Jun 05 2017

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Summer Play: A Kid-designed PVC Tent

Kid-designed PVC Tent

It’s a beautiful day. The kids want to go outside. I know outside, free play helps grow them in ways nothing else can.

Active free play outdoors is a kind of play that promotes healthy sensory and motor development in children.

~ Angela J. Hanscom, Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children (affiliate link)

Neighborhood kids of various ages want to play too. I suggest they build a tent with PVC and sheets.

Play ignites with time, space, and materials

“Can we really?” my daughter asks hopefully. Oh to be in the position to give a whole-hearted yes. My heart swells with gladness. I give them time and materials and let them run with their own ideas.

So, they take out the bag of PVC. (I’ve written about some of their PVC adventures here. And, yes, we have a bag of PVC just for play.) They gather some play sheets. (What? You don’t have play sheets in your house? I suppose you could use your regular bed sheets, but play sheets are bed sheets free to be used in play.)

It wasn’t long before they had their design and were inside playing house. (They added a card table to extend their house. I think that became the primary door.) It was a warm day, so I reminded them it would be good to have some sides of the house open for air circulation.

They played outside all afternoon

The play house didn’t last all day. Not at all. It transformed and morphed as they changed up the use of the PVC. Using PVC, they went from building, to listening to each other (through the pipe), to propelling Nerf bullets. They played all afternoon.

When they decide to play again, they can come up with a new design.

The Kid-designed PVC Tent:

  • Doesn’t have a set blueprint.
  • Is up to them to design and re-design.
  • And when they design it, it’s always awesome.PVC Tent

If you want to give it a try


  • 1/2″ PVC pipe–other sizes are fine to use. Just remember to buy the same size elbows, T’s, etc. as the pipe.
  • A contractor pack of 90° elbows (A contractor pack is 10. I am amazed at how quickly a pack gets used.)
  • A pack of T’s
  • A pack of connectors (These are helpful for reconnecting pipe to make it into equal lengths but aren’t used as much as the elbows and T’s.)
  • If you want the roof to be angled like the picture, you will need 45° elbows. I didn’t see any of those in contractor packs. We bought 4.
  • TEKTON 6466 PVC Pipe Cutter (affiliate linkto easily cut the pipe. My then 9-year-old, Bear, had been using a PVC pipe cutter since he was 8. It is simple (and fun) to use. (A note of caution: just use the cutter for PVC not for tree branches. It might break the cutter. Ask me how I know.)
  • Buy sheets at a yard sale or thrift store if you don’t have old sheets.

Just a beginning

PVC provides a buildable structure. With trees and other natural materials, play continues to be more interesting and complex.

Older children can design complex houses or help younger children achieve their design goals.

A PVC tent is only one way to use PVC for play. The opportunity for fun and creativity is limited to their imagination.

One note of caution

If children are not used to unstructured, self-directed play, don’t expect them to fall deep into play for hours at first. But if you continue to provide time, space, and materials, you are helping them move toward play. Persevere, and in time, and with your encouragement, they will play. Angela J. Hanscom’s book, Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children (affiliate link), not only addresses the need for play but, specifically the benefits of play in nature along with ways you can help your child play more.

Read this article on The Benefits of Play. Play grows your children in ways nothing else can.

Give PVC play a try, and let me know how it goes

Leave a comment about your adventures with PVC pipe fun.


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