Indoor or outdoor, secret spaces are spectacularly splendid
Stuck inside on a rainy day and want to keep your kids busy but away from screens? Or maybe they would like a secret space for playing and or reading outside this summer? Regardless of the location, kids simply love small enclosed areas to play in. So, get those little architects constructing fun forts that also build creative, problem-solving and spatial awareness skills
Give the kids some big sheets, large blankets or tablecloths, clips, and space to construct a fort. You can simply drape the cloths over the kitchen table, the backs of dining room chairs or barstools arranged with space in the middle or clip it to sturdy furniture like couches or headboards of beds. Wider plastic clips from the dollar store work best but clothespins can also work, however, wrapping sheets/blankets around the furniture and then clipping is advised to avoid scratching furniture.
Big boxes are the bomb! A cardboard box from a refrigerator alone can house a couple toddlers. Or open up boxes up to construct walls of a building or create a maze by connecting the cardboard pieces with clips or duct tape. Let the kids color the buildings to look like an old western town, city scape or quaint stone cottage complete with landscapes!
Fort building kits are also available for purchase where the frames are constructed with giant tinker-toy-like pieces that you then drape sheets/blankets over. Or, as seen at www.bitsofeverything.com, you could make a DIY fort kit using 1/2” PVC pipe cut into various lengths and lots of pipe connectors including 45- and 90-degree elbows, crosses and tees, to build a unique frame each time that you then drape blankets over.
If you already have a playset or swing set in your yard, you can easily toss a tarp or old blanket over these structures to transform them into something secretly spectacular and new for your kiddos. Or tie a rope or strong twine around a couple trees (making sure the twine is taller than kids necks to avoid injuries) and lay a blanket, sheet or tarp over it for a tent-like fort.
My kids have also built forts on camping trips by leaning downed branches against logs or fences. Backyard garden areas with tall sunflowers or corn stalks can also create a teepee-like effect and fun space for kids to hide away and play or read–no blankets or tarps required!
When asked to share the best part about building a fort as a family, Ryan Baer, age 10 and expert fort builder, explains that “Working together as a family you get more of a chance to get good building ideas and older people have more experience.” Whatever style of fort your family designs, be sure to join your children inside for a snuggly story time, cozy game or just playing house. The time together creating and enjoying is what the kids will remember…and letting the kids sleep inside definitely earns parents extra bonus points!
What’s the best fort you’ve ever built?
The one that took over our entire living room! We stretched blankets over the couch and dining room chairs, barstools…anything we could find that was tall…and the kids got to sleep in it for couple nights!
—Ryan Baer, age 10, expert fort builder
Theresa is a senior-level marketing professional with substantial experience in developing and executing integrated campaigns including communications (articles/newsletters/brochures), PR and social/trade events. She earned a marketing degree from CSU and lives in Fort Collins with her husband and two children.