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In memory of Fred Rogers
He fed my imagination, taught me about my own feelings, and made me certain that kids were worthy of respect, every day, all from the other side of a TV set.
And to my parents
My childhood was ideal and just a little strange. Thanks for helping me grow and teaching me to grow ALL THE THINGS!
The Roots of a Wild Child
Chapter One: Forts and Other Hideaways
Scrounging for Unexpected Building Materials
Forts & Playhouses
Plants That Make Great Places to Hide
Build a Straw Bale Fort
Plant a Living Willow Hideaway
A Fort in Winter
The Simple Leaf Pile
Make a Loom Tent
Make a Map of Your Neighborhood
Hiding Play Materials
Chapter Two: Places for Tinkering
Create a Mud Lab
Soda & Mentos Eruptions
Setting Booby Traps
Make a Slingshot
Build a Catapult
Protect Your Toys from Pirates
Create a Wall of Noise
DIY Rube Goldberg Device
Bored? No way!
Chapter Three: Naturally Wild
Grow a Tiny Fruit Tree
Natural Paints & Dyes
Grow Your Own Snacks
Snacks to Identify & Forage
Dig Your Own Clay
Logs & Stumps
Chapter Four: Setting Up Camp
(Fake) Neighborhood Lore
Make a Hand-Washing Station
Create an Outdoor Shower
Set Up an Outdoor Toilet
Make a Fire Pit
Hobo Camp Food & Old-Timey Cooking
Outdoor Stages for Performances or Fomenting a Rebellion
Chapter Five: Sidewalks, Fences, and Driveways
Graffiti on Fences
Fun on the Driveway
Exploding Sidewalk Chalk
Chapter Six: Adventure Course
Make Your Own Slip 'N Slide
Tough Li'l Mudders
Make Your Own Stilts
Red Yarn Laser Climb
Chapter Seven: Water, Bubbles, and Goo
Make a Water Blob
Baby Pool Fun
Piñata Full of Water Balloons
Make Giant Bubbles
Tyvek Suit Full of Water Balloons
Eggshell Paint Bombs
Chapter Eight: It Ain’t Over Yet
Old-Timey Yard Games
Turn Dolls into Mummies
Duct Tape Zombies
Glow Stick Hunt
Super Secret Section: *For Parents Only*
A Big, Bouncy Thank-You to:
Explore, Lear, Create! with More Books from Storey
Share Your Experience!
The Roots of a Wild Child
My strongest childhood memories from growing up in the suburbs of Chicago are of the relentless, everyday boredom that reliably gave way to unbelievably creative, noisy, messy, and usually outdoor play.
I remember eating breakfast and then breaking out the back door like a racehorse and not coming in unless it was absolutely necessary. My parents would set peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out on the back stoop for me like I was some kind of feral grade-schooler.
One day when I ran out of ideas for what to do, this magical set of books appeared — Making Things: The Handbook of Creative Discovery by Ann Wiseman. I don't know where they came from or who the intended audience for these books was. (The set didn't seem like it was for kids and it was too simple for adults.) But for me, reading them was an almost religious experience. They were quirkily hand drawn, with super hippie block print spelling out ideas for weird crafts. From simple projects like weed weaving (reimagined and included in this book here) and making things from old tin cans (which, I now realize, would surely create a bloodbath if carried out by little kids) to baking incredibly elaborate breads that looked like animals (and would never, ever fit in a normal oven), Wiseman's ideas just set my tiny brain ablaze. I can't even say that I actually completed a single project from the books, but they were the fuel for years of play afterward. These books gave me inspiration, goals, and constant, everlasting weird dreams about bread animals.
I can only hope that kids and parents pick up this book and feel half of what I felt about the Ann Wiseman volumes. I hope it inspires children of all ages to unplug, put on some play clothes, get dirty, and explore. I'd love to hear about your messy outdoor adventures, too. You can call me up on a phone made out of an old tin can and tell me all about them, toll free!
Chapter OneForts and Other Hideaways
We all want a place of our own — a place where we can be in charge. In your own little lair or tiny animal den, you get to be the rule maker and the decider. You can make a little hiding place that's all yours, one that you build and decorate however you like. How you build it depends on what kind of material you have lying around, but here are some tips to get started and a few ideas to build on.
Scrounging for Unexpected Building Materials
Before you can build, you need construction materials.
"Loose parts" are those magical items that you can play with and turn into whatever you want them to be. An old tire could become a spaceship. A box could be a time machine! A long length of PVC pipe could be a flagpole, part of a tent, a measuring device, a megaphone, a pea shooter, a tunnel, or a hose. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you'll have your own great ideas.
Visiting junkyards, reuse centers, and thrift stores for bits and pieces can spur new ideas for materials, but it is important to adhere to a budget even if the original plans go out the window. Junior junkers should also consider transportation of found items. Important questions include, "How will I get this home?" "Will it fit in the car?" "Will it mess up the car?"
Loose Parts and Unexpected Playthings
- Sheets of foam insulation. These can be carved into anything, including bricks, walls, tombstones, counters, doors, and roofs.
- Chunks of leftover lumber. These can become building blocks, like an oversize version of Lincoln Logs or TinkerToys.
- Pallets. These make great fort walls, roofs, and drawbridges. They can be used as a stage, an organizer for all the other loose parts, or as an imaginary jet. Work gloves are helpful if you're worried about splinters.
- Old tools. Having your own tools will help you avoid the hassle of having to raid a parent's tool box.
- Canning jars. These can be used to hold potions, insects, or bouquets; to drink from; and to make terrariums.
- Wires. Old wires can be used to build time machines, robots, nests, radios, and other interstellar connections.
- Buckets. They can be sandcastle forms or step stools. You can fill them with water and set them outside in winter for icy building blocks.
- Crates. Use these as giant bricks, or add a rope to turn one into a trailer for hauling.
- Pipes and fittings. These can be used to build a framework for any kind of hideout, especially tepees and tents.
- Building materials. You can make structures out of old chimney pipes, shoe molding, bolts, wheels, bricks, and stones.
- Casters. These are great for making your own carts and wheelbarrows.
- Bike wheels. Use wheels as gears or cogs. Turn a wheel to make something happen.
- Tires. These can become building blocks or tunnel supports.
- Fabric. A large piece of fabric can be used to cover hideouts, snuggle up, or lie down on. You can also pile stuff on it and drag it around.
- Chicken wire. This makes a good framework for all kinds of hideaways and a great base for weaving with pretty much anything. Use gloves to protect your hands from pokey ends.
Forts & Playhouses
Parents: Keep Out!
You can make any old tool shed into your own private hideout! Fly your flag, hang some curtains, or set booby traps to keep intruders out. The two brothers below decked out their old play structure and turned it into a fort. Fun!
Let your yard go wild!
Choose an area (or the whole yard) and see what happens when it's left to grow as long as possible. Try burrowing through the grass and making a nest or a series of tunnels, as if you were a tiny mouse or a baby rabbit. Discover what happens when Mother Nature takes over as the designer.
When I was little, my favorite place to play was an open space in the middle of three spruce trees that had been planted a little too close together, where the trees shed their needles (probably from lack of light). In this little hideaway, I had a wall-to-wall carpet of spruce needles, a drop in temperature because of the deep shade, cathedral ceilings, and all the coat racks a kid could want. And it was ready for play, 24/7/365.
One kind of play space you can make is a tepee.
We made one out of whatever we had lying around the house: Three 8-foot-long copper pipes, one 4-foot roll of chicken wire (it's sharp, so make sure you're wearing protective clothing and thick gloves when handling it!), parachute cord, zip ties, old bubble wrap, and clear packing tape. You can even build in stages and add bubble wrap as it arrives at your house in packages. No need to hurry!
There are lots of other options for building materials, too. You could build the tepee frame with PVC pipes, sticks, old lumber, or broomsticks. And you could cover it with: scraps of fabric tied to the chicken wire frame, a tarp, canvas, stuffed animals zip-tied to the chicken wire, old flip-flops, old homework, papier-mâché, or leaves and branches.
- 1.Lay the pipes down next to each other, weave rope between all three pieces at the top, and tie a knot. Do this at least twice, then pop up the structure.
- 2.Wrap one end of the chicken wire around one of the copper pipes and zip-tie it in place. Pull the chicken wire around your tepee form and zip-tie it to each pole, overlapping the chicken wire, if necessary. (Fold any extra chicken wire to make it lay flat, or snip off irregular pieces.)
- 3.Cut the chicken wire with wire cutters. Wearing gloves, bend the pointy ends in so you don't get snagged by them (ouch!). Cut a door opening into the chicken wire wherever you like. Bend all the jagged pieces of chicken wire back flat.
- 4.Cover the chicken wire with bubble wrap and clear tape. Make sure the bubble wrap covers the inside and outside edges of the doorway.
“Rocket fuel for a free-range childhood.” — Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow and founder of Free-Range Kids
“Play is the work of childhood and modern kids are play-deficient. Backyard Adventure provides the healthy injection of play all children need. They’ll never realize they’re learning physics, chemistry, botany, and engineering — they’ll be having too much fun!” — Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever — And What to Do About It
“Wow, what a treasure trove of ideas and projects. I was laughing and saying aloud, YES, YES, YES! Amanda Thomsen understands that the simplest things in nature are what nurture young souls and spirits. Hurrah!” — Sharon Lovejoy, Author of Roots, Shoots, Buckets Boots, Sunflower Houses, Camp Granny and many more favorite books for children
- On Sale
- Apr 2, 2019
- Page Count
- 160 pages