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How-Tuesday: Backyard Teepee

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A treehouse, a blanket fort, a cushion castle, a teepee…we probably all have memories of building a fantasy fortress when we were young. For this week’s How-Tuesday post, Sharon Pierce McCullough, Chief Creative Officer for ZiggityZoom.com, has created a tutorial for making your own backyard teepee, perfect for daydreaming. More craft projects for kids can be found on Ziggity Zoom.

When my grandkids come to visit during the summer months, we try to plan some exciting and fun outdoor projects. I had been wanting to make a teepee for some time, so last week, while three of our grandsons were visiting, we made one for the backyard. (I’m not sure who was more excited about the project, me or the kids.) We gathered all the materials, trying to keep it as inexpensive as possible — the boys searched for the perfect size branches in the backyard, so we wouldn’t have to purchase them from a store.

A teepee is not hard to make, even if you don’t follow exact American Indian standards and try to keep it simple and fun. We did consult a few websites to understand the basics. This particular teepee can be made in an afternoon. Ours will stay up until the end of summer, when other grandkids come to visit and add their decorations to the teepee. This is a perfect summer or fall craft project that the whole family can help make. So, what are you waiting for?

Materials Needed:

  • Nine 10 foot poles (Bamboo poles are best. Check if you have a neighbor growing bamboo.)  We used 1 inch metal conduit.
  • 12′ x 15′ heavy duty canvas
  • Lightweight cord or rope
  • 5 sticks 9 ” long
  • 2 sticks 6 ” long
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Garden clippers
  • Permanent colored markers or acrylic paint + brushes

Directions:

1. Collect thin, sturdy branches and cut to size, as stated above, using garden clippers. Collecting branches is a fun activity for the kids. If desired, taper ends slightly by rubbing ends on sidewalk or a piece of sand paper. Once again, the kids will love sharpening the sticks.

2. Lay the canvas drop cloth flat on the grass. Find the center-top of the long end of the cloth and make a mark. Tie a marker pen to the end of a string and then, holding the marker upright at side-top of the long end of the cloth, stretch string to center point, cutting string. Your string should be 7.5 feet long. Hold string at center point firmly, while a second person makes a large arc with the marker, denoting cutting line. The finished cut size equates to the length being twice as long as the width. (For example, 7.5 feet wide by 15 feet long.)

3. Determine location for your teepee and set first 3 poles in place as your teepee base, crossing tips and leaving about a foot above crossed poles at top. You are making a tripod. Now add 2 poles between each of the base poles, paying attention to how they cross at the top, trying to position sturdily. Add the last pole to the backside of your teepee. Spread bottoms of poles evenly around  the ground. (You might note that we have an extra pole added — it’s simply because one of the boys didn’t get to add 2 poles, so we just went with the moment and used one extra pole.)

4. Carry teepee cloth to the back of your teepee, determining where the front opening will be. If you don’t have a tall friend to reach up and place the top-center of the cloth near the cross poles, remove the last pole set in place from backside and attach the top-center of the cloth about a foot from top. Since this is temporary, you can just make a ring of duct tape and attach inside of the cloth to the pole.

5. Pull sides of cloth around the poles, overlapping at top of teepee front. Make two slits to accomodate each 9 inch stick, making sure cuts go through both pieces of overlapped cloth. Slits should be about 3 to 4 inches apart. Weave a stick into openings, as shown, securing teepee front. Space sticks about 3 to 4 inches apart.

6. Fold side flaps open and make two slits to accomodate the 6 inch sticks for your teepee opening. These slits should be on either side of your poles at teepee opening (doorway). Stick will attach flap to front pole, keeping flap secured.

7. Use permanent markers, or acrylic paint if desired, to decorate the outside of your teepee. We let the kids decorate however they wanted, after we showed them some Native American designs. We do recommend paint for a teepee you plan to use in the future, as the permanent markers tend to fade.  But for fun, you can let the kids use markers.

 If you make your own backyard teepee, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

More Things to Make | More Posts from Ziggity Zoom

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns says:

    Great post. THank you

    2 years ago

  • purposedesign

    purposedesign says:

    I was looking for something just like this- thank you!!

    2 years ago

  • LizzieMade

    LizzieMade says:

    This is a great post - I have wanted to make a teepee for a while; now I may be able to do so. This would even make a semi-permanent play-house for the garden. Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Sweet! What a cool grandma.

    2 years ago

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection says:

    This looks like fun!

    2 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    So fun!

    2 years ago

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro says:

    I want to be a kid again! What fun.

    2 years ago

  • CaliforniaMutts

    CaliforniaMutts says:

    Is anyone else thinging how romantic a candle lit dinner would be in here? Large fluffy pillows, music, etc...

    2 years ago

  • desertwestpillows

    desertwestpillows says:

    Love it Love it! Great presentation, with the kids putting teepee together and painting on it! I want one too!

    2 years ago

  • StudioZen

    StudioZen says:

    My sister gave my son a similar teepee when he was a kid. He loved it and would play for hours in it. We still have it...maybe one day his kids will play in it too.

    2 years ago

  • Luv2Have

    Luv2Have says:

    This is awesome, my son would love this!!! Definitely something we will have to try!

    2 years ago

  • myAvonlea

    myAvonlea says:

    Totally want to make this with my 2 sweet peas <3 Thank you so much for posting.

    2 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    This looks like so much fun! My daughter would love this!

    2 years ago

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers says:

    My son and I LOVE teepees!!! ♥

    2 years ago

  • Zafirah

    Zafirah says:

    This will definitely come in handy soon!

    2 years ago

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux says:

    FUN!! I love this kind of stuff. It's pretty much why I had kids. When my 5-year-old son mentioned baking soda volcanoes last week, I was all over it. I rummaged through the recycle bin for newspaper and a largish sheet of cardboard, and within minutes we were splattered in flour paste as we papier-mached our way to geothermic bliss. Crafting with your kids is priceless!

    2 years ago

  • Share310

    Share310 says:

    It was such a fun project ... the granddaughters added their painting to the teepee when they visited last week. And amazingly ... the teepee stood during the hurricane ... it actually stayed DRY inside! I love looking at it and the cat loves it too.

    2 years ago

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry says:

    Crazy Cool Fun for kids. Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye says:

    I want one...for me!

    2 years ago

  • scoutandrescue

    scoutandrescue says:

    This is so cool. And I love that you built it together and the kids decorated it themselves. So much better than buying something. They will never forget this experience. Wonderful! scout xo

    2 years ago

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts says:

    This will be a great weekend kid project.

    2 years ago

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio says:

    HEY... I WANT ONE! Thank you for posting this. I want to make one NOW!

    2 years ago

  • EmiliaFaith

    EmiliaFaith says:

    How fun !! Gonna have to try this with my kids :)

    2 years ago

  • trafalgarssquare

    trafalgarssquare says:

    WOW! I used to make teepees in the backyard when I was a kid and I'd get so annoyed because it wouldn't look right. Thanks so much for the post, now I can make one with my littles!

    2 years ago

  • artXchic

    artXchic says:

    awesome! i'm going to do this with my niece and nephew, they'll adore it! thanks for the post :)

    2 years ago

  • lemondear

    lemondear says:

    wow... this made me relive for a few minutes my rocking childhood, thanks

    2 years ago

  • blancahelga

    blancahelga says:

    Wow, just fantastic!

    2 years ago

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey says:

    Such a great idea, the kids look thrilled. Thanks for the instructions!

    2 years ago

  • VeniVidiVintage

    VeniVidiVintage says:

    such a great tutorial! I cant wait to do this with my husband! I love that little kid inside us all :)

    2 years ago

  • 4amani

    4amani says:

    This reminds me of the giant teepee my mom made when when we were little. She used about 5 drop clothes and broke several needles on her sewing machine. The best part was running an industrial extension cord out the kitchen window so she could sew the teepee in the driveway. We cut down small trees for the poles. Oh the memories!

    2 years ago

  • FruitOfMyHands

    FruitOfMyHands says:

    What a great grandma. Thank you for sharing your teepee pattern.

    2 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Wow that looks like alot of fun! I used to make my tents out of pillows and bedsheets when I was a kid :)

    2 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    Such a wonderful post ! We had couple of time with my sons and slept inside :)

    2 years ago

  • jungledread

    jungledread says:

    I've seen these at festivals and it's sat in the back of my mind to give it a try Thanks for the pattern - I"ll be giving it a try next fest ^_^

    2 years ago

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree says:

    That is a great idea and great for the kids......I would go in there to! Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • Ragsoul

    Ragsoul says:

    thank you ! just great

    2 years ago

  • lemongrassjewels

    lemongrassjewels says:

    awesome idea, you're the greatest grandma ever:) what wonderful memories for you and your family!!!

    2 years ago

  • blissfulturtle

    blissfulturtle says:

    My backyard teepee remains one of my favorite childhood memories. Thanks for bringing them back. Now I need to make one for my daughter.

    2 years ago

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink says:

    This article brings sweet memories.

    2 years ago

  • salvageshop

    salvageshop says:

    how fun! :)))

    2 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    I"d love to have one. Thanks for the post!

    2 years ago

  • laurastark

    laurastark says:

    And it's fun for adults too!

    2 years ago

  • ziggityzoom

    ziggityzoom says:

    I want 4 teepees in my backyard- one for each of the boys and 1 for me. Maybe I need a work teepee!

    2 years ago

  • riverstar

    riverstar says:

    great photos of TP project. check out my Native American Inspiration treasury.

    2 years ago

  • sunshinepetals

    sunshinepetals says:

    I never pay attention to these posts others write but i just could not resist yours...being an old girl scout i found your article interesting, useful, it held my attention and well worth keeping for later use! I LOVED IT

    2 years ago

  • Grannysea

    Grannysea says:

    Thanks I copied for some cubs that I work with, hope to make one with them. Reminds me of the one I made with girl Scouts; I thought the poles had to be attached so sewed each one onto the material. I did not have any needles at the time so I made a needle with a paper clip. Have a great day.

    2 years ago

  • SweetandDandyVintage

    SweetandDandyVintage says:

    This is so awesome! I'm dreaming already! Thanks for the tutorial!

    2 years ago

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster says:

    What a fun activity for the kids!

    2 years ago

  • GwenDelicious

    GwenDelicious says:

    i had one of these as a kid...so much fun!!!

    2 years ago

  • TandJsoaps

    TandJsoaps says:

    Wonderful!

    2 years ago

  • fireyvalkyrie

    fireyvalkyrie says:

    Love this collection very earthy!

    2 years ago

  • AuroraVk

    AuroraVk says:

    Sounds like a fun project!!! I would put one of those even inside of my room! ;)

    2 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Lovely!

    2 years ago

  • BraveTurtleCreations

    BraveTurtleCreations says:

    One day I plan on making a full size legit teepee for camping and general awesomeness but I think I'll try this one first. I know my sister would love it.Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • oldworldapothecary

    oldworldapothecary says:

    How fun!!! LOVE IT

    2 years ago

  • cupcaketutus

    cupcaketutus says:

    LOVE IT! My cousin has a grandpa on her mother's side that is a full blooded shashonee indian Chief. He no longer lives on a reservation but still is very active in the native American community. He builds true Tepees and for years I've been wanting one. Haven't got one yet, but one day I'll own one of his lovely teepees. Thanks for this how to, I'll have to try it out myself, until I can affordable a real built one.

    2 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    Sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • lilinspirations

    lilinspirations says:

    I remember when my boys had a teepee! It was so much fun!

    2 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop says:

    My favorite hideout was two chairs a few feet from each other, backs facing in and a blanket thrown over the top. I haven't thought of doing that in decades but think I'm gonna go make one now and crawl inside. It's been way too long...

    2 years ago

  • ConfettiWestern
  • leilalou

    leilalou says:

    Fabulous! I have just bought a pattern to make one for my children for Christmas and yes...I'll be putting my feature doll Tallulah in for them :-)

    2 years ago

  • inlovewithpink

    inlovewithpink says:

    What wonderful memories you've helped create! Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • BetaVintageCasual

    BetaVintageCasual says:

    I want to make one too!!!!

    2 years ago

  • RotemZ

    RotemZ says:

    Made one last year and again this year with my boys ! Instructions from the web were challenging !! These are much easier :-) Bamboo canes we sourced at a local farm supply store and used them again this year and we used a roll of disposable tablecloth fabric . You have to decorate before you attach it though and through it away at the end. It's very warm here so it was perfect and not stuffy.

    2 years ago

  • lululiilii

    lululiilii says:

    I did this with my nephews for a day out and used a king bed sheet that I got at the thriftstore for $3 I let the children decorate it with finger painting and hand prints which was great since one is two and cant really draw anything yet.

    2 years ago

  • ile1974

    ile1974 says:

    WOW! great^_^ I will try it with my kids!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2 years ago

  • edgertor

    edgertor says:

    check these out for decoration ideas! great post of actual tepees from the turn of the century. http://www.howtobearetronaut.com/2011/08/blackfoot-decorated-tipis-c-1900/

    2 years ago

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes says:

    How fun! We had a tent when we were kids but never a teepee and not one we could decorate!!

    2 years ago

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage says:

    Can't wait to try it out!

    2 years ago

  • lmouer

    lmouer says:

    I don't even have kids, but I want to make one!! Great blog!

    2 years ago

  • littlebugjewelry

    littlebugjewelry says:

    OH, I totally want to do this!

    2 years ago

  • amusebeads

    amusebeads says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I'll have to try this with my little monkeys, they have almost destroyed their fridge box cottage. Time for a new (and different!) playhouse!

    2 years ago

  • Eternalelfcreations

    Eternalelfcreations says:

    great project!!

    2 years ago

  • CattailsStudio

    CattailsStudio says:

    I want a backyard teepee for myself!! Forget the kid! You think I'm kidding but I'm not. :)

    2 years ago

  • GraceFilledHands

    GraceFilledHands says:

    What a fun project! The kids will love this! Thanks for sharing! The Indian in me wants to make one for adults!

    2 years ago

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ says:

    How fun! I think I'm going to do this with my nephew! He'd love it!

    2 years ago

  • siennaorlando

    siennaorlando says:

    Absolutely adorable! I've been infatuated with the idea of living in a teepee for sooo long! Love this project!

    2 years ago

  • BowMoBBB

    BowMoBBB says:

    Awesome! Thanks. . . can"t wait to have fun with grandkids & neighbor kids.

    2 years ago

  • designlab443

    designlab443 says:

    I made a teepee awhile ago for my daughter. I need to get that out again, it's been awhile. The kids love it!

    2 years ago

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl says:

    I LOVE the idea...it looks like so much fun :-)

    2 years ago

  • sweetharvestonline

    sweetharvestonline says:

    Teeppes are great idea indoor and outdoor! My son loves to play trucks on a rainy day in his! Thanks for the post :)

    2 years ago

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood says:

    I bet our dog would love one of these as a hideaway. Interesting project to do with the boys before school digs in too deep.

    2 years ago

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset says:

    Soo cool!!!

    2 years ago

  • bananastrudel

    bananastrudel says:

    When I was a kid, I loved visiting my cousin because she had a teepee in her backyard. And parts of it were made of animal skin, too. I officially made her my 'favourite cousin', simply based on her having a teepee. So if you build a teepee, I will come. And you will be my new best friend.

    2 years ago

  • serenabythesea

    serenabythesea says:

    Something like tthis tepee project is very therapeutic, as well as being load of fun!

    2 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    I need to make one of these and put it in my house. And, when everyone sees me go in the teepee they will know to leave me alone. I am having my teepee time...

    2 years ago

  • styleforlife

    styleforlife says:

    So darling. :-)))) XXXXX EL Vintage

    2 years ago

  • adoodle

    adoodle says:

    =)

    2 years ago

  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire says:

    Oh, a canvas drop cloth! What a great idea! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • helloambition

    helloambition says:

    oh wow. I would have loved this as a child. there were so many countless days of fort making with my brother.

    2 years ago

  • RanchDressingOnline

    RanchDressingOnline says:

    How fun! I will definitely do this with my future grandchildren.

    2 years ago

  • fqcouture

    fqcouture says:

    Ooh, that looks like so much fun! I used to make forts all the time, and I always wanted a teepee.

    2 years ago

  • pouch

    pouch says:

    I used to love sitting in my teepee as a child, my mum made one out of old sheets and bamboo canes - I have been meaning to make one for my daughter for ages, will have to give it a go now I've seen this!

    2 years ago

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject says:

    Exciting! I need to make this for my niece and nephew next summer.. looks like so much fun to build.

    2 years ago

  • Woodzart

    Woodzart says:

    Fun! I would love to make one, thanks for posting.

    2 years ago

  • Share310

    Share310 says:

    Thank you all for such fun and lovely comments ... I can't begin to tell you how much enjoyment the grandkids and I have already had from making this TeePee. Happy TeePee making!!!

    2 years ago

  • rinnyc

    rinnyc says:

    When i was younger my days would be looking forward to be building a teepee with my sisters brothers and cousins! We would all go tramping in our woods and my oldest sister you be in charge of the teepee building. We would take huge sticks la them against a tree and voula you got a teepee! As a seven-eleven year old you can imagine anything you want too. We soon built other teepees so we had a town, elected a mayor, have bottle caps as money, we had a resteraunt with real food too. We tried to plant a garden but that really didn't work out. Soon the other neighbors helped us build the town and we made more towns. We had a teeppe city! But we are all older and teepee making is a memory of the pass i guess. Sometimes when i walk in the woods i remember that fun time, probably the funnest time building teepees.

    2 years ago

  • FrogBlossoms

    FrogBlossoms says:

    What a great set of instructions. I will have to do this with my grandchildren when they come visit next summer! They will love it!

    2 years ago

  • Marieva

    Marieva says:

    Thanks for the inpiration and the totorial. I whant to do this with my grandson next summmer.

    2 years ago

  • HoboeJane

    HoboeJane says:

    ok i have no kids but i totally want a teepee for me! lol oooo it'd be fun to lay a blanket and read a good book in :)

    2 years ago

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist says:

    how great is this! makes me want a big back yard to play in and build in! thanks for the instructions.

    2 years ago

  • WJFlintstone

    WJFlintstone says:

    I am always searching for fun things to do with the Grandsons when they come. I know these days of loving MeMaw's house will pass all to fast and they will move on to wanting to spend time with friends. So thanks for a project ideal that we will both love! I wanted to be an Indian brave when I was a little girl. Couldn't manage that so I married one!

    2 years ago

  • fanciestrands

    fanciestrands says:

    Oh MY! This is so awesome. This would be a great addition for the kids on my 4 acres. What fun!

    2 years ago

  • VillaCollezione

    VillaCollezione says:

    what a wonderful post! so nice when two different generations get together & do something fun!

    2 years ago

  • cazhoffy

    cazhoffy says:

    my son would love this and my hubby to tell the truth!!

    2 years ago

  • HardlySimpleDesigns

    HardlySimpleDesigns says:

    I love love love this idea! I cannot wait to make one with my nephew. :) Such a wonderful way for kids to spend time outdoors and with family. Thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • sandrassatchels

    sandrassatchels says:

    Great tutorial. Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • sofisticata

    sofisticata says:

    LOVE IT!! :) Thank you for sharing!! I'll have to share with my sister! She is the one with the kids!! :)

    2 years ago

  • girliepains

    girliepains says:

    aww the canoooooes!

    2 years ago

  • IrisTse

    IrisTse says:

    so lovely =)

    2 years ago

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai says:

    Love to try this

    2 years ago

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy says:

    Complete & utter RADNESS!!! Thanks, Heidi

    2 years ago

  • eastmeetswest

    eastmeetswest says:

    amazing :)

    2 years ago

  • earlgreymorning

    earlgreymorning says:

    Hey I don't know if you pay much attention to these comments and this post is kind of old but I'd just like to gently point out that this is kinda cultural appropriation :/ I recommend taking a look at this zine for a little more information. It focuses on appropriation of the head dress but the it's short and simple and addresses issues of erasing individuality and diversity of native people and various tribes: http://zinelibrary.info/headdress Some other ways to present this idea would be to link readers to actual information on local tribes so that they could teach their children factual information about native structures and symbols instead of perpetuating the false assumption that all indigenous people lived in teepees and had the same language and images etc. You could also just steer clear of the whole native bit by not referring to the tent as a teepee at all but a play fort or tent. I hope you take time to think about this and do some research of your own. Have a nice day c:

    2 years ago

  • thomasconnor

    thomasconnor says:

    This is a great tutorial. I would recommend to consider the willow teepee: http://www.kidsteepee.net/willow-teepee/

    2 years ago

  • markhiggo

    markhiggo says:

    I tried to make this but does not seem to work as well as yours, especially near the top. We are wondering do you double over the canvas then cut it out so it is a circle? Then by making a cut on one side to the centre point you would have a cone when you lift up the centre point?

    54 days ago