We’re having a mini heatwave here in England, specially ordered for the Olympics.  The streets are filled with chic Europeans, bronzed Americans, and lobster-pink, slightly startled looking Brits clad mostly still in their winter wear, having not previously had the opportunity to break out the shorts and vest tops they bought back in Spring.  To provide some shade from the sun and a foundation for exciting adventures, today we constructed a 10-minute tipi, the beauty of which is that it requires only a small handful of household objects, and can be erected – and destroyed – in the time it takes to make a cup of tea.  We make these indoors too, the other 11 months of the year…

You’ll need:

  • A handful of bamboo canes, rods or old curtain poles; any long sticks will do. We use 2m bamboo poles; a minimum of 6.
  • A large flat sheet; ours came straight off a bed en route to the laundry basket
  • Clothes pegs
  • A length of string or rope.
  • Optional accessories include feathers, blankets, glow sticks and torches (for nighttime adventures)

How to make the tipi:

  1. Line up all your poles and tie them together  about 3in from the top using a double-shank leftover half twist racing knot.  Okay okay, I lie; tie them any old how, just make sure your knot(s) are tight and will hold.
  2. Gather your bundle of poles and place them where you want your tipi to be, and move them out one by one into an ever-wider circle, leaving a bigger gap between two poles for the entrance
  3. Drape your sheet around loosely and use a peg to clip it together at the top whilst you distribute it evenly at the bottom
  4. Peg the sheet to the bottom of your poles, and to the sides of each entrance pole.

And finally clip back the entrance flap to one side…

We also tucked feathers into the top of each bamboo cane for a bit of colour…

We added sheets, toys, blankets and a pillow, and set up camp for the day. Furry chipmunks, polar bears and even a deer came outside from the playroom to inspect what was going on; we even survived an attempt by a passing bear to hustle his way into camp (below).

Finally, we just had time before sundown to assemble a hasty campfire and cook up some sausages and eggs, borrowed from Harry’s play kitchen…

Dens, tents and tipis seem to be hardwired into kids’ DNA as a source of endless pleasure and fun – when Harry’s older I’ll just give him a couple of sheets and some rope and let him work out for himself how to construct his very own den.  If you’re making this tipi with slightly older kids,  string a torch from the end of the rope you use to tie together the canes and let the fun continue after dark; marshmallows ‘cooked’ on a pretend campfire taste just as good as the real thing…