I ripped a page from Family Fun Magazine over a year ago showing mini tree houses built in tree branches. I stashed it away for another day and just found it again last week.
I pulled out my supplies and my kids spent about 3 hours happily designing and constructing mini versions of their dream tree houses. I kept checking on them and couldn't believe the amount of time they dedicated to this project! 3 hours of no complaining about boredom, heat, snacks. It was heaven.
Tiny Tree House Project
Interesting branches (we started out on a walk in the woods)
Random bits of wood (they sell bags of assorted wood pieces at Michael's Crafts)
Larger log or scrap wood for a base*
Small toys and figures
**We had some discs of wood cut from a fallen tree laying around the garage, but you could use a split log or any kind of scrap wood for a base.
Pull out that drill, girl! Use a drill bit around the same diameter as your branches to drill some holes.
This is a fake picture of an 8 year old "drilling". I let him hit the trigger for about a millisecond before jumping in screaming "Wait, wait, wait!"
Slide the branches into your base and wood glue them for strength. We're building trees, Sister! Show your muscles a little, you're tough!
We used hot glue to build our tree houses because it dries fast and clear and we could move right along without waiting for glue to dry. Waiting for glue to dry has sabotaged many fun projects...it's as fun as ... watching glue dry. Just be sure to supervise little guys - my 8 year old has a blister in the shape of a red hot chili pepper from errant hot glue that just jumped onto his leg during construction (that's his story and he's sticking to it).
Now, this is the most difficult part...step away Mama. Lay out their supplies then don't make a peep.
Let them think of their own ideas and just go with it. You will be amazed at what they come up with! Like feather beds:
X Games Forts:
Platforms and ladders:
You can "girl them up" by adjusting some of the supplies. My boys ages 8-12 (almost 13) were all thoroughly entertained.