This post will overlap a small bit with my post on simplicity. If you haven’t read that one, you might give it a read.
These days it would be easy to think kids have changed. That all they want is video games and microwave food. Why aren’t they like we were as kids?
Well, part of it may be our culture: we may be keeping them inside more than they are choosing to stay inside.
But the truth is that given the chance, they haven’t changed at all. I swear! I’ve seen it myself. After kindergarten every day, I pick up my daughter, and she and her friends love more than anything to play in about a 100X100 foot space, containing a miniature pine forest, a very small wetland environment (that most parents won’t let their children anywhere near), and a giant sandbox-ish area that used to be beneath the playground (until they tore it down). And they love it. My daughter would stay there (often does—why take her home to be alone with me when she’s outside with friends?) until every child went home. She loves it. The mess, the stickiness, even the litter (water bottles—they like to pour sand out of them).
Now, while the litter makes me angry and the germs that go along with it make me a little queasy, it’s heartening to see kids climbing trees and getting dirty and being curious about the “swamp.”
So, while I stand there waiting and watching, I have time to think. The school is trying to raise money to buy a new playground. You have no idea how much these structures cost. And I’m helping out where I can. But you know what?
Even though I’m afraid of heights, I wish we could build these kids tree houses. I’m fascinated by them.
I had two as a kid. One was when I was a bit older. It was kind of high. It was in a maple tree on top of a hill, right behind our garage, and it took a bit of climbing to get into. Though I did climb a tree last year just to see if I could, I’m still not sure I could get back up into that thing.
But the tree house I remember most fondly was from another apartment, when I was much younger. My mom made a large, flat platform between four trees—almost a perfect square. I would guess about 6-8 ft. off the ground. High enough to feel protected but not so high that major trauma would result if someone fell off.
I wish I could build that whole micro-forest with platforms like that. Perhaps with some ziplines in between platforms. Or a little box on a pulley! How fun would that be?
Alas, there are insurance concerns, and town clearances, and on and on. But the idea remains. With that in mind, here are some resources I found online that you might consult if you have trees on your own property where you’d like to build a “Castle in the Sky.” Or if, like me, you are just fascinated with them and love to dream.
TREE HOUSE WORKSHOP: is actually the home of three companies in Seattle that have branched out from the original ‘workshop’. The main/original site is home to how-to seminars on the art of building one of these (sometimes quite elaborate) structures. It also has galleries full of tree houses. Nelson Tree house and Supply also launches from here and is more of a storefront.
POP MECH HOW TO: From the venerable Popular Mechanics magazine, this is much more basic than TW. And perhaps more practical as a result.
THE TREE HOUSE GUIDE: The link takes you to the FAQ, but there are many pages to this practical guide that will help you think through exactly what it is that you want to build. The website includes a tree house forum, a review of tree house books available, and more. Quite comprehensive.
ADAM AGAIN’S SONG “TREE HOUSE”: Doesn’t really have anything to do with tree houses, but in all honesty it is the song that plays in my head EVERY time I think about tree houses like this. Worth a listen while you look at the above!
Let me know if you have links you think should be here, and check back—I will update with more info when/if I find it, or hear about it through comments!