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« build a fort! »

tree root cave — photo credit: jump4joy, all rights reserved

One fall when I was 9 or 10, my best friend and I built a fort using a couple of leftover pieces of wire fencing we found behind the shed — we formed the walls and ceiling, then covered the entire thing with fallen leaves and christened it Fort Leafy.

It had a box for keeping treasures and oreos and we used it for weeks and weeks before the snow finally came.

It doesn’t take much to make a fort in your backyard — some sticks, a tarp, or whatever you have lying around that no one needs at the moment. The kids at my school made a fort by laboriously carving away a little cave in a mound of dirt (big enough for two small children to squeeze mostly into) then building out with sticks and leaves. The only completely necessary supply is imagination.

Do you have a fort? E-mail us and we will share it here!

our fort in the woods behind the barn

The smallest boys can build some of the simple shelters and the older boys can build the more difficult ones. The reader may, if he likes, begin with the first of the book, build his way through it, and graduate by building the log houses; in doing this he will be closely following the history of the human race, because ever since our arboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests and built nest-like shelters in the trees, men have made themselves shacks for a temporary refuge. — Dan Beard, Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

boys in their “fort” — photo credit: myPlayground, all rights reserved

woods fort with windows! photo credit: amirabilis, all rights reserved

driftwood fort on the beach —photo credit: sunnyshine12, all rights reserved

There are several ways of building a temporary camp from material that is always to be found in the woods. Whether these improvised shelters are intended to last until a permanent camp is built or only as a camp on a short excursion, a great deal of fun can be had in their construction. — The Boy Mechanic: 200 Classic Things to Build

fort pan-am —photo credit: nicodemas, all rights reserved

palm frond fort — photo credit: bryan robison, all rights reserved

By taking advantage of a rock, a fallen or uprooted tree, the work of building a hut is ofttimes materially lessened. — The American Boy’s Handy Book

empty lot fort —photo credit: rob rypma, all rights reserved

backyard woods fort — photo credit: my3sons_nh, all rights reserved

The next best thing to really living in the woods is talking over such an experience. — Dan Beard, The American Boy’s Handy Book

awesome beach fort —photo credit: brilliam, all rights reserved

It was our turn now, and we pelted their broken ranks with snow until they looked like animated snowmen. Another shout, and we looked around to find our leader down and the hands of one of the besieging party almost upon our flag. It was the work of a second to pitch the intruder upon his back outside the fort.

Then came the tug of war. A rush was made to capture our standard, several of our boys were pulled out of the fort and taken prisoners, and the capture of the fort seemed inevitable. Again and again a number of the enemy, among whom was their color-bearer, gained the top of our breastworks, and again and again were they tumbled off amid a shower of snowballs that forced them to retire to gain breath and clear their eyes from the snow.

Once their lieutenant, with the red-bordered battle-flag, had actually succeeded in reaching the mound upon which stood our colors, when a combined attack that nearly resulted in his being made prisoner drove him from the fort to gather strength for another rush. “Daddy” was now a prisoner, and the recaptured flag again floated over the enemy’s camp, when the school-bell called us, fresh and glowing with exercise and healthful excitement, to our lessons. — The American Boy’s Handy Book

More inspiration:

How to Build Treehouses, Huts, and Forts

The Book of Camp-Lore and Woodcraft

The American Boy’s Handy Book

The Boy Mechanic: 200 Classic Things to Build

The Field and Forest Handy Book

The Outdoor Handy Book


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Reader Comments (14)

In the summer my kids have gone to a day camp in the Oakland (CA) hills.The camp is held in a redwood glen that is absolutely magical, filled with fallen redwood branches. In the mornings when camp starts, the sun filters in through the redwoods and fog and it's unbelievably beautiful. (Yes, there's more to Oakland than the crime you might have heard about!)

The kids build a whole village of forts, and use pinecones for bartering. They set up homes and shops and pinecone bowling alleys. They start building the village on the first day of camp, and on Friday they take it down so the next week of kids can build a new one.

I'll try to get some photos when my youngest attends in July. I think that redwood village will be one of my kids' favorite memories of childhood.

June 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpatricia

This post brings back so many memories of my own childhood construction projects. Love the variety of pics and types of structures you have highlighted. I can see my own children starting to do this in various ways and settings. Thrills me to see this emerging in their play/exploration. Patricia, would love to see the pics of your kids' village...sounds like a great summer camp experience.

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucia

thank you to the people who are e-mailing me photos of your forts! i will do a round-up next week! :^D

patricia, lol re: bartering with pinecones — that is something we might have done when i was a child!

a whole village of forts sounds awesome.

lucia, me too — memories of just making your own spot out of whatever you can find…

i love the variety, too; i had to give up and stop choosing ones off flickr. :^P i still have fantasies about building myself a treehouse because of a book i read when i was young. one of these days i may finally get around to it. ;^)

June 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

So many great forts. We used to make small forts or huts of ferns when I was little ;)

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHege

what a great post. we are heading out this weekend for the first time and i will round up these books for my 9yr old son. i think he will love making a fort of sorts. and it does bring back great memories of making all sorts of hideaways when I was little.

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah

We just build a fort today! It's an indoor fort but a fort nonetheless. You can see it here:

It's kinda a warm-up for an outdoor fort of some kind. Your post is giving me lots of ideas!

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Once my mom took us to a treehouse hotel when we were little. So, so awesome.

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKyrie

What a fabulous post!
This brings back so many memories of when I was a child... We would play out back in the woods behind our house and push down the tall reeds growing in the marsh and make a pathway to our fort that was nestled in and under the cat-tails and reeds that formed a canopy over our heads as the sunlight dappled through this woven 'roof' we would mix up our 'soups' of mud and fluff from the cat nine tails. I had never seen that last book, Can't wait to check it out!

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergardenmama

Ooh, this one is a keeper for sure! Can't wait to take a closer look at those books...

So far, my boys' fort-building has always happened indoors -- I know that this will inspire them!

Thanks, Lori...

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Looking forward to some fort building with my two little people... I can definitly see a fort at the farm in the future...
Thanks for all the great ideas!!

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

hege — ferns! how romantic. :^)

sarah, wonderful — hope you find lots of inspiration. :^)

annie, thank you for the link! :^) hope you get to make an outdoor fort, too!

kyrie, i love those treehouses for adults! i want one! :^)

gardenmama, such lovely memories. :^) i remember, too, walking into the field and carefully pressing the grass down to make a hidden little hollow where we would play all day, decorating it with sticks and flowers and rocks — then start again the next day! i have sense memories of the smell of the wet grass baking in the sun. :^)

lynn, inspiration is good! ;^) hope you guys do something fun!

thank you, dawn! :^)

June 17, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

What cool forts! I always wanted to build a treehouse but didn't really have a place for one. Instead we made makeshift forts in bushes and under the weeping willow tree. The one we made in between the bushes we called "The Mansion" and had bedrooms for each of us and the one under the tree was "The Cabin." Forts are the best!

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Griffith

thanks, stephanie! :D

naming your fort is the important last step! ;^)

you reminded me of a makeshift hidden spot we had under the bridal veil hedge — cool and hidden!

June 25, 2009 | Registered CommenterLori

i love the forts built with the drift wood at the beach. great inspiration!!

June 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternancy

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