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Get Outside and Build a Simple Fort with Kids

Updated on January 31, 2014

Forts: The Perfect Play Spot

Kids love to make forts. Most have probably made the sofa-cushions-and-a-blanket variety, but step up the effort by going old-school and making a fort outside! This will give you ideas about suitable outdoor spaces for fort building, materials to use, things to avoid and safety tips.

Find a Sturdy Tree as the Center Post

You don't need to live by the woods or on a farm to find a space to make a fort. Forts can be made anywhere there is a support and some basic materials for building. Think about the outdoor play spaces to which your children gravitate when they are outside. Do they go to a favorite playground? A park? Your backyard? A neighbor's backyard? Most places that are safe for children outdoors have at least one tree, which is the perfect support to use as a starting point for a fort. So, when scouting out places to make a fort, keep in mind that even if there is only one tree present, it can be used as the basis for a fort.

When selecting a tree, the sturdier the trunk, the better it is for the integrity of the fort and the health of the tree. If the tree can be easily swayed or bent, it is not sturdy enough and your search continues. Check to make sure that there is no poison ivy lurking on the trunk. Poison ivy likes to climb up a tree. With it's recognizable leaves of three and a vine that looks like it has hairs coming out of it, you can easily spot it.

If there is some open space around the base of the tree's trunk, it will make it easier to maneuver when creating the walls of the fort. However, I have seen some spectacular forts that have been built using two trees as the support. This allows for you to create walls that are less prone to collapsing by falling down.

A two tree fort

Nature Provides the Building Materials

The next step is to collect materials to use when creating the walls of the fort. Look around the area. Only use things that are not currently growing. Don't pull up anything by the roots or trample something just so it can be used. Things that are laying on the ground are best. This can include sticks, leaves, twigs and loose brush. Make a 'start pile' by heaping up a good supply of leaves, twigs, etc. A good start pile is important because it will supply you with that twig or bunch of leaves that turns out to be just the right size for supporting a branch that turns out to be not quite long enough. Hunting for supplies can be just as thrilling as constructing the fort.

Basic Construction

The most basic method of fort building is to use the lean-to method. Longish branches or twigs lean against your support, creating a triangular shaped space inside of the fort. A safety hint is that children should only use branches that are not bigger around than their own arm and branches that are not taller than themselves. If you find that some branches or twigs are too short, you can sometimes layer them to make it work. Building a fort works best with teamwork, so enlist some friends or siblings in the effort.

Another trick is use materials such as dried leaves to stuff between branches at the base of the fort. This gives an extra bit of height to the edge, enabling you to lean in branches that may have been too short otherwise.

A How To

Finishing Touches

Once you have the basics of your fort constructed, it is up to you to decide how to play in it. First,decide what it is. Is it a home? Is it a home for a person or an animal? Is it a campsite? Is it part of a village? If so, maybe you should make more little parts of the village with shops and services. The ideas are endless. Any type of game that can be played inside, including video games, can be played outside. When making a fort, all you need are some basic ideas, a tree and some natural materials to get you started on hours of playful fun.

The Right Gloves Can Make a Difference

Toysmith Kids Garden Gloves, Assorted Colors, Small
Toysmith Kids Garden Gloves, Assorted Colors, Small

If children are provided with a decent pair of gloves, they are more likely to enjoy hauling, tugging and playing with fort building supplies.

Toysmith Kids Garden Gloves, Assorted Colors, Small
Toysmith Kids Garden Gloves, Assorted Colors, Small

I like the grippers on these gloves. Another plus is that they are breathable! Gloves make a kid feel indestructible!



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