Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best Kids' Present Ever

Clothespins and Clothesline - Flotsam of the Mind

As parents, we beat ourselves up about our failures, big and small. When we hit a home run, we should celebrate. Welcome to my celebration.

I may have given my kids the best Christmas present ever. They took it out of the box this morning, and we forced them to stop playing with it at bedtime. They plan to go back to it first thing tomorrow morning. They worked together, played nicely, and invited friends over to play too. What is this magical gift?

A fort kit.  

I saw one listed in a fancy toy catalog for $40 and decided that I could do better myself with items from home and an inexpensive trip to Wal-Mart. Our fort kit included:

  • sheets
  • shower curtains
  • shower curtain rings
  • clothesline
  • twine
  • clothespins
  • cheap carabiners

Fort Kit Materials - Flotsam of the Mind

and my personal favorite bit of flare, a tiny red lantern.

Lantern for Kids' Fort - Flotsam of the Mind

I boxed up everything in a small plastic bin, labeled it with a paint pen, wrapped it, and put it under the tree on Christmas.

Fort Kit - Flotsam of the Mind

With these simple items and a lot of imagination, my basement now looks like this.

Fort - Flotsam of the Mind

This is the fort when open to visitors. When the occupants need privacy, the gymnastics mat acts as a barricade for the door. The doorway appeared naturally; the striped fabric is the remainder of a Target shower curtain I used to sew a curtain for the basement window. 

My favorite touches have nothing to do with the materials I provided and everything to do with my kids' creativity. They added reading lights by hanging headlamps from the drop ceiling dividers.

Headlamps as Reading Lamps - Flotsam of the Mind

They created a bookshelf by cutting up an Amazon box.

Fort Bookshelf - Flotsam of the Mind

They added two bean bag chairs separated by an ottoman game table. The battery-powered tea lights provide ambiance when they play chess on the game table. (I couldn't make this stuff up, but they can.)

Fort in the Dark - Flotsam of the Mind

In case you're wondering about the strange glow, that would be from the lantern, the tea lights, the headlamps/reading lights, and the disco ball.

Fort Disco Ball - Flotsam of the Mind

Because only the great forts have disco balls.

Fort Reading by Disco Ball - Flotsam of the Mind

Both kids moved their sleeping bags into the fort, and for hours after building their masterpiece, they sat quietly in the dark basement, in their cozy fort, reading together by their own lighting system. It was magical.

Fort Chizzy Sign - Flotsam of the Mind

They begged to sleep in their fort, but because they were up late for New Year's Eve last night, I thought another late night was a bad idea. My kids do not sleep well in the same room under the best conditions. I'm seriously considering changing my mind tomorrow night. Their fort is creative, cozy, and amazing. I kind of want to hang out in it myself.

Selfishly, I'm thrilled that these simple materials finally got the kids to play in the basement. Despite the many hours I spent fixing it up last winter, they still rarely go down there unless they have friends over to play. I sense they will be spending a lot of time down there as long as I let the fort stay in place.

When I tucked in my son tonight, he couldn't stop talking about the fort. He said, "Thanks so much for the fort kit, Mom. It was the best gift ever."

I pointed out that I only provided the materials. Their imagination made it amazing. Now that's reason to celebrate.


  1. That is awesome! What a great idea!

  2. Susie: Craig & I used blankets, bump beds and broom handles. Great idea!

  3. This is SUCH a sweet idea!! I'll have to do this soon! We usually just use couch cushions for our forts haha