Keep Your Bored Kid Busy: Simple DIY Play Tent

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I’m not going to lie: I’m one of those parents who dreads the end of the school year. Not because I don’t relish being able to spend more time with my daughter or go on family vacations, but because of two simple words: “I’m bored.” The bane of every parent’s existence during the summer. Summer camps generally only last a week at a time, and most are prohibitively expensive, so my husband and I are left to find ways to occupy our 7-year-old that don’t involve a screen.

I bookmarked a DIY play tent years ago, but never got around to trying it. When Walmart challenged me to create a fun summer idea for kids, this project immediately came to mind. Since my daughter has developed a love for making forts and tents out of sheets, chairs, pillows and whatever else she can get her hands on, I figured now was the time to try.

You’ll Need:

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Once we got into this project, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. The setup of the tent is really simple. Take a look at this diagram:

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We originally planned to use the 36″ sign stakes from Walmart, and they would work great for a smaller child. However, my daughter is ridiculously tall for her age, so we wound up using some longer pieces of 1.5″ x .75″ plywood we had from another project. We cut each piece down to 48 inches in length.

The next step is to drill holes to connect all the pieces together. Measure 2″ from both ends of your wood. Make a mark dead center. This is where you will drill the holes for your round wooden dowels.

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You’ll want to carefully check the diameter of your wooden dowels and make sure your drill bit is the same size. We bought 7/16″ dowels at Walmart, so we had to pick up a drill bit in that same size. Carefully drill all 8 holes (at both ends of each length of plywood).

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Feel free to sand the edges of the holes to remove any loose wood and splinters. Place two lengths of plywood together with the holes at both ends lining up. Slip a wooden dowel through the holes at one end. Assuming you used the correct drill bit size, your dowels should slide into the holes pretty snugly and you won’t need any end caps or washers to keep them in place. However, feel free to add these for additional strength if you wish.

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Do the same with the two remaining lengths of plywood, and slide the other end of the dowel through the top holes. Then simply open up the pieces of plywood into an A-shape. You should be able to see the frame of your tent taking shape. The other two wooden dowels will act as support beams at the bottom of the tent. Slide the dowels through the bottom holes on both sides of the A frame.

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Ta da! The frame is complete! But it’s not a tent without a cover.

I grabbed a twin flat sheet at Walmart for just $4.97 to use in making the cover. I discovered that the width of the tent was exactly half the width of the sheet. This may not be the case for you, depending on the length of your dowels, but I just cut the sheet in half, lengthwise.

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Cut four 10″ length of ribbon. Fold each piece of ribbon in half, and sew them to each corner of the sheet, on the right side.

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These will allow you to attach the cover to the frame. Simply lay the sheet over the center dowel and pull each side over the support dowels on the bottom. Fold the end over the dowel and tie the ribbon around the plywood, like so:

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Finally, I wrapped some fancy Duck tape around the bottom of each piece of wood to help my daughter avoid splinters and to help the tent slide open and closed more easily on top of the carpet.

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That’s it! I planned to add some embellishments like tassel or some iron-on appliques, and even add some “doors”, but I ran out of energy — and my daughter ran out of patience to try the tent!

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She slept in it the very first night, and she’s been using it nonstop ever since! She loves it, and the dog loves it too!

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The beauty of this design is that the round dowels make the entire tent collapsible. So we can just fold it up and slide it under her bed or in a corner when she’s finished with it. Easy cleanup makes for a happy Mama.

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I also love the fact that I can easily change out the cover if my daughter wants another color or pattern. I have some old orange and white curtains that I’ll probably use to make another cover.

All in all, this is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve done in a while, because I can see how much my daughter loves it. Plus, even if you have to buy all the supplies brand new, you’ll still spend less than $25 total to make it. Now I just have to figure out how to keep her busy for the next 3 months O__O.  This Pinterest board of activities is a start. How do you plan to keep your kids busy this summer?

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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