Building Forts

I haven’t met a child who isn’t enchanted by a fort. Not the military stronghold type, but the ones built with sofa cushions and blankets. Certainly, they’re inspired by the challenge of constructing something so big themselves. But there must also be some connection to having a “room” of one’s own — a pleasing universal idea. And perhaps there’s also a link to living like the characters do in their storybooks and fairy tales.

One of my all-time favourite magazine tearsheets is a Carolina Herrera ad picturing two youngsters ensconced in haphazardly assembled but thoroughly delightful contraptions built of silk scarves, clothes pegs and rope.

For parents not keen on having rooms ripped apart on a daily basis, there are plenty of options on the market for providing kids with instant architecture.

Diminutive kid-friendly pop-up tents have been around for decades. Years ago, on the way to a week of car-camping, my husband and I picked up an Oscar-the-Grouch-patterned tent (along with a tiny collapsible chair and a wee sleeping bag) at a SuperStore in Barrie, Ontario, as a spot to set down our barely crawling baby daughter while camping. It’s still the best $20 we ever spent! It comes on all our camping trips and hosts everything from teddy bear picnics to light-sabre battles, and when Tessa was a baby, I’d open it up in the living room as a fun place to play on grey days. (Fast-forward seven years, and we now have a deluxe model comprised of two play tents connected by a tunnel, and it’s a hit anytime we assemble the whole shebang in our dining room, the only room large enough to host it.)

The new classic seems to be the tepee. We were lucky enough to inherit one like this from our friend Evie, who had outgrown hers. (Similar versions are available in Toronto at Advice from a Caterpillar.

Pile a tepee full of blankets, toys and pillows (these darling block-printed ones are from Rikshaw Design), and kids will happily while away the hours.

A simple A-frame tent is a similar option. This vibrantly coloured one from the Ottawa-based Teepee and Tent shop on Etsy has a lighthearted Wild West vibe.

For a sleepover or at a summer cottage, homemade tents like these will be a surefire hit — and can be used to give each child a little privacy.

Even something as simple as a mosquito net can stand in as a hideaway. We bought one like this at Ikea for $10.

On the other end of the spectrum, this luxe, fully outfitted bell tent is about as inviting and whimsical as a play spot can get.

Perhaps we’ll try for a setup like one of these in our backyard when the weather finally warms up. Rope and simple dowels or bamboo garden poles aren’t hard to come by, and between old bed sheets and art drop-cloths, we’ve got the draping covered. The more quirky or romantic, the better for engaging kids’ imaginations. Over the years, I’ve picked up a number of bright floral sheets at thrift stores and Goodwill, and just given them a thorough wash before handing them over to the kids.

Another new take is the table tent — which in my books is a great way to repurpose little-used dining rooms. Crafty sewers can tailor-make versions to resemble a child’s own home or a favourite storybook abode. Here are the DIY directions for this one — the original post is in Dutch, so you’ll need to run them through Google Translate.

In my experience, though, the most beloved forts are the handcrafted variety. Children find satisfaction in building their own structures. (And who among us who’s ever custom-built their own house would fault them?) My kids construct endless permutations with the mere two blankets and six throw pillows we have in our living room. Left to their own devices for as little as 10 minutes, they’ll inevitably rearrange the room’s two chairs and one coffee table into two forts — one for each of them — or on a good day, two to share. And anytime we host a play date, Tessa’s bunk bed meets the same fate.

It’s a place for them to get away — to hide out from the adults and from the more mundane parts of their existence. A room of one’s own … I guess we all need it.

See our gallery of Trendy Kids’ Bedroom Ideas for more inspiration.

Photo credits:
1. The Well Appointed House blog
2. My First Little Place blog
3. Rikshaw Design
4. Teepee and Tent Shop,
5. Maxabella Loves blog
6. Mommo Design
7. Jollydays Luxury Camping
8. PS by Dila blog, photography by Renee Hindman
9. Runway Hippie blog
10. 101 Woonideeën blog

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