Everyone needs a clubhouse! You can build your own backyard shelter, retreat, or clubhouse even if you have never built anything before. The clubhouse above was built in 1959 by three kids aged 8, 9 and 11, with no money or help from grownups! I know; I was the 11-year-old who took this picture. I'm sharing here what I have learned since then.
Readers of all ages are welcome to comment with their own ideas, pictures or stories.
To help you on your way, I've written a book titled "Keep Out! Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse", which is available through bookstores or at Amazon.com . Many of the items I post here are also in the book.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting Permission

Is there a place here for me?

            Parents and other People in Control will likely imagine a big mess to clean up as soon as you utter the word “clubhouse.” So here is where you’ll need to think like a diplomat and talk like a lawyer to argue your case.
            Be careful not to choose a site too close to your neighbor’s house or on their land. If there is no fence, ask where the boundary might be. Also don’t use a neighbor’s or your own fence as one of your walls without permission! Furthermore, don’t build in front of someone’s picture window or otherwise block their view. You will get complaints.  By all means PROMISE to keep the area clean except where you are actually building your clubhouse, and then KEEP the promise!
Invite your parents or other People in Control to help find a good site for your clubhouse. Also, have a second-choice building site in mind so the People in Control have a choice. If that doesn’t work, tell them that in recent years children have been increasingly deprived of the outdoors and nature, and child-development specialists such as Richard Louv have directly linked the absence of nature/being outside to the recent rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression among children. Show them Richard Louv’s website, http://richardlouv.com/last-child-movement, and then tell them, “You don’t want me to get fat, crazy or depressed, do you?”
Another good argument is this: “I’ll be engaged in something creative, I’ll be learning a lot of practical skills, and you will know where I am!” Then show them your plans (see below) so they’ll know more about your project, and that you are serious about doing it “right”. Tell them you’ll follow the safety tips listed above and remind them you’ll keep the place as clean and neat as you can. If they still resist, keep trying!
            If you live in a community or subdivision that is heavily laden with covenants or deed restrictions, check the rules to see if you can build in your yard. In recent years, some towns and homeowners’ associations have ordered clubhouses removed because they are deemed unsafe, a fire hazard, unsightly, or all three. Many communities don’t want to be “exposed to risk” from lawsuits or insurance claims. This unfortunate trend is part of the reason kids are no longer allowed to create things on their own such as clubhouses.
So fight back! Get your parents or sympathetic neighbors to help you regain your outdoor freedom. The Children and Nature Network: http://childrenandnature.ning.com, is a worldwide support group that advocates this very thing!  One idea: get your supporters to let you build a “protest clubhouse” and when Those in Power demand its removal, offer to sign a “no fault” letter that promises you won’t ever sue them or make a claim against their liability insurance. If that doesn’t work call in the local news media to make your point.  This is America, after all!         


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