As more kids spend time on indoor games and devices, the idea of creating an outdoor sanctuary where they can play, read and just hang out sounds appealing. If Treehouse Masters  has you feeling inspired, here are some tips for building a treehouse with your kids.

Brainstorm

This is for them, right? As you begin planning, have your kids talk about what’s most important to them in a treehouse. Let their imaginations run wild and then get practical about how their ideas can be built. One Atlanta pre-teen suggested a trap door entry to his structure, and his dad helped him work through how that could be designed.

Allow for Growth

Today your child is 8, but wouldn’t it be great if he still had room to hang out in the treehouse at age 13? Make the space as large as you can based on budget and size considerations, so that your family can enjoy it for years to come.

Set a Budget

Speaking of budget, set an amount you plan to spend for materials and price them. Plan to track expenses so the budget doesn’t balloon as you go.

Identify your Site

While you may have the “perfect” tree in mind, evaluate your whole property for the best place to build. A tree might not be too close to another growing tree, or along the fence line. Hire an arborist to check the health and safety of the trees you’d like to use so you know if they are structurally sound. You may need to use more than one tree to get a stable base.

Develop the Plans

Once you’ve determined the treehouse “must-haves”, it’s time to create the building plan, or blueprint. Several websites offer downloadable treehouse plans, some for free, like www.treehouseguides.com, where you may find exactly what you need. Or, if you decide to draw your own plans as a family, a computer-assisted drafting program can help it come together quickly.

Get Materials

Once you have your plans and your building location, it’s time to gather the materials you need to build. Some sites offer complete treehouse hardware kits, like www.treehousesupplies.com where you can get all the items needed to build your plan. Consulting with a local carpenter or staff at your local home improvement store would also help in identifying what you need. Whenever possible, bring the kids along. They can help find what you’re looking for in the aisles, check off lists and inventory what you’ve got.

Gather the Construction Crew

If you don’t feel confident in your building skills, invite an experienced friend or family member to help. And make sure to give the kids roles. “If I were building a treehouse with a child,” said Pete Nelson, host of the popular TV show Treehouse Masters, “I would want him to learn that the experience of working with one’s hands, with friends or family, is a joyful time – not like writing a term paper is a painful thing. Building a treehouse is never a painful thing.” If you are working with different ages of children, keep the little ones busy counting nails, making piles of five and multiplying them, or comparing the lengths of different boards. They can also run errands or fetch drinks. Keep safety a priority but enable them to take some ownership.

Adapt to Challenges

Just like with all home improvement projects, things won’t go as planned. Talk with your kids throughout the process so they understand what changes may need to be made, and why the building may take longer than expected. Learning how to overcome challenges is an important part of any project.

Personalize It

Once it’s done, the kids can make it their own! Have them shop for outdoor pillows and make weather-proof decorations for their new space. A sign can designate the treehouse’s primary residents and make it feel uniquely theirs.

Photo courtesy of Treehouse Experts

Going Pro

If your construction skills or time are limited, companies that specialize in treehouse building can take on the project. Atlanta-based Treehouse Experts creates custom treehouses throughout Georgia and the Southeast. CEO Myada Baudry said the company has designed treehouses from the very simple to the very elaborate, often including play elements. Some of their most popular designs involve adjacent platforms for adults to enjoy the outdoors in their own space as they supervise the high-up fun. Treehouses are often gifted for special occasions like a big birthday or Christmas, and Baudry frequently hears from clients that their kids use their treehouses well into the teen years. When hiring a professional group, kids can still be involved in the process. They can help by identifying design elements they love and can watch the structure take shape during construction.

No Tree Options

Do you think your property isn’t right for a treehouse? Think again. “If the trees on your property won’t seem likely to house a structure, because of their health or where they are situated, we can use elevated posts in addition to a tree, or as the primary supports,” Baudry said. In other words, a tree isn’t necessarily mandatory for having a great treehouse!

Do it Your Way

Remember, if you aren’t ready to outsource the whole project but don’t feel prepared to do it all yourselves, hiring a handyman or carpenter to offer guidance during the process is a smart compromise. Whichever approach you use, a treehouse can be a great addition to the family home for years to come.

– Carol J. Alexander and Amanda Allen contributed to this article

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