I’ll never forget that magical moment when, as a child, I discovered that I could pull every pillow and cushion off the couch to build my very own fort. ‘Ah, yes,’ I’d think to myself from inside my new home, as I sipped on a juice box. ‘Another hard day of work in the books.’
As technology evolves – and the interests of children along with it – it’s fun to see that pillow, blanket and sheet forts are the thread tying the generations together. But that begs one to ask: why do children love creating these spaces so much?
When I think back, my mind immediately remembers how safe I felt inside my own, tiny fort. Though the pillow walls and thin sheet ceilings could collapse on me at any moment, I always felt secure.
In an article written by Ashley Jones published earlier this year for Romper, Dr. Michael Mintz shared that this feeling is common among children. He said, “[s]ome children are thrilled to be in a tight space, where the feeling of being contained may provide them a sense of security or safety.”
As someone who hates sitting in the middle seat on an airplane or standing in a packed elevator, it’s strange look back and think that I once felt most at home inside such a small, cramped and often dark space. But, as Dr. Mintz continued to say, to children, the world is big. Because of this perception, it can often be hard to attain those feelings of security or safety in everyday life.
In addition to providing feelings of safety, Dr. Mintz continued to share that forts can be a great place for children to relieve stress, as well as a great outlet to express creativity, leadership and collaboration. After all, constructing a fort from the ground up is rarely a one-child job.
While it can be frustrating to see furniture and linens strewn about the house, encouraging your children to live out their young, architectural dreams positively affects their development. Though it creates extra housework, you should encourage your children to invite their friends over and build a structure that’s entirely their own. In fact, as summer break quickly comes to a close, you should not only encourage your kids to build the fort of their dreams, but host – what I think could be considered as – the ultimate, end-of-summer sleepover. The ability to collaborate with friends and watch their favorite movies will keep them feeling creative, stress-free and happy.
What you’ll need:
- High-backed chairs, tables or dressers
- String lights
- A projector
- A great attitude
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure you have everything your child needs to build his or her own fort. The best places to build a fort are living rooms or children’s rooms, as these spaces usually have an open floorplan and contain a large cluster of furniture. You’ll want furniture of varying height for the walls, but I recommend you use high-backed chairs or stools for the main construction of the ceiling. Make sure your child has extra blankets and pillows, because these items will be used both for the structural integrity of the fort as well as for comfort on the inside as your kid lounges. Don’t worry too much about the details; your child will figure out how to construct the fort from the furniture you have. However, do make sure the opening of the fort is facing an empty wall. This will be important when it comes time to set up a movie night.
Once the fort is erected, let your child decorate it. After all, this is your child’s makeshift house for the evening, and décor is one of many things that helps make a house a home. I recommend using string lights, colorful blankets and stuffed animals. Once nighttime hits, the soft glow from the string lights will mimic the effect of camping outdoors, with only the stars and a fire to help you see. And, colorful blankets and toys gives children the ability to express their creativity. Who knows, you may find you have a future interior decorator on your hands!
As your child creates the fort, set to making fun snacks that can be enjoyed during the movie. There are endless possibilities, from s’mores to popcorn, but if you turn to page 18, we’ll walk you through some of our recipes that will be sure to wow.
Finally, set up a movie night. Place a projector inside of the fort, facing the empty wall at the fort’s opening. Make sure you have a DVD player and speakers that can be plugged into the projector, otherwise this won’t work. Let your child pick his or her favorite movie and press play. There is nothing better than that first movie inside of your own home, right?
While it’s always good to provide structure for your children, allowing them to be creative and break free from the routine every now and again won’t hurt; a night like this may have a long-lasting, positive effect. Though it may seem odd, allowing your children to construct their very own pillow fort is good for their emotional well-being, and allowing them to do so with friends is a great way to keep them engaged and collaborative. Plus, who doesn’t love to enjoy a good snack and a movie?