Friday, November 9, 2012

No-Sew DIY Play Tent

  Today I thought I’d share the No-Sew DIY Play Tent that I made for Evening the other day.

  First, you’ll need these supplies:

  • A quilting hoop
  • 3 old sheets (the more colourful the better!)
  • Clothespins
  • 5 binder clips
  • String

  I highly recommend that you check your local thrift stores for the hoop and sheets since these items are almost always in abundance (and inexpensive!).  

Step 1.  Separate your hoops.  Open the outer hoop as wide as you can, and set it aside.  

  Take your first sheet and scrunch one of the shorter sides along the inner hoop, securing it with a clothespin as you go along.  Cover 1/3 of the hoop with the first scrunched sheet.  

scrunching the first sheet
Repeat with the other two sheets, until it looks something like this:

strange laundry crown/laundry birthday cake

Step 2.  Take three lengths of string (about a foot and half in length, each), and tie one to the hoop in each spot where two sheets meet.   

here I use yarn to make the hanger, but it proved too weak so I don't recommend it
Step 3.  Wait until baby is done playing with the outer hoop.

we might be here a while...

   Now bring the outer hoop down over the top, removing the clothespins as you go.  I recommend bunching the sheets beneath the hoops on a flat surface so they don’t slide out.  It’s going to be a tight fit, but you’ll get it if you don’t give up.  

  Once it’s on, tighten it as best you can. 

Step 4.  Now take the strings and tie them together so that the tent is level, securing with a good knot.  Leave a small space and tie another knot.  We’ll call this part of the tent the ‘hanger’.  Use the space in between the knots to hold up the tent, slipping it over a hook in the ceiling (I’ll tell you how to suspend the tent outdoors later).    

  Now the sheets are draping down onto the floor  in a closed tent.  If you have a baby, like little Evening here, this is probably far enough.  She quite enjoyed the colours and playing with the fabric but once I opened the tent she lost all interest and went on to other things.  

playing in her tent
  For older kids, however, the fun is just beginning.  

Step 5.  Use binder clips to secure the different sheets together in the middle lengthwise, skipping one pair to leave as the entrance.  Add another clip midway through the ‘back’ sheet, and one on each side of the entrance.  

  Using string again, tie a piece to the binder clip and attach the other end to a chair/table/whatever is available, pulling the string until the sheets begin to lift up and out.  

  Repeat this with each clip until your tent is opened up and ready for fun. 

let's go living room camping!
  When the tent inevitably gets dirty you can simply dismantle it and throw it in the wash – which makes it fun for kids to take outside in summer, and back inside for rainy or cold winter days.  

  If you want to use the tent outside, find a good tree branch to suspend it from instead of a ceiling hook. 

  Take a very long length of string and tie one end to a stone.  Making sure that no one is playing underneath,  toss the stone over the branch, letting the string trail behind it (keeping the opposite end with you).  Once it’s over, tie the opposite end of the string to the tent ‘hanger’.  Then pull the tent up to the desired height with the stone end of the string and tie it to the tree to secure it.  

  And voila!  Your tent is ready for adventure!  Happy camping!

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

the ferocious forest gerbil vs the book

  Everyday objects can be threatening, and books can be dangerous.  

  I was reading mine, with Evening happily playing with one of her board books at my side.  

  Suddenly, her shrieks rang out through the room.  Beside her, I cannot see for certain what the problem is.  Her little fist desperately clutches her book and her face contorts with her signature mix of anger and pain.  

  She has closed the book on her finger.

  I quickly come to her rescue and note with irony that her lion book has bitten her. 

  Then I am paralyzed by a vision of Evening developing a fear of books.  Most phobias begin in childhood - I'm sure I read that somewhere.  The treasured volumes that make up the tiny library laying across from her nursery are suddenly her worst nightmare.  I try to imagine a life without books and fail completely.  I would be miserable. 

  Evening brings me back to reality with a happy coo.  I look over to see that she is busily trying to open up her book again, hoping to nom upon its delectable pages.  

  I had no need to worry.  She’s not going to take any nonsense from books.  She bites back.

  That's my little ferocious forest gerbil.

the ferocious forest gerbil wrassles with the book

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

DIY play kitchen

DIY play kitchen
  Today I’m going to share a tutorial on how to make this play kitchen, built on the idea of a kitchen to spark your little chef’s imagination.  Created mostly from scraps in the backyard, this play kitchen can be built for next to nothing and within an afternoon.

  To build the kitchen, you will need:
-           - a bowl, or some sort of receptacle, to use as a sink (flowerpot?  half a coconut?  anything will do)
-           - a few branches, including one with a good fork in it to use as a faucet.
-           - a jar of miscellaneous screws
-          -  a large piece of scrap wood to use as the base for your kitchen
-          -  2 pine cones
-           - wood glue
-           - a saw or shears to cut the branches with
-           - clamps or a pair of vise grips
-           - drill with a small bit, or a Dremel tool
not your child's favourite cookie
-           - a pencil
-          - tin cans from the recycling
-           - painter’s tape or duct tape

    The first thing we’ll do is to take the thickest branch and cut four thin slices from it, or ‘cookies’, that we will use to make the dials for the burners on the stove. 

a great branch for a faucet
  Next, take the forked branch that will become the faucet, trimming it so that it will fit behind and over the bowl, and ensuring that the bottom is as flat as you can manage. 

  Finally, using your shears or saw, cut four different pairs of thinner twigs from one of the branches to use as the stove’s burners.  So that each burner is a flat, even surface for your pint-sized chef to put a pot onto, take one twig from each pairing and snip it in half again.  This way, you can make an ‘X’ for your burner (as seen in the photo). 
X shaped burner

  Now that you have created all of the pieces you need to build the kitchen (good job, you), it’s time to start arranging your sink, with its faucet and pine cones for hot and cold knobs, the burners and their dials on your wooden base.   I highly recommend setting up the stove so that it matches the one that your chef has at home, since kitchen play is way of mimicking the everyday rituals of home.

  Once you are happy with the arrangement of your kitchen, lightly trace around the base of your faucet branch, as well as the dials. 

  Remove everything from your base, and with your drill (or Dremel tool) make a small hole in the center of the trace you made of the faucet base, going all the way through the base to the other side.  Turning your faucet upside down, and holding it in place with your clamps or vise grips, drill a hole about an inch deep into the bottom center. 

  Select a screw that is both thick enough to go through the base and into the bottom of the faucet, yet short enough that it will go only about an inch into said faucet.  Now flip the board acting as the base to your kitchen upside down, and screw in the screw all the way.   

  Flip it right side up again, and dab some wood glue onto the bottom of the faucet before positioning it over the emerging screw and twisting it on by hand, until quite tight.  Twist the faucet whichever you need to so that the ‘spout’ will be centered over the sink.

  Now take the dials that you sliced, holding them securely in a pair of vise grips or clamps (NOT your hand – they are tricky little devils), and drill a hole through the center of the dial.

  Once all four of your dials are drilled, return to the base of your kitchen where you traced the outline of the dials.  

  Using a nail that is thinner than the hole you drilled in the dials and has a head larger than it, loosely hammer the dials into the board.  Don't hammer it tight - leaving the nail just above the dial will allow your little chef to spin the dial about (it's a tiny thing we take for granted and children are never allowed to do). 

  All of our drilling work is done now, so let’s get back to our sink.  Coat the base of the two pine cones that will be the hot and cold knobs in wood glue and position them next to the faucet.

  Put a coat of glue on the bottom of the bowl or whatever receptacle you are using for the sink, and press into place.  It's true, your half-pint chef has one of those expensive and ever-so-fashionable above-the-counter sinks I keep seeing at the high end hardware stores.  Please try and contain your jealousy over the little chef’s kitchen.   It simply isn’t becoming. 

  For our final step, we are going to take all of those little twigs we cut for our burners, and glue them into place (remember the X’s in the photo above). 

  You just made a kitchen.  In an afternoon.  Take that, contractors.
kitchen in an afternoon!!!!

  But wait.  Don’t make supper just yet.  Give that glue a good 24 hours to dry before the fun begins.  You can use this time to make some pots and pans. 

  For my pots, I used a set that I got as a wedding gift from the recycling bin.  I cleaned up a few tin cans and –this is important- placed a few layers of painter’s tape (I couldn’t find the duct tape – see ‘the grease incident’ for more details) around the top where the tin is very sharp and dangerous.  Do not let a child play with tin cans without this important barrier! 

  Ta-daaa!  Aren't you proud of yourself?  I'm proud of you, and just wait till the kids/grandkids/local chef school get a hold of it!  They can take it to their treehouse, into a tent, on the porch, under a bush, anywhere they feel like cooking up something good.

  Wow.  I wish my kitchen was that portable (daydreams of cooking dinner in a hammock and washing dishes from a swing)... 

  I'm linking this project up with Eco-kids Tuesdays and We Made That - click on the link to see more great eco-fun!

                                      Did this project help you work out your own play kitchen? 
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