any appliance cartons that they plan to discard. Depending on the size of the box, you may have to break it down for transportation to your home.
STEP #2—Once you have the box at home, an adult performs the first part of construction, starting with a thorough safety check. Since appliance shipping boxes are typically secured with large, sharp metal staples that can cause cuts, carefully remove any such staples as well as any metal or plastic banding used to hold the box together. Also be sure to remove any Styrofoam pieces, which could be a choking hazard, and plastic cellophane wrap, which could be a suffocation hazard. Finally, inspect the entire box one more time for any sharp edges or pointed areas that could possibly cause an injury.
STEP #3—also for adults only. Using a utility knife available at any hardware store, carefully cut openings in the box for a door and windows. If the box is thick enough, you will be able to make doors and windows that "open" by leaving one side of each opening uncut. Then, fold back the cut portion to create a crease in the cardboard, enabling the door or window to "open" or "close" when your child desires. Make at least one completely open door or window to ensure adequate ventilation in the playhouse.
STEP #4—Once the basic playhouse structure is complete, your child can begin painting and decorating the playhouse. This project calls for old clothes, water-based tempera paints, and an outdoor work area where some stray paint on the ground won't spoil anything. Let your child choose how to decorate the playhouse. If he or she wishes, add windowsills, a flowerbox, shutters, painted shrubs, or other decor. Don't forget to use a piece of square cardboard for a "Keep Out!" sign.
STEP #5—After the paint has dried, put the playhouse in a dry, sheltered location. Add a few pillows for comfort…and your child has a secret home-away-from-home.
THE TENT PLAYHOUSE transforms an old sheet or blanket into a tent. This playhouse requires no planning and can be made with a few household items: a clothesline or rope, four empty containers filled with sand, and two large sheets or blankets—one for the tent structure and one for the floor, although a grass floor is fine.
STEP # 1—Drape the sheet or blanket over the clothesline, letting the ends hang to the ground. If you don't have a clothesline, you can use a length of rope tied between two trees or even between two chairs.
STEP #2—Stretch out the sheet to form each side of the tent.
STEP #3—Place a container of sand on each corner of the sheet, to help pull it tight.
With a little improvising, you can quickly and easily create a fun hideaway. A child's imagination is wonderful to see in action, and a secret clubhouse or playhouse can be a great way to jumpstart creativity and a sense of independence. Just don't be offended when he or she puts out the "KEEP OUT!" sign!
As always, remember to monitor children while they are playing, checking on them periodically to ensure a safe playtime.
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