Did you know you can grow a tepee you can eat? (Because who doesn’t want their own tepee?) This activity is a perennial favorite at our house. I love to grow a tepee with my kids, the neighborhood kids, anyone really. It’s easy, visually stunning, and the perfect getaway for kids.
Research suggests that kids thrive when they have lots of different types of places play outside, and that is easy to create in the garden (Crowder, L. E. (1997). Islands of enchantment and enlightenment: designing children’s gardens as developmentally appropriate playspaces and outdoor learning environments). To develop different parts of their brains and motor skills, kids need places to run in and out of, to tuck into, and to be surrounded by greenery. Places of refuge rejuvenates all of us, especially children, and connects them to the earth in a fun and playful way.
And what could be better than a tepee you can eat? Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, and kids will be more likely to eat them now, and as adults after at least a season.
- Packet of pole bean seeds. We use Blue Lake Pole Beans
- 5 Long sticks
- lots of little twigs
- Floating row cover (optional)
- With a stick, or end of the trowel, draw the outer ring of the tepee in the soil. Make it big enough so you can sit in it and spread your arms out a little.
- Then plant seeds directly into the marked soil circle two knuckle deep (1.5 to 2 inches), 4 fingers apart (about 3 inches).
- We cover our seeds as they sprout with a floating row cover otherwise the birds eat them. But you don’t have to.
- When the seedlings are hand high (about 5 inches) it’s time to remove the row cover (if you used one), and build the tepee.
- Secure 3-5 primary poles that will be the support structure. We get extra long poles, about 8 feet long, and dig them about 10 inches into the earth. We don’t want it to fall over when we are in it!
- Then on these main poles we layer in smaller sticks that you just push as deep as you can into the ground to secure them. And then we get lots of little twigs to put right where the beans are growing to guide them upwards.
Beans grow and grow and are awesome! Sometime a pumpkin we planted nearby grows up the tepee too! Then the flowers come and then the bees, and then the beans grow. They are good to eat right off the tepee.
Please try to grow a tepee year after year. The tepee and the memories will only get better! Think of it as a blanket fort for the outdoors.
What kind of garden-based fun do you create with your kids? Tell us about it in the comments.