Time: 5-15 minutes to construct, hours of play
Recurrence: Once every 3 months
We’ve all seen our share of Christmas day toys discarded immediately to play with the boxes, and for good reason. Those boxes are imagination machines, full of nothing but opportunity to create their own universe. We’ve also seen neighbors and siblings shell out hundreds, if not thousands, on extremely large and expensive playsets for their kids, giving them to opportunity to pretend elaborate adventures on these structures. Both methods are expensive ends to to the same goal, really. So, why not just use what you’ve got sitting around and create an all-new play area inside your house?
Making a fort is extremely simple and fun for both you and your daughter. Granted, if you’re a dad of a teenager, I’d go out for coffee instead of this, but for those with younger kids, this Daddy-Daughter Date can’t be beat. You’ve probably got all the materials you need right in your house. Various items can be used, but here are few of the best “building materials”: couch cushions, chairs, stools, large plastic bins, blankets, large pillows, and chip clips. Round up as many of those items as you can and then pick a spot to construct your masterpiece.
Time to finally use those couches from Pier One
First off, it doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. You could literally take 4 couch cushions and build a mini-hut for your daughter and she’d love it. There is just SOMETHING about taking a space and making it look new. That’s one of the reasons we re-decorate our house and change the colors of the walls. In this case, you’re taking a room she’s been in hundreds of times and you’re giving her the chance to see it as a completely different space. Try and find some sort of boundaries to that space, though. Large couches, chairs, and railings can all be used to set the “boundaries” of the fort. That will give you some sort of structure to play with.
If you’re going small, just use a few couch cushions for walls and cover the top with a few pillows. If you’re going large, blankets should be used as the top of the tent. Here comes the tricky part; unless you have a HUGE Blanket, you might end up having to work some sort of post in the middle to attach multiple blankets together. That’s where stools or big storage bins can be your ally. Stack the bins up, as long as they have weight to them, and bring the blankets together. If the bins don’t have weight, you and your daugthter are going to bring that fort down so fast you won’t have time to grab tissues for her tears. On the other side of those blankets is where you use the chip clips. The bigger the blanket, the stronger the clip you’re going to need. Woodworking clamps work great if you have access to them.
Make a few entrances to the fort, and maybe even a “secret” one. You can do this my moving couches together in an L shape, while leaving a little gap. The more ways in and out just add to the fun of the space. Windows are also a great one to add to the fort, whether you do that with gaps in the blankets or having an open spot between cushions.
Peek a boooo, I see-AAHH! WHO ARE YOU!?!?!
Then play. You will be blown away by how much she wants to play in that fort. Old toys suddenly have new life in the fort and reading becomes and absolute treasure in her little hideaway. But this isn’t just play time for her, it’s for you too. Pretend alongside her and come up with different adventures that happen around the fort (exploring the jungle, being pirates, surviving the wild west prairie and not dying of dysentery).
Leave the fort up for a few days, playing, but also observing. This is a time to treasure, where the only cares for your daughter are how many dolls can come to the tea party or how many friends she can invite over to hang out in the fort. When it’s time for the fort to come down, communicate that ahead of time….DAYS ahead of time. It’s for the best and have her help you take it down and fold everything up. She’ll look forward to the next fort you’ll build, which will be completely different from the first one you made.
I'd go more Cape Cod style next time...
Pro-Tip: If this all seems like way too much work, think about setting up a tent inside. It’s a great fort, a cool place to play for your daughter, and it has windows. Just be a bit careful when staking it in to your hardwood floors.
Thanks for being a dad…