When I was a kid, I always wished that Tinker Toys were life-sized so I could build a house and then live in it. I think that is why I love this project so much.   Ryan recently had a sleep-over at a friend’s house for a camping-themed birthday party.   His friend’s mom had cut some PVC pipes and provided blankets so the kids could create their own indoor sleeping tent in her living room.   It was such a hit with my kids, that we borrowed the idea and this was our first creation.   Here is how to make a play tent.

make a tentDIY Tent Supplies:

  • 10 – 1/2″ PVC plumbing pipes {they come in a 10′ length}
  • 2 – 10 piece bags of 1/2″ 90 degree ELBOW
  • 2 – 10 piece bags of 1/2″ TEE
  • Ratcheting PVC Cutter
  • 5 – Sheets

make a tent suppliesHow to Make A Tent:

  1. My friend had her local home improvement store cut the tent pipes, but my Home Depot was not that accommodating, so I purchased a Ratcheting PVC Cutter to do it myself at home.   They are very easy to use and it did give me the freedom to cut the pieces the exact size I wanted once I figured out what we were going to make.   I cut 8 of the pipes into 2 – 4′ pieces and one 2′ section.
  2. After some serious math calculations which included my 5th grader, husband and the Pythagorean theorem, I cut 2 of the longer PVC pipes into sections that were 2′ 9 7/8″ so that a 90 degree elbow could be used at the roof peaks.   I labeled these pieces with a Sharpie “R” for “roof” so they could be easily identified when needed.
  3. Several of the smaller 2′ pieces I cut into 2″ inch pieces to be used as connectors.
  4. To make the structure shown here you would need:   12 – 4′ segments, 4 – “R” segments, 10 – 90 degree ELBOW pieces, 12 – TEE pieces and 12 – 2″ connectors {small cut piece of regular pipe}.
  5. Add sheets and move in {I learned that blankets were more likely to cause a weight shift, but could be used if a more stable structure was built}.

make a tent frameWe made several variations of this structure substituting 2′ segments for several of the WALL portions to help add stability.   If you are doing this with small children, it might be best to start with smaller pipe sections and use chairs or a tree for support since it is likely to shift and fall over with JUST this configuration.

We also started experimenting with adding cross-bars which continued the mommy math lesson to achieve that within the generic pieces of PVC available at a hardware store.

make a tent jointsBecause the PVC pipe joints are not as functional as Tinker Toy connectors, there is a little problem-solving when it comes to how to put things together.   You can see my lower and upper corners pictured here.   The TEE segments are complimented by adding a 2″ connector piece that joins the ELBOW below.   On the upper corner, two TEEs are used – one for the supporting vertical post and one at an angle for the roof.

The PVC pipes were less than $2 a piece and so were the bags of ELBOWs and TEEs.   All the PVC materials for this project was less than $25.   The PVC cutter costs around $10. The cool thing is when the boys were tired of building a tent house, they simply pushed it over and built something else with the pieces… They make decent musical instruments and awesome weapons. . Like camping?   Quirky Momma is part of a online camping community and we’d love for you to join us and tell us about your camping or travel experiences at the KOA Around the Campfire Community.

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  3. Hey there Quirky Mamma! I’m linking to this tent DIY in a post I will be putting out soon! Great Pics and details on instructions!

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  5. This is AWESOME! My hubby, kids, and I will have a great time building this!!! Question about the sheets – yours look so “neat” in the top picture. Is there a trick to getting them to stay in place like that? Thanks!

    1. Mine are flannel so they stay put a bit better in the wind outside. I used clothespins. Also, I am showing the most presentable picture above :). hahaha

  6. COOL! I’ve often thought about making a bucket full of pvc pieces for my son to just have fun and create with. He had a pvc marshmallow shooter that he took apart and redesigned into various swords and weapons and whatnot. I just haven’t gotten around to making a pvc collection yet — maybe I should!

  7. How cute is this?? What a fun, creative idea for kids to play in! I know my girls would love to have this! Thanks for sharing @ Show & Share!