"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Saturday, September 10, 2016

a tent for a toddler

Our good friends who lend me their tools have a little girl. And that little girl is turning 2 years old! Last year for her birthday, I made her some rice-bag numbers. I wanted to make her something again this year, but I didn't think about it ahead very much, so I started scouring the Interwebs for something I could make in a pretty short amount of time. I also needed something that a 2-year-old would like. As I don't really have much experience with small children, I was having more trouble with that part than finding relatively simple DIY toys. 

Then I came across this little tent. I thought it might be perfect, so I emailed a couple of my other friends who know about small children to confirm that it would be a good choice. They basically said, "toddlers love tents!" And so it was decided.

The tent is basically an A-frame with a PVC pipe down the middle to enable it to hinge mostly flat for storage, then covered with a twin bedsheet. As I am all about trying to force my love of space onto impressionable young minds, I thought it would be really great if I could find sheets with stars on them, so when sitting in the tent, one could pretend to be looking up at the night sky. In my brief search, I didn't find exactly what I originally had in mind, but at Homegoods, I did find these:

Next it was on to Home Depot for the wood and pipe. The online directions called for 4 4'x1"x2"s and 2 60"x1"x2"s cut from 8' long 1"x2"s. 60" seemed kind of long to me; I figured for little children, 48" would be plenty long enough. Plus, then I could get away with buying only 3 1"x2"s instead of 4. A nice employee cut the 8' lengths in half, so my boards were all the right length and would fit in my car :-) When it came to picking out the PVC pipe, I again deviated from the online instructions. They called for 3/4" pipe, but when I held it up to my 1"2", it seemed too big, not leaving very much wood surrounding the pipe. So I went with a 1/2" pipe.

I got all my materials home and got to work. The pipe size is the inside diameter, so I measured the outside diameter to figure out how big my hole needed to be. It came to about 13/16", which of course, I don't have a drill bit for. I'm not sure if they even come in that size. I had 3/4" and 7/8" spade bits. I got some scrap wood to do some tests. It turned out, as expected, the 3/4" hole was too small and the 7/8" hole was too big. So I went back to the 3/4" hole and attempted to enlarge it. Using a coping saw to hack the hole bigger was fairly effective, but then there was still A LOT of sanding that needed to be done, which took for. ever. Eventually I gave in and made a trip back to Home Depot to purchase a set of files. This worked quite well, but still took a long time. Also, my holes were not quite round and not quite centered, but I figured for a kid, it was probably good enough. After getting all the holes done, I screwed the bottom cross-piece to the two side pieces for each side of the tent. I used my corner clamps to hold everything in place while I pre-drilled a little hole, then drove in the wood screw. I used #8 1.5" screws because that's what I had lying around.

The tent I'd found online just left the wood raw, but I decided it would be nicer to paint it. I had some spray paint leftover from other things. Since I was in a bit of a time-crunch, I used that instead of regular paint. I primed the tent pieces, then painted them white. I'd originally planned to paint them with some yellow I had leftover from painting a planter, but after seeing how much paint the priming used up, I didn't think I'd have enough. I thought, white is nice too.

After everything was painted, it seemed that enough paint had gotten inside the holes to make them too tight for the pipe, so it was back to filing them down again. Finally I was able to assemble the whole frame. 

Next I had to prepare the sheet. Since I'd gone with only 48" length for the tent, my sheet was much too wide. I did a bunch of measuring and math to determine how much to fold over on each side to make it fit. I did that, carefully measuring and pinning the sheet every 6" or so to hold it in place while I attached it to the tent frame.

The next step really required two people, so I enlisted my ever-obliging husband to assist. We had to get the sheet centered over the pipe and wrapped around the bottom board, held as tautly as possible. Then, while still attempting to hold it tightly, we had to put in a few staples to hold it all in place. Next we flipped the whole thing upside down, so we could wrap the sheet over the very bottom and staple it there. Of course, about halfway through, we ran out of staples, so it was back to Home Depot for more. The stapling was pretty hard, and a lot of the staples didn't quite go in all the way, but they went in enough that they could be hammered a bit to make them nice and flush. And then I had a tent!

We saw our friends the day after their daughter's birthday. At first she was a little unsure, but once we showed her how she could go in the tent, she had a pretty good time running back and forth through it. Hopefully, she will continue to enjoy her tent for quite some time.

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