One of our first hands-on activites for the summer was to build a teepee from painter's canvas and bamboo garden poles. We challenged ourselves to let go of the control and let our kids use paint and permanent markers and scribble all over the canvas, drawing whatever they wanted. Amazingly, no one died or ruined their clothes or destroyed anything. I guess control is slightly over-rated.
Here is a step-by-step, in case you want to give it a try.
Take a piece of cloth- an old sheet, painters canvas, old curtains, whatever you have around that is at least 5x8 feet. Lay it flat then fold it into quarters. Kind of like you are making a giant paper snowflake. Cut off the tip of the corner to make a hole for the poles- maybe 4 inches or so. Then round the bottom edge. It doesn't have to be perfect, your kids will love it no matter what.
Here is the finished shape:
Decorate your teepee. You can go all out with acrylics and fabric paints. designer prints, camo, jungle stripes, polka dots, whatever. We decided to make one per family and let the kids paint whatever they wanted. Funny we both ended up with a family tree and hand and footprints. We just cleaned out the craft drawers- watercolors, glitter glue, finger paint, sharpies, crayons- nothing was off limits.
While it is drying flat, put in some holes for the grommets. I used 1"grommets and pounded them in every 2 inches starting from the top edge, or the tiny cut out circle, depending on your perspective. Make sure they line up! Then find something to lace it up. I used yarn, but you could go with leather, ribbons, rope, or an old shoelace, depending on what look you are going for. Now go get your poles.
I used 6ft lengths of bamboo found in the garden center. 6 of them. You could use pvc pipe or wooden dowels or even some long sticks if you have them. Just 6 poles, about 6 feet long, and relatively straight. Gather them up and wrap a few thick rubber bands around the bundle about 8 inches from the top. Spread out the feet evenly, about a foot or so apart with a slightly wider opening for the door. Wrap your teepee around the poles, lace up the grommet holes like you are tying a shoe and move it around until you are happy with the shape and size.
Set it up in a quiet place and let them in! A shade tent, a fort for two, a reading hide away, a time out spot, and Indian house- what will you use it for?