Kids Only Backyard Clubhouse…A Very Special DIY

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”  ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.


It all started a few weeks ago when I decided I was finished keeping backyard hens for a while. With the chickens leaving their coop, I had a perfectly adorable, albeit it weathered, little wooden house in my backyard, and I knew exactly what to do with it.

A clubhouse. But not just any clubhouse. This one was going to be special. It was going to be a place for dreaming, for creativity, quest planning, for learning and collecting, for pouring over books and maps, charting courses, journaling adventures, and recording discoveries. And most importantly, a place for quiet reflection, unplugged and away from technology.

We all worked together as a family to convert our old chicken coop into the clubhouse it is today…theclubhouse

*This post is VERY picture-heavy, but there really is SO much to show you! Please be patient if it’s taking some time to load…it really is worth the wait.

First, we cleaned and disinfected the coop inside and out. Then I painted a primer base coat on all the inside surfaces. Mr. Pancakes, my 8-yr old son, painted most of the inside with a few coats of the loveliest yellow exterior paint. I did the edging around the windows, but he did the rest.
There is no floor in this little house, so keep water from seeping in on the floor when it rains, I laid out a sheet of thick plastic on the ground (like a clear table plastic tablecloth) and staple gunned it all the way around the baseboards. My daughters then poured a thick layer of clean play sand on top of the plastic. I didn’t want the kids to worry about sand in their clothes, snacks, books, or artwork while they spent time in the clubhouse, so I purchased little sea grass door mats for $5/each at Jysks. I cut them to fit the floor space and tied them together with bits of ripped tea towels, braided through the mats in random places…seagrassmats
Now that the flooring was taken care of, it was time to make it more comfortable to sit in there. The grass mats are not pleasant on bare skin, and summer means kids are wearing shorts and dresses, so something was needed to soften up the place. I purchased three velour circle cushions from Pier 1. They are the small cushions that fit on their papasan footstools. They are so soft and are just the right size for the small 47″x49″ floorspace. I also tossed in a few throw cushions I purchased at other stores along the way.

Once I had solved the wet floor issues, the REAL fun began.

Decorating. I was like a kid given the keys to the kingdom. I could design and create without having to be precise…this was an outdoor nature clubhouse after all, not Buckingham Palace.  I used glue, staples, twine, scraps of pillowcases, aprons, and tea towels, found branches, wire, and a few nails to pull this all together. Oh, and not a lot of measuring. My kind of project.

Let’s start with the little desk…

I didn’t want to crowd the little house with furniture, but I really wanted a little desk space. I used an overturned antique wooden ammunitions crate and supplied the “desk” with appropriate clubhouse accoutrements…cratedesk
The crate desk contains a log book for journaling, binoculars, pencil crayons, a sharpener, a little hammer, a pair of scissors, a magnifying glass, dry erase markers, and a tin for collections.

I provided an old world atlas for perusing and charting courses for adventure…londontoNYCquote
The first charted course was from New York to London…the two cities he wants to live in when he grows up.chartingacourse

There is also an old military metal ammunitions case with watercolour paints, a watercolour pad, a cloth, and a jar of water for nature journaling…watercolourBee
Mr. Pancakes likes to come in here before bed and take time to paint in the quiet of this little clubhouse…watercolouring

I put a clock on the wall and a log book on the desk and asked my kids to make an entry every time they went into the clubhouse. I wanted to encourage them to write and record…to journal their time spent unplugged. It’s great practice for spelling, telling time, and furthering their story-telling skills.logbookquote
Every once in a while, I go in there and read the log book. It’s always a delight.

I used old pillowcases, aprons, and tea towels to make the curtains in the clubhouse. I sewed a casing at the top of the fabric, pulled a piece of twine through the casing, and used eye hooks screwed into the clubhouse walls to hang the little curtains. So very simple The bunting is made of little triangles of scrap fabric stapled to a long piece of twine and tacked to the walls. That’s it!curtains

I installed an IKEA plate shelf above the one window to hold books, slingshot pebbles for target practice, and other little play things. I also stapled pieces of the heavy clear plastic in the open peaks to keep the rain from coming in and ruining books.
The windows have wooden shutters that my dad built. Some are removable, some are hinged. Mr. P and his big brother Birdie like to use the window with the removable shutter to target practice from. They aim their pebbles at an old metal pot by the fence…it makes a wonderful ping when they aim just right. slingshot

The window above the desk has no curtains at all. It lets the big morning sunshine right in!wildhoodquote
I used wood glue to attach our most favourite word.  WILDHOOD…A delicious combination of the words wild and childhood. I used cup hooks to secure the branch to the wall, wood glue to attach the nest, and twine to hang the little wooden birds to the branch. The birds were purchased at Michaels.  The little box shelf is a herb planter purchased at Winners Home Sense and screwed to the wall with wood screws. This little shelf holds Mr. P’s favourite wild things.

I also ran an extension cord from the patio down to the club house so they can plug in the lamp I hung on the ceiling. The cord comes through a whole in the plastic of the open peak.

Under the window, I added a clothesline of twine for special photos of the kids on their adventures…photoclothesline

The Where the Wild Things Are sign on the front of our clubhouse was designed by the lovely Laura at Sugar Grenade Designs
I printed it at our local printers, mod-podged it onto a sheet of tin, and then sprayed it with a water-resistant polyurethane craft spray from the craft store…signmaking

Outside the clubhouse, I purposely let the grass grow long in front and along the perimeter of the house and sand play area…
Kids LOVE to play in the tall, wild and unkempt grass. There is so much more scope for the imagination, as Anne of Green Gables would say.

To say the least, my kids LOVE their new outdoor clubhouse. When I can’t find them, I can almost guarantee where they might be. Even I like to venture out there some afternoons…just to hear the steady sound of the tick-tock of the clock and the soft tweets of the neighbourhood birds. It’s a happy place. And they are already begging to campout in there this summer.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


10 thoughts on “Kids Only Backyard Clubhouse…A Very Special DIY

  1. Yay yay yay Arlee!!!! This is AMAZING!!!!! I love it fiercely! Totally inspires me (as usual) to spruce mine up!!! I’d love to see a picture of the lamp too!

  2. Wow that looks awesome! Our kids didn’t play in their ‘tree house’ until my husband closed the sides, put a hatch in and now it’s spy headquarters. With the weather I’m not sure about doing it as good as yours though. What an amazing job.

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  5. Thank you for some much needed inspiration. I have a very sad empty cubby in my back yard and couldn’t decide how to spruce it up. You have given me some great ideas.

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