How to Make a Fabric Tent for Kids

How to Make a Fabric Tent for Kids
Fabric tents are simple projects and wonderful play environments for kids. They are also a good way to encourage the development of concepts of self-reliance. By building a simple pup-type fabric tent together, kids learn important lessons about simple tent structure and the process demystifies the complicated designs of modern commercial tents. Making a tent an object of play and enjoyment helps kids think of the outdoors and camping as both interesting and fun.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tape measure and pencil
  • Combination square
  • Saw (hand or power)
  • Power drill
  • ¼-inch drill bit
  • Five 1-inch square by 6-foot long boards
  • Two ¼-inch-by-3-inch-long hex bolts
  • Six ¼-inch washers
  • Two -¼ -inch wing nuts
  • Four 2-inch deck wood screws (optional)
  • Four yards outdoor fabric
  • Scissors
  • Ironing board and iron
  • No-sew iron tape
  • 3/8-inch grommets
  • Grommet pliers (for brass)
  • 9/32-inch cable cording
  • Four tent stakes or lawn nails
Step 1
Measure and mark 8 inches from one end of four of the boards. Center and drill ¼-inch holes. Measure and mark 1 inch from the other end of the same four boards. Center and drill ¼-inch holes.
Step 2
Place a washer onto the bolt and insert the bolt through one hole at the 8-inch mark. Place a second washer on the bolt and insert the bolt through one hole in a second board at the 8-inch mark. Finish with another washer and hand-tighten a wing nut on the end. Repeat this for the second set of boards.
Step 3
Open one set of boards to the width you prefer (where they touch the ground) -- this is generally about 1 foot less than the height from the floor to the pivot point. Measure the distance and cut two lengths of cording 6 inches longer than this measurement.
Step 4
Tie a double knot in the end of one cord. Thread the other end through the hole at the base of one of the boards. Thread the end through the hole at the base of the sister board and complete with another double knot to keep the cording in place (this controls the width your tent legs will spread out). Repeat this for the second set of boards.
Step 5
Measure the width of the outdoor fabric. Many outdoor fabrics are around 55 inches wide. This limits the length of the tent to 52 inches, allowing for hem and grommets (you can sew panels together for longer tents). Adjust your measurement if your fabric is not 55 inches wide.
Step 6
Cut the fabric length to 68 inches. Fold each side in 1½ inch and use no sew iron tape to hem. Do all four sides of the fabric.
Step 7
Cut a small X ¾ of an inch from each corner. Insert grommets and use grommet pliers to finish. Divide and space grommets evenly along the edges of the fabric approximately every 4 to 6 inches.
Step 8
Stand the tent legs up (have a friend help) and place the remaining board across the center. Drape the tent fabric over the crossbar and position the bar so that the tent fabric is approximately ¼ inch from each set of legs. Mark the crossbar at the front and the back of the legs so you can place screws to keep the legs in position. Screw deck screws on the marks to act as leg blocks.
Step 9
Lash the tent to the pup-tent frame with cording. Use tent stakes at the base grommets to keep an outdoor tent in place.

Tips & Warnings

Additional tent flaps can be added on either end by drawing simple triangles to fit the shape of your tent. The use of grommets and lashing makes this very easy to build and quite durable.

Article Written By F.R.R. Mallory

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.

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