When wet weather is looming there is no need to head indoors! Rain and even the hot sun, provide an opportunity apply skills such as problem solving & creative thinking through the process of designing and building your own shelters/huts.
The beauty of shelter building is that it allows us to feed our construction urge and be part of making a structure with minimal materials, most of which you will have in your home, garage or garden shed.
Before getting into the construction of any shelter, it's a good opportunity to discuss the basics of what a house/shelter needs. This allows children to think, plan, design and gather the resources they may need before getting started. If you have some paper/clipboard and some pens/crayons available you may suggest that the child (or with adult assistance) draws what their vision of what they want the hut to look like.
Some suggested points to discuss:
~ What does it need to protect us from rain? - Roof? Walls?
~ How are we going to get in and out? - doors? perhaps windows?
~ Is our shelter one room or does it have different rooms? - kitchen, bedroom, bathroom?
~ What do you want to use our shelter for? Could we pretend it is something?
~ What shapes are we using?
~ How high does it need to be?
~ What could we use from nature to make it? - what else do we need?
~ What tools to we need?
Throughout the planning and construction of your shelter it is important to allow the child ownership over the experience. Although you may have ways in which you know work, by telling the child, opportunity to work it out for themselves is missed.
If you have paper/clipboard and some pens/crayons handy then a great extension is to encourage children to draw their vision/ideas down so that everyone who is working on it has a shared goal. Which often helps to reduce the frustrations that come from the struggles of sharing exactly what ideas are in the mind. Shelters/huts can be made with many different materials and often involved lots of playful experimentation and problem solving, so it it best to plan for some uninterrupted time to really engage and get deep into experiential learning.
Here are some suggestions of what you can use:
~ Bed sheets
~ Old fishing nets
~ Weed matting
~ Cardboard boxes
~ Bin liners/black sacks
~ Leaves, plant foliage
When it comes to constructing your shelter it is a good idea to find an existing solid structure nearby to use as a support to either lean against or tie ropes to, to give it some extra stability. This might be a tree trunk, fence post, or you can dig a hole in the ground to hold a solid stick upright. There are a few ways you can secure your shelter to the ground or secure materials to one another.
Here are some suggested ways to secure/fasten:
~ Rope + Knots
~ Bulldog clips/clamps
~ Tent pegs/wood pegs/ sticks
~ Weaving of branches/plants
~ Logs or Rocks used at weights
Knot tying with children is best done with a thicker rope that is easier to see and grasp with little fingers. Although knot tying can seem complex, there are some simple knots that with practice young children can learn and master. Knot tying helps to improve hand-eye coordination, perseverance and strengthens fine motor skills which we use for other tricky tasks such as zips, buttons, shoe laces, drawing/writing and much more.
Here are some simple step-by-step knots that are handy to know for shelter building.
To learn some more knots follow this link to a youtube tutorial for simple knots for children.
At Farm School we like to make our own tent pegs by whittling down the end of sticks to make into a point, using potato peelers. Potato peelers are a great introduction to tool use as they pose low risk but create an environment based on trust & responsibility. As a simple rule we keep our hands away from the blades, and always push the blade away from our bodies.
Here are some suggested tools to use:
~ Potato peeler/whittling knife
~ Bow saw
~ Measuring Tape
Shelters/huts provide a more than meets the eye. Some learning opportunities that may occur throughout this fun experience are:
~ Maths & Literacy - size, shape, measurement
~ Engineering- weight, height, balance etc
~ Gross & Fine motor skills - carrying & moving objects, tricky knots & fastenings
~ Communication skills - talking, sharing and listening to ideas
~ Planning & Goal setting - making a plan, setting a goal
~ Problem solving, resilience, perseverance - adapting and refine technique
~ Imagination, Creativity, Role play - creating spaces from minimal resources
~ Gathering, Construction & Deconstruction urge - collecting resources, building and knocking down
Now you are equipped with the basics of shelter building, I challenge you to get outdoors and build one for yourself! Check out our cool time-lapse of our team effort at Farm School by following this link.