Fort Building is the gold standard outside activity our kids need right now.
When everything in the world seems scary and uncertain, forts are a place where kids have control and they can create a little den away from the outside world. And, according to the Washington Post, in a time when there's extra screen time and less social time, forts may be just the remedy for kids as young as four years old to stretch their independence and skills of all kinds.
There's no reason this hand-on activity can't be a detour from your kid's regularly scheduled programming. We're going to tell you what they might need. But, from our experiences at Camp Backcountry, as long as there are some materials around ... these builders won't need much direction.
Plan It Out: Kids should try out the process of planning, experimenting with different building techniques, and adjusting their design as needed. Through this natural play, they will explore STEM concepts and activate important skills like problem-solving and collaboration, if they are working with others.
A Simple Setup: Small, medium, large sticks that can be used to build a shelter that is big enough for at least one person to fit inside and will keep them safe from the elements! Perhaps this will become a camouflaged hideout, or a place where fairies congregate, or a survival base! It’s up to their own imagination to decide what exactly their shelter will be used for, but describing the basics of how to build an outdoor shelter is a great way to get them started!
No matter if your child decides to do a “tee-pee” style, “lean-two” or “log cabin”, you can continue to build them up by taking a step back after the initial set-up. Letting your child discover inspiration on their own will help give them a better sense of appreciation for nature.
As they continue to build (by themselves or with a group) they may need to explore their area in search of additional materials or ways in which to enhance their structure. Encourage them to use household items creatively or forage their outdoor spaces for items that will work.
More Than A Fort: You may see sticks piling up in the backyard, but there's more happening. Your child is also building a sense of independence, as well as refining teamwork skills when working with others! Fort building allows kids to test their skills and consider the pros and cons of different designs and materials (remember the Three Little Pigs?!) with real but harmless consequences.
After the building process is complete, your kiddos will get to enjoy the “fruits of their labor” by making their own special world inside of their new structure. Whether this becomes a place for them to take a break from the day-to-day and find inner peace, or turns into a thriving imagination station ... the benefits of fort building are endless!
Try Fort Building Out in the Backcountry Wilderness Area!
Let us start the idea factory for your fort builder at our Fort Village Marketplace drop-off program on Saturday, January 30 from Noon-3 p.m. at Backcountry Base Camp! Ages 7-13.
We're letting the kids build a community from the ground up! We'll start by constructing a town—made of natural material forts—and then let the kids' creativity drive the interactions. From creating things to "sell" to hosting a storefront and making trades, the village becomes exactly what the kids want it to be! Registration is open now.
Jess Fangman is a Backcountry Wilderness Area Environmental Education Coordinator. She grew up in Ohio, lived in California and Hawaii for a few years, but fell in love with the Rockies and moved to Colorado. Jess loves to go backpacking and aims to explore all of Colorado’s hidden gems! She'll also challenge anyone to dethrone her during a movie trivia game night!