A Paper Reservation

DIY Play Tipis from Kates Creative Space

The brief arrival of summertime (now departed, replaced by a week of torrential rain), turned our heads this week to camp-outs and camp-fires; to nights under the stars and balmy, warm evenings under a wide open sky.  These at least are Harry’s thoughts; as a camping novice, his romantic notions are untroubled by reality; midges, creepy-crawlies, rising damp and those strange, spooky rustling noises in the dead of night that seem somehow to be bear-sized are all yet to come.   We have agreed that this summer we will gather sleeping bags and canvas, torches and firewood and try it for real …in the back garden at least.

Until then, we’re making do with these fun paper tipis which I created in Powerpoint and which we’ve been constructing in different colours and sizes to make a small reservation for the various Lego men, animals and other homeless itinerants of Harry’s toy box.  They seem to appreciate the gesture, even if unused to sleeping under the same pitched roof;

DIY tipi with props

These are very simple to make once you’ve printed them out; you’ll need only a handful of wooden skewers, cocktail sticks and some glue or tape.  I’ve drawn one authentic-looking leathery tipi complete with markings, and one more plain ecru-design which can be coloured in, decorated or otherwise customised as you see fit (because there’s always room for sequins and glitter glue, even on the plains).

DIY tipi free downloadDIY Tipi free dowload

Tipi markings

To make the tipis, I used these wonderful free leather textures – definitely worth bookmarking if you’re a creative type. So, arm yourself with a pair of scissors and give them a whirl.  Even if you don’t have little people in your life these are fun to make and look very decorative on a bookshelf or mantle.  Or why not print them out and make a kit to send to someone for whom it might be JUST the project to occupy a rainy day?

Instructions below – email me if you get stuck.  Oh, and of course, be careful not to accidentally poke yourself in the eye with a skewer, especially if doing this with a glass of wine in the other hand.  For added safety, you could add a colourful bead to the tip of each one like here.

Still, I can assure you that making a paper tipi is far less hazardous than trying to erect the real thing, especially when your assistant is an easily distracted four year old.



Decorated Authentic Style Tipi Template

Plain Tipi Pattern with Red Laced Entrance

cheetah in tipi



Tipi Instructions


The Rainy Day Explorer’s Kit

Hello again at last, after an uncharacteristic hiatus; we’ve been a plague house this last couple of weeks, with both my husband and I felled by seasonal ‘flu.  Harry miraculously escaped, and observed our symptoms and progress with great interest; he immediately and opportunistically whipped out his Melissa & Doug Veterinary Dress-Up Bag, and proceeded to administer bandages, injections and chilly plastic stethscopes to whichever of us was too slow to evade his latex gloved-clutches.

Still, the fevers have at last abated, leaving us feeling a little stir-crazy and restless, particularly as last month’s glorious snowfalls have been replaced by driving rain and an all-pervading damp chilliness.  It was time for some indoor adventuring, in the style of a housebound Indiana Jones, so last night whilst Harry was asleep I hastily constructed the Rainy Day Indoor Expedition Kit…

Rainy Day Expedition Kit from katescreativespace

I used this old cardboard laundry box (below) which I found at a local junk shop.  A vintage suitcase would also be brilliant for this, but equally a large shoebox or bag would do the job.  I designed a suitably enticing picture for the front (you can download mine below), and pasted it on before filling it with a collection of bits and bobs from around the house that would spark Harry’s imagination and get us started on a truly exciting and brave indoor adventure.

laundry box

Almost all of the items can be sourced within minutes – and quickly returned to their usual homes afterwards.  A quick raid of the laundry cupboard, fridge, and Harry’s toybox generated most of the contents.  I’ve highlighted below what I included and why; you can customise this for the age(s) of your kids, and also get them to join in the planning; when Harry’s a bit older I’ll get him to decide most the things we need.

Contents of indoor expedition kit

In our rainy-day expedition case you’ll find:

  1. A field trip notebook and pen for recording what we see 
  2. A torch (you can teach morse code to older kids).  We had battery-powered fairy lights too for our den
  3. Toy walkie-talkies so we can communicate when out adventuring; real ones would be even cooler
  4. A large white sheet to use as a tent for our den, with pegs to hold it in place.
  5. Books to read in our tent, when eating our snacks
  6. Juice and crackers.  We ate these before we even started, so one of our first expeditions was back to the fridge
  7. A simple point-and-shoot camera for Harry to take endless blurry photos of our trip
  8. Hat and goggles, in the manner of all true explorers
  9. A sword, because you never know when you’ll meet a pirate or a baddie
  10. Handcuffs; see above.
  11. A rubber snake, for instant atmosphere; throwing this around (Harry) and screaming in faux-terror (me) took up quite a lot of the day and caused endless delight
  12. Marvin, Harry’s right-hand mouse and inseparable companion, and finally..
  13. A strong rope; we used a waxed washing line rope, mostly as a lasso for wild animals, but also to tie around our waists when climbing the stairs / dangerous mountain.

Expedition Kit Contents

I placed the expedition suitcase on a stool for Harry to discover it at breakfast time, when we usually make our plans for the day.  Once he wrestled the top off the box, he also found this mysterious ribbon-tied scroll in the case, which outlines exactly what you need to do to qualify as a proper Adventurer; this provided the basic plan for our morning…

Adventurers Challenge

Our den-building took quite a bit of time and was lots of fun; pondering the exact location, and discussing what we needed to consider; (ability to see pirates coming from afar, easy access to food and toys, and a multitude of other specifics).  We strung, hung and pegged and bundled cushions and suitcase into the finished den, stringing up fairy lights for added atmosphere..

harrys big expedition

Harry’s toy dog Digby nobly agreed to play the role of wild animal and was duly captured and tethered to the kitchen table, with some crackers as a reward for his co-operation and acting skills.

indoor expedition

We fended off attacks from a troop of Lego City Robbers and some Playmobil pirates before settling down to stories and juice.  After lunch we discovered the promised treasure; leftover chocolate gold coins from Christmas, secreted in an old wooden box at the top of the stairs.

It was the best kind of day; just enough planning to spark Harry’s imagination, and then much adventuring, rescuing, wrestling, construction, destruction and finally chocolate, which seems to me to be the formula for little boy heaven.  I’m sure versions of this game are played in homes the world over, but if you want to download our Expedition Case label and Adventurer Instructions, you can find both below.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to just go untether a dog before retiring to my den with a fistful of chocolate coins (who says you have to grow up?).

The Adventurers Challenge

Expedition Kit

An Indian Summer: The 10 Minute Tipi

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…