Thursday, August 25, 2005

Build Your Kids a Playhouse, Really!

By Christina VanGinkel

Help your child express their creativity by building them an inexpensive, but action packed playhouse. It could be a castle to slay dragons from, a boat to sail across the oceans, or a cottage complete with picket fence and front porch. Or for the more outdoorsy kid, build them a cabin so they can get back to nature and invite Davy Crocket over for supper on the back forty. Any design that will bolster their innate creativity will work!

Building the 'guts' of the Playhouse

If you are not the construction type, don't worry, as this is the ideal project for you. Either the playhouse guts can be a purchased, basic wood playhouse, or if you can master a hammer, nails, and a few boards, go ahead and build a fundamental box shape with roof and door. For an even easier option, and if the playhouse will not be left outdoors, consider constructing it entirely of cardboard. Contact a local appliance store to see if they have any large sheets of cardboard or boxes, such as those that refrigerators or freezers come shipped in. The details are all painted, not fabricated, so as long as you can hold a paintbrush and follow a basic paint by number scheme, you will be able to complete this project in time for your child to be shouting 'Ships Ahoy!' in no time at all.

Coming up With the Design

The idea behind this is that once you have your basic playhouse built, sketch a chunky visualization of what you want to create. You do not have to be an artist to do this; just think of the old style color by number pictures we all painted as kids. Each area that was to be filled in was predominantly large and open. Some small areas would exist, but even those would have clearly defined edges. If you are still having a hard time with the concept, borrow a few of your kid's color books or browse online for some free color pages, to see if what you want to create is lurking in any of these places. For example, when I wanted to build a tree house styled playhouse for my grandson, I found a picture at http://www.coloring.ws/ in their color pages of a tree. I also found a squirrel and a few other small animals that I thought would work well with the theme. I printed them off and enlarged them by hand to the required sizes I would need. You could also have the graphics enlarged at your local print shop. Measure the area you will be painting and create a corresponding design with what space you have to work with.

Painting Your Imagination Activator

Once you have your pattern enlarged, trace it directly onto the side of your playhouse, and paint it in the same manner you would paint-by-number, filling in one color at a time. I painted ours completely in acrylics, so my son and grandson could help, but outdoor paints would work much better, especially if the project will be in direct contact with the outdoors for long lengths of time. While you will not end up with a work of art, you will end up with a fun place for the young set to hang out in and activate their imagination. You will also gain the knowledge that not everything you do with the kids has to be complicated.

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