Backyard Teepee | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published June 2, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.

Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel, Liliana and Valentina - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • matthew thorsen
  • Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel, Liliana and Valentina

Parents: Silvio Mazzarese, Teresa Bobel
Kids: Liliana, 11, Valentina, 8

If you plan on spending time inside the Mazzarese sisters' backyard teepee, you'd better be less than five feet tall. There's just enough room inside for "three tiny kids or two middle-size kids," says 8-year-old Valentina.

She and her 11-year old sister, Liliana, got the idea for the teepee two years ago while cleaning up their Jeffersonville yard. As their father, Silvio, leaned sticks and dead branches against a maple tree, the three of them realized he had created a cool space underneath. They used one of the tree's live branches to support even more sticks — and, later, cornstalks — until their structure was roughly seven feet tall.

The family’s chicken inside the teepee - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • matthew thorsen
  • The family’s chicken inside the teepee

The interior has been evolving ever since. A ring of rocks topped with an old camp stove is a pretend fireplace. Small tree stumps serve as kid-size seats. The girls use rocks and sticks to create shelves where they display found treasures, including century-old pieces of glass and iron gleaned from a nearby farm. Their favorite teepee item is the lump of charcoal they took from an extinguished bonfire; they use it to draw on any flat surface they can find.

Liliana and Valentina play in the teepee year-round. In summer, they while away the hours immersed in imaginative play and "searching for gold" among nearby rocks. In winter, they cover the teepee with a felt blanket for insulation.

Liliana says she likes having a space that she and her sister can use and rearrange as they please — though she's happy to share it with some of the neighborhood's smaller residents. They put the blanket over it, she explains, "so the animals could use it."


  • Using a live tree as an anchor provides a place to start laying sticks and stabilizes the structure in wind and bad weather.
  • The cornstalks — an homage to Native Americans, the original teepee builders — were leftover Halloween decorations the family cut from a nearby field.
  • The teepee has never completely fallen down, but it has needed occasional repairs. The girls simply pile on new sticks, weaving them together to hold them in place.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.