Do You Remember Your Childhood Building Projects?

| 9/3/2009 9:55:15 AM

Tags: question to readers, building projects,

My paternal grandmother lived about three hours away from my family, so I saw her only once or twice a year. But two summers, after third and fourth grades, I spent a week at Grandma’s house, along with my cousin, who also was my age.

We spent our week doing pretty much the same thing each day: In the morning, there were some chores to do, then we would walk to a neighborhood park that had a wading pool. Once during the week, Grandma would give us each ten cents (this was 1954) and we would get a brown paper bag of penny candy from the little store across from the park. After lunch we took an hour nap. My cousin had a bout of scarlet fever and she needed to rest each day, so I did also — I usually read for the whole hour. Then we might play Go Fish with Grandma.

But the best indoor activity we did each day was building marble mazes out of blocks made from 4-inch 1-by-4s. Grandma had a whole box of them that a friend gave to her. They were perfect for building castles and houses, but especially for making marble slides and mazes. We spent hours, both summers, spreading our creations across the living room floor. I can still remember the piney smell of the blocks.

Kids love to build forts and space ships, and create secret places to dream and imagine. What was your most cherished childhood building project? Share your childhood memories in the comments below.

dawn pfahl
12/3/2009 9:21:21 PM

I used to love making forts out of couch cushions, blankets, and whatever else I could scavenge inside, and snow caves in the winter. When I was in middle school we moved to a new home with a lot of acreage, and my new project became building an actual FORT in the woods. I dragged fallen pines to a circle of standing trees that made a great lookout spot and set up 4' high walls spiked with the dead branches of the trees, complete with a gate at the front and a small hollow in which to store interesting forest finds. I planned on covering it with tarps to keep out the worst of the weather, but I never got the chance. The fort was easily 20' in diameter, and I'm pretty sure it's still standing, albeit a bit decomposed at this point.

vicki mangum
9/11/2009 6:33:06 PM

One of my favorite childhood memories were the camping trips that my sisters took. We would spread a sheet over the kitchen table and extend it by spreading the sheet or sheets over the chairs around the table as well. We would then climb under and go camping with all of our camping equipment. It was always an adventure the different "spots" that we would experience. We sometimes even slept in our tents at night to extend our camping trip. On other occasions we would line up our dining room chairs to form a train. Then we would travel the country side experiencing America. We always had a blast as we traveled different places. We certainly had a great imagination and it was so much fun.

9/9/2009 9:54:03 PM

During my childhood my siblings, friends and I built many 'forts' tree houses, and shacks. My favorite endeavor had to have been the summer we discovered a "secret" arroyo near our house (in the desert). In this arroyo were sandstone shelves that ran about ten feet up from the bottom of the arroyo, and were just wide enough for us kids to walk on. There were small indents in the sides, and some were small caves, to which we took sharp sticks and stones to carve them out even more. So that by the end of the summer we had a series of small caves along a narrow walk. We also found a place where the water had carved out a huge room, just the right size for our two horses. It was open on one side and on the arroyo floor. When the monsoon rains came our little cliff dwelling 'city' was washed away. Fortunately none of us were there during any flash floods.

9/9/2009 8:25:17 PM


9/9/2009 8:08:36 PM

I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood, but there was a strip of woods behind out subdivision where my friends and I spent our days. We would use dead young trees to build tepees, and cover them in moss and evergreen boughs, often carpeting the floor with thick moss for out 'beds'. We would build whole villages, with fake fire pits and (not so fake) outhouses. In early summer we could raid the garden and fill a cup with water from the hose, making soup.. with mud pies for dessert, of course.

chuck orwig
9/9/2009 1:57:16 PM

My dad built a rope swing in a large elm tree in our backyard. Since there were no appropriate limbs, he used a very large board fastened to two of the three main trunks of the tree and supported with a large cable. The location of the board inspired me and my neighbors to build a tree house at that level, about 15 feet off the ground. We found some 2x4s to support the floor and when we ran out of flooring material, we used a walnut leaf from a dining room table to finish the floor. It was a perfect fit. Building the floor exhausted our supply of scrap lumber so we built the walls and roof with cardboard. Our main source of cardboard for projects was the local funeral home where caskets were delivered in really big cardboard boxes. It only took 2 or 3 to finish the tree house. The cardboard roof didn't stand up in the rain so we modified the roof with an old piece of tarp we found in somebody's basement. It was a great place to hang out because we made it ourselves.

jen _1
9/9/2009 1:52:35 PM

As a little girl I used to love to build playhouses in the woods. I used dead trees & limbs piled together, carpeted the floor with moss, lined the walks with rocks & planted woodland flowers all around it.My room was an attic room & I build a secret place under the eaves behind big pieces of furniture. We had a metal roof & I loved to lay their & read on rainy days & hear the rain on the roof. My son though, had many more projects than I ever had. Some I did as a child & some he came up with friends. He made tents on the clothesline as well as inside with blankets & kitchen chairs. They stayed up for weeks in the summer when he was small. He made towns with blocks, empty food boxes, his wooden train set, Lincoln logs & matchbox cars when I gave him corners of rooms to build in. We also grew many garden playhouses - one year a sunflower house with a morning glory roof, a lined path & flowers planted around it. Another year it was made with food - a wire fence staked into an arch grew beans & cucumbers. As he grew, he built a bigger fort in the woods, a lean-to on the bank of our lake & a raft(none of the rafts floated!!) but what fun they had. He & his friends would camp in the lean-to & fry fish they caught or ask me to buy bologna to fry if the fishing was bad. A big summer traditions was a mudslide he & his friends made in the backyard. I have a ditch in the middle of the yard from years of boys sliding down a wet muddy trail but I'll never fill it in for the memories it brings. I wish every child had a special place to play & dream like I've had.

9/9/2009 1:39:25 PM

My little sister and I had a lot of free time on those long summer vacations. One summer, when I was 8 and she was 6, we decided to build our own fort out of a wooden box that was about 4x4x4. We laid down a walk way and decorated it with anything we could get our hands on. One day we found some old shingles and decided our fort needed a roof! Well, the only nails we could find were about 4 inches long. The plan went wonderfully until we tried to stand up in the fort and discovered the nails were too long. Ouch!

aubrey vaughn
9/4/2009 8:35:05 AM

My sister and I used to build small snow caves out on the farm - so much fun! Not to worry, Dad was very clear about the dangers of snow-building and was always on hand to oversee our snow drift engineering.

pat miketinac
9/3/2009 8:57:35 PM

When I was about 13, I built an electric go-kart out of scrap lumber, wagon parts, and an old washing machine motor. I think it got up to about 20 MPH before the extension cord unplugged. I later installed a lawnmower engine. The electric motor was then used to power an electric mower that I made from wood scraps and buggy wheels. That same motor powers my metal lathe today, 46 years later.

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