It’s no secret that kids love forts. Forts give them a space to escape and to wander off into their imaginary worlds where everything is safe and cozy, and it gives them a little space in the world that is all theirs to control. Sofa cushions and blankets or secret dens made from branches—forts are where kids go to to escape and find a place of their own.
David Sobel, professor emeritus at Antioch University’s education department and author of Children’s Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood has said a child's "itch" to create their own special place starts around age 5 or 6, when they stop believing in Santa, and goes on until age 12 or 13, when they start paying more attention to themselves in the mirror. He has called a child's connection to fort-making their "their own private chrysalis.”
Now, with the world feeling so uncertain, kids are needing that space of their own—and that chrysalis—where they can learn, develop, and grow, more than they may have a year or two ago. Here are some of our favorite DIY forts and hideaways as well as some of the best fort kits, in case assisting in fort-building isn't your forte. While we selected these ideas with kids in mind, they are sure to be so cozy you may find they double as a your own corner spot for a little peace and solitude as well.
Some of our favorite kits, pop-ups, and easy-to-assemble forts.
1. 1-2-3 Inflate!
Age range: 3 and up
Something that’s always a bummer about blanket forts made with thick sofa pillows and heavy comforters is that they tend to get hot and stuffy pretty quickly. If you lack the general contractor gene, try this inflatable fort by the Original Air Fort that’s not only ready in seconds with minimal assembly, it’s always well aerated because it attaches to a house fan to inflate.
2. A tucked away teepee
Age range: 4 and up
There are hundreds of teepee tents available but this one stands out from the rest. It comes with a non-slip mat, pockets to hold toys, and a hanging LED light—giving kids everything they need to stay in their special getaway all day. We also love that the windows and "skylight" allow for a cross breeze and a constant flow of fresh air.
3. A sea-worthy ship
Age range: 3 and up
COVID-19 has basically made it so no one is going to want to go on a cruise for quite some time. This, however, is just the seaworthy vessel you'd love to be stuck on for days. Sure the staff is ornery and the food might leave you susceptible to scurvy, but the captain and crew sure are adorable, and if you need to jump ship you won't be far from home.
4. Invent and reinvent
Age range: 4 and up
The Hearthsong Fantasy Fort looks like a treehouse with connectable wood-look panels, but it’s made from heavy-duty cardboard with Velcro strips that connect all the parts. Kids can spend hours building and re-building their dream fort, stimulating imaginative play and promoting spatial reasoning. We love this kit because the cardboard slats are coated, making them sturdy enough to last. They also break down flat and store away easily. While we like the classic treehouse style, this also comes in a polar theme and a mermaid theme.
- Get the Hearthsong fantasy fort at Amazon for $69.99
- Get the Hearthsong sea castle fantasy fort at Amazon for $69.97
- Get the Hearthsong igloo fantasy fort at Amazon for $99
5. For the general contractor kid
Age range: 5 and up
This 85-piece kit from Obuby comes with 31 geometric balls and 54 reinforced sticks that give kids the tools to let their inner architects shine. The kit allows them to explore creative new ways to create forts, all you need is the sheet to go on top. The kit comes with a kid-friendly building guide to give them ideas, or they can let their imaginations take the lead and make their own unique creations. The set also comes with a storage bag for easy cleanup.
6. For the family of builders
Age range: all ages
These fort building boards by Fort Boards are built to last. They are durable enough for indoor and outdoor use and the company even claims that they’ll stand up to being passed down from sibling to sibling. The snap-in-place structure is perfect for building fine motor skills and the kits pack up small so you can easily tidy them away. Once your kids are bored with forts (as if that will ever happen), they can use the kits to build cars, spaceships, hovercrafts, or even magical creatures. There is a whole community of #fortboard builders online you can check out to glean inspiration from.
7. The happy medium
Age range: 5 and up
If you are somewhere in-between DIY and "please do it for me," one of these adorable "fort kits" from Adi & Tuck might be just your thing. They come with a flashlight, sheet clips, a glow stick, and two twin sheets—all pulled together in an adorable hand-made and customizable backpack, that is perfect for inspiring a sense of escape and adventure and allow them to take their fort-building anywhere they need to go.
If you're feeling crafty, here is some inspiration for turning your cardboard boxes, pillows, couch cushions, and sheets into magical imaginative getaways.
8. The sky’s the limit
Some silvery spray paint and cool cardboard cutouts make this rocket ship blast-off ready. With a little bit of crafty know-how and some tips from this tutorial at the Instructables you can make a cool rocket ship that’s really out of this world.
9. Cool campout
If your kids are really itching for a getaway, cure that cabin fever with their own DIY Airstream-style fort. Hang up some twinkle lights and craft a crepe paper campfire and you've got yourself a living room campout fit for an Instagram influencer. Hike on over to The Merry Thought for tips on how to make this adorable hipster escape.
10. They’ll take the castle
If you have a kid with a strong design aesthetic, they will love expressing their creative point of view with this DIY castle by Christiane Lemieux at Built by Kids. Gone are the days of dreary stone fortresses—this one is elevated to chic when your design assistant takes to it with colorful tape.
11. A rad reading pad
This no-sew canopy tent can be made in minutes, making for a perfectly peaceful place to escape into a good book. Just throw in some pillows and a cozy blanket and suddenly you'll have a kid who is running to read. The tutorial at Making Lemonade will show you just how simple it is to pull of this private reading escape that's so cute you may want to hide in there with your coffee and your e-reader yourself. As an alternative design, wrap the hula hoop in twinkle lights and swap out the curtain fabric for something gauzy or silky to make for a magical fairy haven.
12. An easy A-frame
You have to feel comfortable with a spade drill but, besides that little bit of required power-tool prowess, this is the easiest a-frame you can make. After the drilling all you need is a sheet to hang over the frame and a little person with a design sensibility to help you make it their own. We also love that this fort folds up flat, so it's easy to stow it away when company calls—and pop it back open when they want a tour of your kiddo's favorite new hangout. To learn how to make this mini mid-century marvel, head on over to Style Me Pretty.
13. Stop noodling around
Pool noodles are incredible. Once you get acquainted with their multi-use wonder you are going to want to buy them in bulk. They are perfect for building obstacle courses, or being used to create backyard games, but here they are the structural component to a sturdy blanket fort. If the pillows you use to build forts are letting you down, grab some pool noodles and some duct tape and follow this easy tutorial by From ABCs to ACTs. This fort works great for inside or, because of the noodle's durability and their ability to stand up easily against rain, outside!
14. Shine some light on things
A normal fort becomes something magical when you add sparkly lights to the mix. They also can make this adorable fort a great late night escape from anything spooky that a kid’s imagination might think is lurking in the closet or under the bed. A few lights can make for some good mood lighting, like in the fort at this tutorial at Indestructables. Or you can cover the whole roof of the fort to make it into a “star box,” like the one at Where Imagination Grows. Older kids will love cuddling up with a book under the soft lighting and toddlers will get a multi-sensory experience.
15. Capture the castle
You've got to admit, a drawbridge does add an element of drama. Anyone can have a play fort, but if you have the kind of kid for whom only a fortress will do, this tutorial at Kat This Kat That is for you.
16. Sweet and simple
Sometimes the simplest of things are what will put a smile on your kid's face. If you're tired of the over-the top cardboard palaces that seem more made for Pinterest posts than for a kid to enjoy, this house by Life as a Thrifter may be the one for you. A sturdy build and reinforced with storybook "wallpaper" and decoupaged "bricks" this is the perfect starter house for a wee one to make their very own.
17. Make it magical
Comfy and cozy, there is a reason why pillow forts reign supreme in the face of a million cardboard fortresses. If you just want a way to make homey respite for your kids to relax, read, or watch movies in, Life is a Party has some perfect inspiration for you. Fluffy pillows, sparkly string lights, and gauzy sheets make for magical escape no one in your family will ever want to emerge from.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.