One of my favorite activities at summer camp as a child was archery. Camp for me was a beautiful chaos of friends and activities from the moment I woke the the second I fell asleep mid sentence while talking to my bunk-mate. I was never without something to say or to listen to, and in retrospect, I think that is exactly why I loved my afternoons spent with bows and arrows. It was a quiet time of skill, concentration, and, something my nine year old self would have never thought of, a time for finding my center.
It was years (actually decades..) before I picked up an archery set again, but from the moment I pulled back the first arrow and let it go, I felt it again. That quiet space with one simple goal to contemplate, where everything else falls away.
Now you might be thinking "kids and sharp arrows?... not for me" but this simple set I whipped up from a few things around the house is safe (see notes below), fun and, best of all, a great way to make room for a little quiet contemplation in your child's day (even if it only lasts as long as it takes to shoot the arrow).
With a couple bamboo garden stakes, some wine corks (great for so many things, we've been saving them for years just to have a good crafting stash!), a little tape (something with high tack and a little stretch... I love gaff tape myself) and some string this set can come together in less than an hour. I drilled holes down the center of two sparking wine corks for the handle (the big bulb at the top makes the perfect spot to rest your arrow as you aim and the bulb at the bottom makes for a comfortable handle). Then I slid them down to the middle of the bamboo pole and taped them together. It's good to drill the holes slightly smaller than the bamboo so they will stay where you put them when you slide them on.
Then I tied string at the top of the stick (I wrapped it around a few times, knotted it and secured it with a little tape) and measured out the length of string (plus about 6" extra). At the loose end I then tied a taught line knot (picture tutorial here). In order to make sure the line wouldn't slip up the pole I had to make a stop for it by wrapping a good amount of string around the pole at the point where I wanted to hook my line and secured that with tape as well (see above).
All I had to do then was hook the loop around the pole and pull the knot up to my desired level of tautness.
For the arrows I simply drilled holes in 3 wine corks (again holes slightly smaller than the poles) and stuck them on the ends. And to make the groove where they rest on the string (see above) I used a small file. If you don't have one, you can use the same handsaw you used to cut the arrow lengths, just be sure to clamp the bamboo to something and keep your other hand away as the saw can slip before it gets a good hold.
Now for the fun. Since these arrows have no point, I used washable paint (biodegradable plant colors are great for this) to mark each shot. Simply dip the end in your color and shoot!
The hand painted paper target ( a wonderful afternoon activity all on its own) was great for the first time around, but I think for next time I'll paint one on fabric and water seal it so I can wash off the marks with the hose and use it again.
** IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTES:
Adjusting the tension in the string as well as the length of the arrows allows you to determine the velocity of the arrows (i.e how far and fast they shoot). Shorter arrows will make it so you can't pull the string back very far, making the arrows more gentle since they don't have much velocity behind them. The same is true of leaving a little more slack in the line (less tension).
With these two options you can customize your archery set to be age appropriate for your family. Also consider drawing a line on the sidewalk or laying a rope out on the grass to delineate the arrow range where kids shouldn't go. And as always, make sure there's an adult to help out too :)
*Last time in Crafts and Activities: In the Moment