building a bush shelter with preschoolers

After spending the past few weeks writing about natural elements in children's play spaces, I inspired myself to build a bush cubby with the kids at preschool.

I gathered up some intrepid stick hunters and we headed outside to gather up some of the long, sturdy sticks we could see lying on the ground.

These boys love their sticks, and were quite thrilled that we were blatently breaking the "no sticks bigger than your thumb" rule. I assured them that it was okay as we were using these sticks for good instead of evil.

A back corner of the playground was the perfect location because we could use the fence as roof supports. I lay the biggest sticks across the corner and lashed them to the fence with string. Then I sat back and watched.

The boys discovered the biggest sticks were the perfect size to lay across the front of the support. The roof was a bit too high for them to reach so next time we will choose a spot that is more child-sized. They did however develop a pretty effective system of throwing the sticks up there. You can't tell from the picture, but for most of this time I was holding my breath and trying to banish the saying "poke your eye out with a stick" from my mind.


These little fellows came straight from playing hospitals, so they are still in their doctor's gowns.

I don't have a photo for this, but while I was lashing the roof together the boys set to with the string and made an adult trap around the front of the shelter. This was a kids-only zone! You can just make it out in this photo:

I love the way they all look so relaxed in their bush shelter. They stayed there for ages, chatting away and lolling about on cushions they carried up from inside.

I was summoned to find them some material for the roof as it wasn't shady enough for them. They ever so kindly allowed me in the adult no-go-zone to put the shade cloth up for them, and then banished me again.


We did need to set some ground rules for the bush shelter building:

  • sticks are for building our shelter
  • sticks are for holding up the shelter and not for swinging on, or climbing on
  • watch where you are going when you are carrying a big stick
  • make sure there is no one under the shelter when you are putting new sticks on the roof

I'm happy to report that everyone went home with both eyes. Maybe next time we will try a teepee, and start a little village of shelters.


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Comment by mariza novello on August 26, 2010 at 10:16am
Aprecio muito as suas atividades com as crianças, elas me inspiram muito, sempre uso algo delas com as minhas crianças!
Comment by Charley May on May 26, 2010 at 5:55am
This looks like awesome fun! God I loved building similar structures when I was a kid - I imagined I was an explorer stuck on a desert island; must of been my love for Robinson Crusoe and Swallows and Amazons books that did it. Cool project, looks like the kids enjoyed themselves.
Comment by Jennifer Kable on May 25, 2010 at 5:39pm
Thank you for the kind words guys - after almost a month the shelter is still standing (well, the sturdier parts anyway) and we are now thinking of ways to build a teepee.
Comment by Suz Lipman on May 25, 2010 at 11:12am
What a great activity and contagious fun attitudes! Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer.
Comment by Ken Finch on April 27, 2010 at 5:39pm
"Adult trap" -- wonderful! LOL Fun post!

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