Let’s Play: Indoor Forts Inspiring Creative Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Pop-Up Forts

We celebrate Christmas with our extended family which means we pack suitcases, ship gifts and fly off to Grandma’s in Michigan the morning after school is out for winter break. This also means the break offers little down time for us, so I declare the weeks of December as our free time. We limit holiday gatherings and play dates to one a week. We say, “No way!” to the mall crowd. We carve out more time at home. We make time to sled, if the snow falls. There is definitely time to make a batch or two of our favorite holiday cookies. We have time to just be. We make sure to wander through downtown after dark to enjoy the people, lights and an ice cream at Herrell’s on a cold night. No rushing about…

During a quiet day, I like to put out a pile of things to get the imagination going. I make a stack of indoor fort materials. Blankets and sheets. Wooden dowels or PVC pipe. Empty boxes. Flashlights and rope. The last unused strand of holiday lights. A few pillows. A fort magically pops up for daytime play and maybe even for a few nights of camping out inside. Sometimes we build together. Sometimes all is kid constructed (I might need to reinforce things later). We use other furniture for support. Ropes get tied to doorknobs and strung across the room. Things get rearranged.

Homework happens in the fort. Someone reads favorite books to a tiny kitten by flashlight. There is secret letter writing to Santa. Special gifts are made and wrapped. If the doorway to the fort is positioned just right, we can have a holiday movie night all cuddled inside with popcorn and still see the screen. As the mom, I love to listen to the play and conversations that can go on in there. A place that seems special, hidden and secret to little ones. A mini place of their own inside the warm, cozy house.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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