Why do children build forts?

Written by Leny Grott

Why do children build forts?

I believe it’s an effort to gain control over their environment. By building a fort you are not only creating your own shelter for your own conditions, you are making a space that belongs to you. The rules in the fort are yours to decide and there is no one to refute you.

Many kids who build forts also impose their new rules on anybody who wants to enter, be it in the form of a password, a paper hat that must be worn or something similar.

When children get older, the desire to have a quiet, secret space doesn’t go away, older children often venture outside to build dens and other fort-like structures.

But these creative, secret spaces are more than just a fun hide-out. Kids love forts not only because they can be anything they want them to be. They also love them for the safe, cozy feeling they provide, too.

“No parents allowed!” my daughters tell me. During quiet time, they set up their fort with pillows, blankets, books, and their favorite toys. It’s where they go when they need space, to relax, and to just process their feelings.

You can throw a sheet over your kitchen table, and kids will be distracted for hours.

Forts are not only a way to entertain kids on rainy days, but also a great stand-in when their other toys lose charm. They symbolize imaginative play.

Younger kids may just lean pillows against a coffee table while older kids may create something more elaborate. Regardless of age, however, all kids drag their favorite things into forts, such as stuffed animals, stacks of books, and piles of snacks. They decorate their own space, which builds creativity.

Child development and fort building benefits

  • Cognitive skills – problem solving and planning
  • Social skills – cooperation, negotiation and teamwork
  • Construction
  • Physical development
  • Personal skills – independence and confidence building
  • Creativity and imaginative skills
  • STEM activity – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Hours of entertainment
  • Requires and stimulates imagination
  • Mom and Dad Can Play-Along
  • Is FUN!

Allow kids to build on their own without tearing apart the house, of course. It’s exciting for parents to watch their kids playing and creating their own stories. In today’s world, things are very controlled for kids. But building and talking about forts transports adults back to their own childhoods.

Since fort building is such a popular activity for children, many toy companies have manufactured kits for building forts, but you should think twice before buying these. A kit doesn’t promote as much creativity and may even come with instructions, which doesn’t promote problem solving as well as a homemade fort.

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