Growing up, our property bordered conservation land. With just a quick hop, skip, and a jump, my brothers and I could enter another world: 170 acres filled with well-groomed trails.
My mom told us to stay on our property. And we told her that we did. But this was the 90s, back before helicopter parents, ultra-safe playgrounds, and multiple screens.
And, besides, if it was nice out, we were out… until dinner.
That left us with uninterrupted hours of boredom and creativity. And, as a result, we spent more time outside our yard than my mom thought we did.
We had an absolute blast.
One of our favorite pastimes was fort building.
As a child, it’s tough to think of something more satisfying than building your very own space.
I once built a fort that withstood four New England winters. I’d spend time in it with my brothers and neighborhood friends. I also spent a great deal of time alone in that space, tending house and pretending I was Laura Ingalls. I spent entire afternoons holed up in that filthy little nook, reading books that were so good that they became a part of who I am today.
Every kid needs a cozy little nook like that.
Forts: The Original STEM Challenge
If you think about it, fort construction is the first STEM challenge of childhood. And, like any STEM challenge, fort building works on many skills including:
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Teamwork and cooperation
- Language and communication skills
- Imagination and creative thinking
- Play skills
In addition to working on important skills, fort construction comes with many benefits such as:
- Appreciation of the outside world
- Relationship building
- Health and fitness
- Stress relief
Introducing children to forts
I introduced my children to the world of fort making several years ago, through stories. I told them all about the filthy little nooks from my childhood. I shared stories of time spent with neighborhood friends in the forest. I told them about my imaginary adventures and the hours I spent holed up in my nook with amazing books. The stories alone were enough to inspire creativity in my children early on.
Here are some tips:
- Start small: blanket forts, pop up tents, cardboard boxes, closets
- Let the kids do the work! If they really need help, give them a hand, but they will feel so much more success if they create something by themselves!
- Encourage unstructured time outdoors. Let nature be their classroom!
- Practice, practice, practice! Give your children space to be creative and explore. They will be building fantastic forts in no time!
This week’s fantastic fort
This past week, my children upped their fort-building game. They built a fantastic fort, folks!
Do you know how I love to end our days?
The most perfect days in our family end with tired, happy kids and lots of sediment in the bathtub. This was one of those days. And, better yet, they have been enjoying the fort daily since its construction!
NOW is the best time to build a fort
The best time to build a fort is right now, folks. The mosquitoes aren’t out yet. There are oodles of downed branches from winter storms. The ground is clear from growth. It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold.
It’s perfect fort-building weather!
Love nature? Check out these posts:
- DIY Nature Explorer Pack
- Exploring Nature with Children
- Make Your Own Bird Cookies
- 10 Reasons You Need to Drop Everything and Build a Fort… Right Now [GeekMom]
- The Perfect Outdoor Activity for Kids with Sensory Stuff: Fort Building [Year Round Homeschooling]
- 50 Ways to Fight Nature Deficit Disorder [GeekMom]
- Celebrate Earth Day with these Great Books [Year Round Homeschooling]
Love STEM? Check out these posts:
- Our $5 Tinker Kit
- STEM Resources for the Whole Family
- A STEAM-Filled Month of Books
- Poolside STEM
- 12 Days of Cardboard STEM
- STEM Strewing [GeekMom]
- Cardboard STEM: 25 Ideas for All Those Boxes! [GeekMom]
- 10 Amazing STEM Books [Year Round Homeschooling
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: Did you love forts as a child? Do your kids enjoy them now? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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