The Timeless Art of Building Forts


Whether it’s a rainy day or just plain sweltering outside, or if I just feel like wearing my pajamas all day indoor crafts and projects are a favorite in my house.

One of our favorite indoor activities: Building forts and clubhouses. It’s a timeless pastime that every kid is sure to enjoy. Youngsters have been crafting their own clubhouses, hideouts, and fortresses since the days of Sandlot and Little Rascals. Nay, since the beginning of time! Okay, I don’t have actual documentation on that one, but, I am talking a really, really long time here.

Did you know that fort building relieves stress, gives you major “Cool Mom” street cred, and even makes your kids smarter? Okay, okay. I may not necessarily be “qualified” to make those claims; but, in my professional opinion (i.e. mom opinion), fort building is an extremely valuable skill to have on your resume. Humor me for a moment, will you?

We have all found ourselves stuck in the house, for one reason or another, with bored kids. Sometimes, the same old coloring books or building blocks just won’t cut it. When there is just not enough caffeine in your coffee to drag out messy crafts like paint or modeling clay (that almost always end up on your kitchen chairs or in your child’s hair), you need something to keep your little angels busy. For longer than 10 minutes. So build a fort! It is a lengthy process — from construction plans to material acquisition and right down to the build. Once built, the only thing left to do is play. Hours of entertainment, I tell you!

First things first, folks. Location, location, location!

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One of many forts built in the Clarke living room

Be prepared for this fort to be a semi-permanent structure, so it’s best to find a spot that is not a high traffic area. The living room typically lends itself to quality clubhouse construction, especially if there are couches from which the littles can pilfer cushions. Then comes the best part of all: gathering items around the house to construct your fort. 

Kids are resourceful and can find function in the oddest of objects. I find it rather amusing the random items my daughter feels are crucial to the building process. A bandana for a flag, a pink inflatable pool donut for a window, or her toy vacuum (I guess to tidy up inside. Ha! #winning). I can remember snatching household items here and there to build forts as a kid.

  • Chairs and couch cushions for structure
  • Blankets, sheets, and towels for walls and roofs
  • Broomsticks, mops, and even plastic golf clubs for support beams
  • Robe ties and scarves (mommy’s inexpensive Walmart scarves, of course) for holding pieces together and installing light fixtures
  • Pillows for stuffing holes and insulation (i.e. soundproofing for top secret missions and light proofing for ghost story telling)

From fanciful castles and cozy caves to simple teepees and elaborate hideouts with tunnels, the possibilities are endless and vary by style and function. No two forts are alike, just as no two children are alike. IMG_20160731_225423

A child’s imagination is a beautiful thing, and it is our duty as parents to provide it the opportunity to flourish. Children learn and develop valuable problem solving skills via trial and error. 

Pondering pillow placement and angles of support beams — a. k. a. chairs and broomsticks — allows children to determine what works and what doesn’t work. Fixing sags and rebuilding the same wall until it is just right? That is some educational play right there. By saying “yes” to your kids’ incessant pleas requests to build a fort is making your kid smarter! Good job, Mom!

Not to mention, teamwork makes the dream work! Don’t tell me watching your kids play happily together doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Handing each other materials and looking to each other for ideas. I witnessed this phenomenon at the museum the other day. 

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As a fort arose among the mess of giant foam building blocks, children swarmed like moths to the flame. Kids were grabbing bricks of different shapes and sizes and putting them in place, then running off for more. One of my daughter’s friends even took charge of landscaping and created a path to the fort. 

Talk about a win win situation. Your kid is having a blast and learning at the same time. And how about the immediate cool points for coming up with innovative ways to hang a lantern inside or install a snazzy hula hoop door. (Just make sure it’s a hula hoop your hips can easily traverse; there’s nothing more depressing than fashioning a door and realizing you just don’t fit.) 

Helping your kids create something amazing can really soothe the soul and create some pretty special memories. Childhood memories that we, as parents, hope our children will cherish and share with their own kids.

Just remember that these are the days we can never get back. Sometimes, our first thoughts when our kiddos ask us to help with a craft or to stop whatever we are doing for the 15th time is “Oh, I’ll never get anything done.” But laundry will always need folding and dishes will need scrubbing. Leave them for another day, and just build a fort. I promise it will instantly put a smile on your face. Soften the lines around your eyes. Make you feel like a kid again even. We all know the saying about a happy mom and a happy home. Folks, it makes perfect sense. Our kids love to see us smile; it makes them smile, and it makes them happy. Instant stress relief!

So, the next time you find yourself holed up in the house with bored children running amok, do yourself a favor and build a fort with your kids. You won’t regret it!


  1. Me and my brothers used to love building forts… it gave us a chance to practice our home building skills that later we would all use to build (or remodel) our own houses!!!!! Although my mom was usually mortified that we used my grandma’s antique knitted afgan to tie in knots to hold the forts together (oops)


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