DIY Tutorial: Child’s Play Tent


Hey there Everyone,

Are you having fun creating wonderful Christmas gifts? PLEASE share them with me!!! Today I have a REALLY easy tutorial for you as part 3 of the ‘Handmade Christmas’ Series. Enter the DIY Childs Play Tent! I had such fun creating this project. The fact that my DIY’s have branched out into the world of wood had me doing the happy dance! Yes, literally, dancing. Like a crazy person.

Anyhooo, here is where I show you a super simple tent design that will hopefully entertain your littles for many happy hours and provide great childhood memories. These plans make quite a large tent. I designed it to fit two shorties comfortably for sleeping in and probably can get four kiddies inside for play. Let’s get started.

Cost Breakdown and Items Needed for This Project:

$22.60: 20 feet of 0.75×1.5 inch red oak ($1.13 per foot. Cut into 4 lengths of 5 feet each, we got our wood at Home Depot and they cut it down for us)

$8.56: 8 feet of 0.75×1.5 inch birch ($1.07 per foot. 2 lengths of 4 feet each, we went with birch just cause they were already cut to size)

$4.00: 8 feet of 3/4’s inch birch ($0.50 per foot. 2 lengths of 4 feet each. We found these precut pieces placed with a bunch of dowels and if I would have seen these before buying the above wood, I would have gone for this less expensive version)

$0.80: 2 (5/16’s) Wing nuts (looks like a two little handles with a hole for the bolt to go through it)

$0.48: 2 (5/16’s) Hex bolts (looks like a giant screw without a point on the bottom)

$0.48: 2 (5/16’s) Washers (looks like a page hole reinforcer, but metal)

$0.50: 10 (1 1/4″) screws

Free: Wood stain (leftover from another project)

Free: Polyurethane (leftover from another project)

Free: Drill (borrowed)

Free: Fabric scraps and elastic (already had)

Free: Thread and sewing machine (already had)

Total Cost of Project: $37.42 Not bad at all, considering this is a sturdy piece that will last. You could certainly use scraps of wood and keep the cost down further.

I listed and linked my inspiration tents at the bottom of this tutorial for your easy reference, so you can feel free to pick and choose which style elements work best for you.


Picture of the birch strip. We decided to go with birch and oak (cause they had longer pieces of this wood, which we wanted in order to make a larger tent) cause it was a good deal sturdier than the pine of the same width. This was Hubbs good thinking. I would not have thought of that and gone with the cheaper pine.

Step 1: Cut 4 lengths of 5 foot strips. These will become your A-frames.


Here is a picture of the 3/4’s inch strip that we used for the top of the tent to keep the cover in place.


Step 2: Stain your wood strips and leave to dry overnight or as per the manufacturers instructions. Of course you could skip this step if you like and just go with the poly or nothing at all if you are keeping the tent indoors. I decided to stain and poly the wood, because I wanted it to look a bit more finished and protect the wood.


Step 3: Polyurethane your wood and leave to dry overnight or as per the manufacturers instructions.


Step 4: Mark the wood where you will drill holes for the hex bolts to go through. I admit my first choice in design would be the wooden dowel through the wood (see the inspiration below), but since I didn’t have a spade bit or even a drill for that matter (borrowed it) I went with a slightly simpler choice. Though the bits aren’t too expensive if you already have a drill.


Step 5: Drill the hole for the hex bolt. Place a washer on the bolt, thread it through the wood.


Step 6: Add another washer on the other side and the wing nut.


Step 7: After marking where you want your cross braces at the bottom of your frame to go, drill in one or two screws to fasten them. Or you could place them right at the bottom of the frame. I chose to give it a little ‘leg’ and use it to attach the cover to.

IMG_20130917_092102     IMG_20130917_092224

Step 8: Drill your screws in to fasten the cross strips at the top of the frame. (See the first picture above) I admit that Hubbs did the drilling for me. I didn’t want to ruin my beautiful, expensive wood. Thanks, Hun. Looks great! These two pictures show the tent frame folded flat for easy storage. The frame is five by four feet when folded and only about 4 inches wide. You can stow it easily behind a bed or couch.


Step 9: Decide what kind of cover you want. The easiest option would be a sheet, next would be a large piece of fabric or you can be cheap but more complicated and make a scrappy patchwork cover. Since I already had the scraps of fabric from previous projects, I went with that. I will tell you that because of the different types of material used, the cover wasn’t the straightest when complete. It still worked out okay though.

IMG_20130923_112105     IMG_20130923_112508

Step 10: Measure, cut,  and sew your cover. I attached a small elastic loop to each of the bottom corners of the tent cover so that I could wrap it around the ‘legs’ of the frame to help keep the cover in place and tightly stretched.

IMG_20130923_111955     IMG_20130923_112042

Step 11: I sewed a thin strip of fabric to the tent cover and tied it around the frame to help keep the cover tight. (See the blue fabric strips in the picture) This cover needed to fit snuggly with all those scrappy stripes going on.

IMG_20130923_112244     IMG_20130923_112653

Since this tent is for mostly for Azure, I tried to have Brecks model it while Azure was at school. Brecks was playing in the tent inside the house while I got the cover adjusted, so when I got it outside to take the pictures he was more interested in just running around. He is not one for posing, so I just had to run around with him trying to get a shot in. As you can see, not too successful. The shot doesn’t look like it would be very big inside in comparison to Brecks, but the bottom measures 4′ x4′ of floor space. I sat up inside and there was definitely room for my two little guys as well.

So there you have it, just what every tiny person needs to imagine and pretend in. What elements of the design are your favorites?

Inspiration A: When I started building my tent the website was down and I wasn’t able to view any plans, just the picture. But, now its back up and there is a great tutorial included. I LOVE the muslin look with the hand stamped shapes. Tassel garlands! Swoon and fast heartbeats. Wonderful. I really like the dowel through the frame as well.

Inspiration B: I liked the wood bottom strips to stabilize the tent, so I added them to mine. Although a simple fix just having a strip of wood over the top of the tent in the notch, I didn’t want it falling down or getting lost. Since I wanted my creation to fold easily since we don’t have a ton of space to keep a tent permanently set up. The scrunched tent cover gives interest to the plain fabric.

Well, I do hope you had some creative thoughts because of this post. Happy days


2 thoughts on “DIY Tutorial: Child’s Play Tent

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