Builder Boards, a playhouse kids build themselves

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Project by Jack McKee posted 02-19-2017 06:38 PM 5432 views 13 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

BUILDER BOARDS A Playhouse Kids build themselves

As a builder and newly minted preschool teacher I found children loved activities I was able to create from the world of tools, building and fixing. We took apart VCR’s, patched bike tires, put faucets, flashlights and locks together and made things from wood. One day during this “shop” class I was watching kids play with Lincoln Logs and, for no apparent reason, thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if kids could build their own playhouse, like big Lincoln Logs?”

It seemed like such a good idea (even if I do say so myself) I went home to my workshop and began experimenting. Logs were too heavy. Cardboard tubes and plastic plumbing were too awkward and ugly. What about notched plywood boards? I worked out the details of board length and notch spacing and made a some test pieces. Encouraged, I went ahead. Ninety-nine boards later, viola! A playhouse!

I took the playhouse to class and, made a mistake a more experienced teacher wouldn’t have, by asking, “who wants to help build a playhouse?” Naturally enough, everyone did. Chaos ensued. Kids bumped into each other, walked on boards and no one could see which board to put on next. I discovered eight preschoolers were too many for one playhouse. But once we got down to three or so they were able to work together and plan their creation.

Eventually the kids got the walls up and were ready for the roof. In my excitement to test the playhouse I hadn’t built the roof yet, so I got out a blanket. Big disappointment. The kids looked as if to say, “after we went to all this work to make this wonderful house you get out a blanket? We want a real roof.” I had to promise to bring the “real” roof next week.

Although I was pleased with my creation, during the next two years, children taught me that it could be more than a playhouse. Using their imaginations, children hardly ever built the standard playhouse, instead building a house with two doors, and windows everywhere and a house with no doors or windows at all. Once they built a house with a tunnel entrance and a flat roof. After that came caves, castles, forts, towers, a reptile museum and a hot dog stand. The idea of building a playhouse gave way to the idea of building from a child’s imagination.

Since then (1994) Builder Boards have undergone rigorous use in classrooms, at a summer camp for disabled children, and at Children’s Museums. They always attract a crowd of eager young builders. Teachers and parents seem to like them as much as the kids. My current fantasy is to build a truck load of pieces, enough so a whole classroom of kids could build at the same time.

-- Jack,

14 comments so far

View SuperCubber's profile


1047 posts in 2519 days

#1 posted 02-19-2017 07:42 PM

Welcome to LJs, Jack! Great invention and probably the envy of every kid that sees them!

-- Joe | Spartanburg, SC | "To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

View NormG's profile


6378 posts in 3239 days

#2 posted 02-20-2017 03:19 AM

What a great idea, well planned out and I am sure to be around for a long long time, welcome aboard

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View PRGDesigns's profile


244 posts in 2548 days

#3 posted 02-20-2017 03:50 AM

Welcome back Jack. Hope you inspire others like you did for us. Some of us took your idea to a different level…...

-- They call me Mr. Silly

View Jack McKee's profile

Jack McKee

27 posts in 697 days

#4 posted 02-20-2017 03:55 AM

Thank you. The guy who made it contacted me and asked if I would have any objection to him copying and enlarging my design. I’ve always wanted to see it first hand.

-- Jack,

View robscastle's profile


5629 posts in 2439 days

#5 posted 02-20-2017 07:18 AM

Nice work Jack.

I built something similar on a smaller scale in 2012.

It didnt have anywhere near the impact of yours!

-- Regards Rob

View majuvla's profile


13588 posts in 3102 days

#6 posted 02-20-2017 09:14 AM

Great work with those building components. This building experience for kids is priceless.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Scott Oldre's profile

Scott Oldre

1117 posts in 3666 days

#7 posted 02-20-2017 01:08 PM

Nicely done! Gives kids the respect for wood and the design process, as well as the outlet for imagination

-- Scott, Irmo SC

View johnstoneb's profile


3070 posts in 2408 days

#8 posted 02-20-2017 02:33 PM

That is nice. the one thing I have learned from kids and grandkids is show them how it works and get out of the way. Their imagination will take them places you never even dreamed of.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2578 days

#9 posted 02-20-2017 03:18 PM

great looking project

View Sasha's profile


956 posts in 1447 days

#10 posted 02-20-2017 05:23 PM

Good morning….....

-- Ganchik Sasha. Life is not a draft, tomorrow you will not redo......

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5824 posts in 2644 days

#11 posted 02-21-2017 02:24 AM

Cool idea!

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View sras's profile


4965 posts in 3364 days

#12 posted 02-22-2017 04:45 PM

Great idea!!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View TheSawDustWhisperer's profile


30 posts in 356 days

#13 posted 02-08-2018 12:26 AM

Your logs are wonderful. I hope you can manage to patent them.
Was there much sawdust created during the building of this project?

-- Dusty Lungs

View Jack McKee's profile

Jack McKee

27 posts in 697 days

#14 posted 02-16-2018 05:37 AM

Lots of sawdust but with a shaper that has dust collection its not bad.

-- Jack,

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