When I was a kid, one of my favorite things ever was fort-making. And fort-finding. A circle of camellia bushes in our side yard hid a secret gathering place in the center. Our play structure in the backyard just needed a large piece of fabric (we had one that was light pink with tiny black dots on it that was just perfect for this) draped over a corner to become a house, a pirate ship, or a castle turret. The space underneath my grandmother's grand piano was great for eavesdropping on grown-ups' conversations after lunch, because obviously no one could see us down there.
Couch cushions on end, blankets, chairs, even mattresses removed from bedframes… all made excellent building materials. And in all of those childhood forts, my imagination got to stretch and breathe.
To grown-ups, these forts all probably seemed messy, plain, or boring. Just a pile of blankets and pillows. Nothing more than a quilt beneath a table. Or some fabric tied to a few sticks. But to me (and my sisters), they were whole other worlds.
I want to give that to my children. I want them to grow up with that magic. The ability to travel around the world or across the galaxy with just a simple afternoon activity. So we make forts. And my kids are learning to love them too. I'm so excited for the time when they start building forts on their own. I am so looking forward to seeing the adventures they'll have.
One of the simplest ways I make great forts for my kids to enjoy is to stretch babywearing woven wraps across their “kid furniture” (or our dining room chairs) and our couches. Tucking the ends of the wraps between the couch and the wall keeps that side secure, while I can warp the other ends around the furniture legs. Some pillows and blankets underneath, sparkly strands of lights woven through the fabric, and a few books and snacks complete the setup.
(The woven wraps pictured here are Kokadi Erna im Wunderland, Kokadi Firescales, and Kokadi blue/gold stars… I may have a Kokadi problem.)
The couch seats become exciting loft beds. Books become more special when shared in “privacy” with a sibling or enjoyed alone. Everyday snacks are transformed into feasts prepared by the toddlers in their own house, castle, hideaway, ship, cabin, fort.
This is a gift that requires only the materials you already have, and the stretches of your imagination. So find whatever “bricks” you can find and build a fort this weekend, tomorrow, or better yet, today. Now.
It's the gift of an unlimited canvas for imaginitive play.
What were your favorite fort-building materials when you were a kid? Tell me about the fort that stands out to you as your most memorable one.