Setting Up an Outdoor Play Tent Sanctuary
Setting up a tent outdoors isn’t just for camping! Every spring, we set up a tent in our backyard to use as a sanctuary and a holding tank, and it has been a very beloved location, especially when we have little babies. In Michigan, we get REALLY excited when spring arrives! The problem is that even though the snow thaws, it’s still pretty chilly (and windy) until June. Having this permanent tent set up ensures that we always have a warm place to play that will allow us to enjoy the fresh outdoor air while staying protected from the elements.
- Tent – We usually just go to the nearest box store and pick up whatever is cheapest. (We learned the hard way this year, however, that it’s very important to make sure the tent has a window so you can get a cross breeze.) We’ve been setting up outdoor tents for the past 4 years and have never had a tent that lasts more than one year. By the time snow falls, the walls of the tent are so worn, they just rip apart. Because of this, we usually go with a cheap tent like this. This tent would be a a bit more luxurious and if you’re looking for a really permanent tent, you can go with one of these canvas tents.
- Padding – Some foam padding like this 1-inch king size mattress topper (or this 4-inch mattress topper) will turn your tent into one big comfy bed!
- Waterproof Cover – There is always a bit of water getting into the tent for one reason or another, so it’s a good idea to cover your foam padding with something like this.
- Sheet – I like to put a fitted king size sheet over the waterproof cover.
- Blankets – I don’t think we can ever have enough blankets in this household, so I am always on the lookout for good blankets like this at garage sales and thrift stores. I put one blanket down under the pillows and baskets of books and another blanket loosely on top. This second blanket can easily be taken out and shaken if it gets covered in sand and debris. This is also the blanket I’ll use if I want to have a blanket on the grass.
- Pillows – Having about 3-4 pillows makes it really nice to stretch out for a little snooze.
- Baskets – Wicker baskets like these are really nice for holding books and a shallow basket like this is really nice for holding toys.
- Books – I love having a wide assortment of books, but I don’t keep my best out here in case of water or other damage.
- Coloring Supplies – This is the first time I’ve included coloring supplies like coloring books, workbooks, blank notebooks, pencil boxes with pencils and crayons, and the bigger kids really enjoy it!
- Toys – Because I have kids ranging from newborn to elementary school age, I have a variety of different toys that everyone can enjoy.
- Little Chair – The kids especially love this little chair when I put it out on a blanket in the grass. Reading is always more fun when you’re in a little chair!
- Diapers and Wipes – Because our tent is a little ways from the house, it’s nice to be able to change a diaper without having to go inside.
- Find a good location. It’s nice to have something that can be in shade or partial shade so it doesn’t get too hot in the summer. It’s also nice to have the opening of the tent facing an area of high activity so that you can see what’s going on when you’re in the tent and vice versa.
- Set up the tent. We keep our tent in the same spot every year, so after the grass died and it was all dirt, we leveled it with a rake to make it flat.
- Put some sheets of wood in front of the tent. You could also use a big rug or Astro turf, but basically you want something to keep grass and dirt out of the tent.
- Fill it with fun stuff. Based on the ages of your children, location of the tent, and the purpose of the tent, you will want to fill the tent with things to suit your needs. I like filling my tent with books, coloring supplies, toys, and pillows and blankets.
- Play inside the tent. I like to keep the tent closed if it’s going to rain, but as soon as we head out to play I like to open it up and let the kids come and go as they please.
- Use the tent as a holding tank. If we want to hang out outside with babies, I like taking a blanket out of the tent and putting toys, books, and the little chair on it.
- Keep it clean. When our tent gets full of sand, dirt, grass, and leaves, I am so happy that I keep my extra blanket nestled lightly on top so that I can easily shake it out. If it gets really dirty, I’ll take everything out and either sweep or use the leaf blower.
We enjoy setting up our tent as soon as the snow is gone and leave it up until snow threatens to fall again. We have enjoyed having a tent every year for the past four years and will probably continue to enjoy one for many years to come.
*Update: We had a big windstorm that ripped our tent to shreds, so we opted for a bigger more expensive tent, and boy am I glad we did! My husband recently spent the night out here with our two older children, and they all loved it!
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