build assemble it they will come build and play. For hours.
For the last two years we have taken an approach to Christmas gifts that was a little different from what we had done before, each person got their stocking which was filled for them personally and one main gift such as a tricycle, a nook, or a Waldorf style baby doll. The rest of the gifts, which weren’t many, were group gifts. Gifts for more than one person that would encourage community bonding over shared experiences. The last two years have seen group gifts such as a dollhouse from Craigslist with a bag full of little wooden people and furniture found at the local thrift store, games, an old suitcase filled with “spy” gear assembled with bits and pieces from garage sales and thrift stores (this was a HUGE hit that year), a farm set with a play mat made from recycled sweaters and wooden farm animals and barn procured from ebay, and a fort kit. Without a doubt, the fort kit was the favorite gift last year and not just for those we thought would enjoy it the most, no, even the biggest members of the family have continued to enjoy the fort kit.
Because, seriously, no matter how old you are, building forts is AWESOME. Obviously.
Our fort kit, though a bit more elaborate than necessary, cost around $50 but could easily be assembled for less by skipping some of the extra items. Here’s what ours contained:
- 1 Rubbermaid 20 gallon tote with “Fort Kit” crudely painted on the side by yours truly
- 4 sheets, 2 with ribbons sewn on to create ties around the edges
- 1 1/4″ sisal strand rope
- 1 set of clamps, various sizes
- 1 package of clothes pins
- 4 mini flashlights
- 2 A-frame tent structures
- 2 mini pillows
- 4 throw blankets
- 1 package of assorted mini bungee cords
- 1 Toobeez EZ-fort kit set
We selected fun and funky vintage style sheets and throw blankets from the thrift store, costing us just a few dollars. Knowing that plenty of forts would be built outside, we wanted sheets and blankets that were cost effective in case they were destroyed. The EZ-fort kit was on Zulily when we nabbed it and we’ve seen it several times since. Actually, we like that part so much we’ve not only bought two more but gifted quite a few as well. The kit would be great without the EZ-fort kit but with it so many possibilities open up and the girls release their inner engineer to even new heights. Tall towers, expansive labyrinths, and cozy cottages are possible with the EZ-fort kits. This was the most expensive portion of our kit but worth the investment. Without it our kit would have cost less than $20.
Originally we thought we would make a sack (AKA- pillow case with drawstring) for the kit but as the idea expanded we realized we needed something larger for storage and I’m glad we did. The tote makes clean up super simple and the tub often gets incorporated into their building design. It isn’t large enough to store the A-frame tent pieces but those slide behind or under the couch easily when not in use.
My plan to sew ties and loops onto each of the sheets was thwarted by a “mechanical” problem with my sewing machine. That is my story and I’m sticking to it even if said “mechanical” issue was very likely caused by own ineptitude. Whatever. Only two sheets ended up with ties but it turns out, our kids don’t care. They are resourceful and with a tub full of gadgets and options, they’ve made do just fine with clothes pins and clamps. If I were to do it again I’d just skip this step (and related stress, swearing at myself, and the overwhelming desire to hurtle my sewing machine through the window) and just give them more clothes pins. They can clothes pin and clamp ALL THE THINGS!
The A-frame tent was easy to create, we followed the directions here but would probably use these if we were to do it again. And by “we” I mean Jeremy did, I “supervised.” He did a good job too, adding a couple of his own modifications, namely a little twine at the top to prevent the frame from slipping if a toddler were to grab a side. Instead of a set sheet cover, we use the sheets with ties over just as often they grab one of the other sheets from the fort kit and a handful of clothespins to set it up how they like. Other covering options and other ways of using the frames have been figured out as well, the design is simple enough that the tents really are open ended play things. The girls absolutely love these tents, they are a favorite place to take “alone time” or quiet time and setting one up is an invitation for hours of play tucked inside.
Building forts was something I loved doing as a little girl and Jeremy has fond memories of creating his one little niche with sheets in the living room. While a special kit isn’t necessary for such open ended and creative play, we’ve found that with designated supplies not only do we all relax more about what they are using to create their forts, forts are being built more frequently with increasing creativity. Having it all in a designated kit also simplifies clean up. They love it and yeah, I love it too.