Remember building blanket forts when you were a kid? How you would create a magical little world all your own? The way you and your siblings would work together to build that perfect hideaway, and how fun it was to tear it down when it was over?
Making your own fort is one of the classic rites of childhood. In fact, children develop the urge to create their own “special spaces” around 6 years old, and they continue to want to make their own worlds into their early teens. This is because children at these ages are figuring out their nearby worlds, such as their homes, their neighborhoods, and their schools. They are trying to determine their own place, separate from their parents and their siblings. They’re learning how to be independent, and blanket forts, tents and play houses give them their own sovereign reality in which to be their own person.
The Benefits of Play and Imagination
With the rise of more electronic distractions and longer time spent on the internet, children are beginning to lose this long-revered tradition. This is a problem because the benefits of unstructured play are huge for the developing mind of a child. Even the simple act of building a fort engages a child’s mind and body in ways that promote growth and development.
The Benefits of Fort-Building
- Independence, confidence, maturity
- Outside forts encourage a love for nature
- Cognitive Skills (e.g. problem solving, planning, reasoning skills)
- Great Exercise
- Social Skills, Cooperation, Teamwork
- Practical Hands-on Building Knowledge, it’s basically Carpentry class for the little ones!
How to Help Your Children Make the Most of It
Many parents already know how important it is mentally and emotionally for children to have these opportunities to play and imagine and live in their own worlds. However, many of the developmental benefits hinge on the idea of independence. As you read through the following list of DIY Forts, Tents, and Dens, remember that, although you’ll want to make one for yourself, the best thing you can do for your children is to be as hands-off as possible.
Help them when they ask for it, provide the materials they’ll need, but make sure that when it comes to decision making and putting the plan into action, it’s the children who are in charge. Don’t worry, you can still sit a few feet away and watch to make sure nobody gets hurt, but if you do this you have to be careful not to start giving advice or coming over to help unless they ask. Remember, the more independence you give them, the more they’ll be able to learn from this experience.
General DIY Tent/Fort/Den Tips
Before we go into our list, let’s talk about a few general fort-building tips. If you do decide to help your children build their fort, these tips will make it quick and easy. If you\’d rather play a supportive role to maintain their independence, use these tips to help if they ask and to have the right materials prepared.
The first step is to find a location with enough space. You want enough room for the little ones to crawl around and play in. Top picks for space include bedrooms, the dining room, or the living room. Don’t worry if there’s furniture in the way, half the time that furniture becomes part of the fort!
You’ll want to scrounge around for some household items to keep the fort stable and spacious. The age-old favorites are chairs, but tables and couches work just fine as well. You’ll want to have some blankets and a few pillows lying around too.
To keep the blanket ceiling from caving in, have some clothes pins or butterfly clips around to secure it to the walls of the fort. Heavy items like books can also help keep the blankets in place.
Decide Where to Put the Walls
Once you’ve gathered all your materials, you have to decide the framework of your fort. The most important questions to ask are: “Where will the walls be?”, “Will there be multiple rooms?”, and “Where will you put the door?”
Most forts call for a blanket ceiling. Simply drape blankets over the frame and stretch them to your liking to create an easy ceiling and wall structure. To keep it in place, use clips or weighted objects. If you want to make a darker fort, use a comforter to keep more light from coming in.
The last step is to make the fort extra cozy. Bring in blankets to make a comfy floor, lights, pillows, even sleeping bags if you’re spending the night. If you plan on using electronic devices in the den, make sure your fort is next to a socket so you can run a plug under one of the walls. Finally, consider adding a fan to keep your fort from being a sauna. The fresh air will make things much more comfortable
Top DIY Tents, Dens, and Forts That You Can Make at Home
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of building forts for kids and the general procedure for a standard fort, let’s take a look at some not-so-standard designs. The typical “blanket and chairs” fort should usually do the trick, but if you’re feeling like getting more creative, these examples should give you some excellent ideas.
It’s simple, but its a classic. The simple sheet tent is one of the easiest DIY projects on this entire list. For outside use, simply set up a clothesline, hang a non-fitted bed sheet so that it’s folded halfway on the line, and then secure the corners to the ground with more clothesline or rope. It may be extremely simple, but your children’s imagination will convince them they’re camping deep in the forest. Plus, it makes for great shady picnics on a hot day!
This one is really interesting. All you need is a fan and a king-sized duvet. You place the fan in the opening of the duvet, give it a whirl, and the air automatically inflates the comforter to create a little inflatable tent!
This one’s pretty easy. All you’ve gotta do is hang some sheets from the ceiling above your bed, put up a few decorations, and you’ve got yourself a comfy little tent for snuggling, reading, and sleeping!
This one takes a lot of cutting and drawing, but the possibilities are endless. Simply cut up some big cardboard boxes in any shape you like, draw on whatever landscape will thrill your child, and start creating a cardboard town!By flipping boxes upside down and cutting off one or two sides, you can create a completely inside cardboard fort, or if you’d rather it be open-air you can just cut out one side and leave them right-side-up. If you don’t happen to have tons of cardboard boxes just lying around for no reason, simply head over to your local grocery store and ask, they’re happy to lend you some extras.
This is another simple one, but it really “wows” the really young ones and toddlers. Open up a big cardboard box, poke some holes in the top, and slide some holiday lights through. Toss a couple blankets on the floor to make it soft and cozy, and you’ve got a cute little cave of stars for your little one to doze off in.
This is the is probably one of the simplest forts you can make. Take your kitchen table, or whatever the largest and tallest table in your house is, drape some blankets or tablecloths over it so they hang to the floor, and you’re done! For extra style, cut out some doors and windows. For extra safety, wrap a blanket around each of the table legs so that nobody bangs their head too hard.
If you or your child love reading, you probably already have the materials needed for this. Keep in mind, it’s also one of the most time-intensive forts on this list. Stack your books up into the shape of the fort you want, and create a frame around it using cardboard, wood, or even just multiple layers of duct tape. A great place to read a book, plus if your frame is strong enough you can even replace books from the structure with new books if you want to revisit old stories.
This one’s excellent for those future-engineers out there. Stop by a hardware store and purchase some PVC pipes before you start. First, help your kid create a design. Then, start using PVC pipes and connecting pieces to create a frame. After that, all you have to is toss a blanket over top, cut a space for a door, and you’re done!
I hope you and your kids both have fun making these exciting forts and tents. Remember, if you’re going to let your children sleep in one of them overnight, check the stability to make sure there are no cave-ins while they’re sleeping! Have fun, be safe, and start getting creative with forts, tents, and dens today!