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.


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  1. Hi Emily
    I’m sorry if this is a bit off topic. But your pictures are awesome. What camera are you using?

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  5. We’re all about the forts here too now. I’m so excited that Sebastian is finally old enough to enjoy them! I started building them about a year ago but at the time, all he wanted to do was jump ON them. But now he appreciates them. We built one under the kitchen table a couple weeks ago, when the heat wave had us stir crazy, and it was so fun. We left it up for 3 days even though it meant we couldn’t eat at the table.

    I loved forts as a kid too. My favorite was building blanket teepees in the backyard (Does that count?) and using blankets to turn our bunk beds into covered wagons. 🙂

  6. Two sheets clipped to the clothesline then spread wide with rocks on the bottom edges filled with comic books on a summer day. We may have had popsicles, too, since those were “outdoor” food.

  7. I love making forts with the kids I nanny for – I can’t wait till my little one is old enough for it! I have so many good memories of doing that as a child, and the scope for imagination is just so huge inside those pillows and blankets!

    Just recently I made a ‘fort kit’ for my nephews… a twin sheet, with six long ribbons sewn on the corners and mid points, half a dozen ‘chip clips’, 10 feet of soft rope, two flashlights, all in a pillowcase bag! I saw the idea online and ran with it. I can’t wait to hear if they are enjoying it!

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