Kids’ forts are so very cool, yet such a royal mess. Fort-building is one of many conundrums I’ve come across as a parent. On the one hand, I know that making a fort is one of the best activities my kids can undertake to keep active, develop creativity, hone spatial awareness, understand the laws of physics, and practice independence. On the other hand, I freeze in my tracks and my blood runs cold when the word “fort” is uttered. A primal urge deep inside of me, which I force myself to squelch immediately, wishes they would just park it in front of the television, stay still, and avoid making a mess.
There are only so many times I can tolerate my children pillaging my linen closet, robbing every bed in the house of blankets and pillows, disassembling my sofa, and decommissioning my dining table. But especially since building forts represents one of my fondest memories from my own childhood, my visceral response feels unfortunate. As a result, I scoured my favorite blogs and Web sites to find ways to make fort-building fun for kids and parents alike. Here are six basic fort-making strategies that don’t inspire feelings of dread for parents—and that do all the good stuff I mentioned above.
1. Pop-Up A-Frame Fort
Perfectly collapsible for storage, an A-frame fort pops up in a minute and creates a private refuge for reading, napping, or just hiding out. We love that this one can be customized with any fabric, from a retro-palette floral print to vintage Star Wars sheeting. Follow Cakies’ step-by-step instructions or downsize her design slightly so you can fit your A-frame fort under a bed.
2. Classic Clothesline Fort
Outdoors, simply toss a sheet or blanket over a clothesline that’s already in place. Indoors, drill two inconspicuous hooks about four feet high into opposing walls in the kids’ room. When the children start shrieking, “fort, fort, fort!” all you have to do is put up a line between the two hooks and let the kids toss a sheet over it and get down to the business of decking out their hideaway.
3. Exclusive Bunk-Bed Fort
A child’s bed is such a natural place to camp out for comfort, play, or both. Beach Brights shows how easy it is to transform a bunk bed into a fort-on-demand with just a couple of wire curtain rods and some inexpensive painters drop cloths.
4. Royal Hula-Hoop Fort
You can find inexpensive pre-made play tents just about anywhere, but we love this DIY tutorial from Crafty Moods that shows how simple it is to customize one with a hula-hoop, umbrella, and some curtain panels.
5. Dreamy Nature Fort
One way to avoid a fort-making mess is to take the project outside. We love the idea of making a living teepee with large branches as scaffolding and climbing vines and cascading spider-plants as walls. Or, simply lean dry branches in on each other to create an ad hoc fresh-air fort.
6. All-in-One Instant Fort
This may just be the coolest idea ever. The brilliant bloggers at Saltwater Kids have come up with a DIY fort kit that includes everything you need to make a creative hideaway from scratch. The cleverest trick of all is that all the components pack up into a cute little bag for easy storage between fort-making frenzies.
What’s your favorite fort-making trick? We’d love to see pics!