Inside or outside, forts are secret spaces.

“Creating secret forts, dens, hideouts, and playhouses isn’t just any random kind of play. It’s a universal drive that’s rooted in kids’ healthy development, says educator David Sobel of Antioch University New England—the man who’s studied this behavior more than anyone.”

— Paula Spencer Scott
Photo: DIYNetwork
Photo: DIYNetwork


On kinstantly, Paula Spencer Scott explores what Sobel labels “special spaces“. She describes the learning and developmental skills fostered in building and creating these forts and special places. Forts may be simple, or elaborately constructed, but they bring special meaning to play for many children. Sobel authored an entire book about them, and includes them in the seven universal play motifs he identifies in his book Childhood and Nature

1. Making forts and special places
2. Playing hunting and gathering games
3. Shaping small worlds
4. Developing friendships with animals
5. Constructing adventures
6. Descending into fantasies
7. Following paths and figuring out shortcuts

NB: See Ryan Weisberg‘s article for how these motifs operate in  “developmentally appropriate ways for 3-5 year olds” at Orcas Island Forest School

There’s more than one way to build a fort though, so we’ve got 10 DIY forts from simple to downright jaw dropping for you to rate or create.

Let’s get started inside shall we?

1. The Air Fort of Awesomeness

Here’s one you might like to try out at home on a summer night. Feel air rushing past you as you crawl down the hidden tunnel. What could possibly be waiting outside?



Full AIR FORT ONE Instructions: HERE

2. The A-Frame Tent

RubyEllen from Cakies is the designer of this fabric A-Frame just made for inside adventures. Choose the fabric and just add kids!

Picture: Grosgrainfabulous

Picture: Grosgrainfabulous

Step by step Instructions & hand-drawn pattern: Grosgrain Fabulous

3. Build A Fort Kits

When half the fun is building it, do you actually need to make the fort for the kids? Or is it better to let them make it for themelves? What about just providing them with some fort building equipment?

Photo: A Bird and a Bean

Photo: A Bird and a Bean

You could win the day by sourcing items for these DIY build a fort kits

4. Friday Night in Fort

Or alternatively, you can go fully DIY FORT and stick to the basics. Simply hand over sheets, books (for weighting corners), pegs and pillows (maybe some large cardboard boxes?)  and let them experiment themselves

Photo: Superette

Photo: Superette

No instructions needed  – the full DIY experience

Let’s not forget to head outside!

5. Bean Teepee

Grow your own – combine gardening skills and fort building with this mean green Jack & the Beanstalk fort

Photo: Gardening KnowHow

Photo: Gardening KnowHow

Full Bean Fort Instructions: Gardening KnowHow

6. Sweet Pea & Star Jasmine Teepee

Replanting every season not your thing? Then here’s a DIY video just for you on how to grow a sweetpea teepee that will transform into a permanent star jasmine teepee within 12 months

7. Hula Hoop Hide Out

No room for gardening but plenty of trees? Then get out the hula hoops and find a branch

Photo: The Craft Nest

Photo: The Craft Nest

For simple instructions: The Craft Nest

8. Hanging Tree Pod

This one is way more labour intensive – it’s still DIY but starting to up the stakes! But once it’s up there it’s a haven for hiding and daydreaming and “shaping small worlds”

Photo: DIY Network

Photo: DIY Network

For not so simple instructions (and an actual photo): DIYNETWORK

9. Fairy Tree

Number nine is DIY gone EXTREME! This is the story of the father who spent 350 hours over 18 months creating a fairy tree like no other.

Picture: Bored Panda

Picture: Bored Panda

Detailed Instructions – are you CRAZY? Not available. But definitely go through the gallery and read how he did it: Bored Panda

10. Fort For All Imaginations

Sometimes -the best is last. you won’t need any instructions – or pictures (only ones that you take yourselves). Head into nature and into adventure – pick up objects, hide under bushes, pile driftwood into a makeshift teepee. Be limited only by the imagination – which means not at all.

But most of all – make the making fun!

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