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Build an Outdoor Fort

Have your child create their own outdoor hideout!

Ranger Rick
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Average Rating:
Participant Age: Under 7, 7 to 12, 12 and up
Approximate Cost: $0
Duration: 1 to 60 minutes, Over an hour
Difficulty:
Physical Challenge:
  • Old blankets, tarps or large fabric that can get dirty
  • Boxes, the larger the better
  • Clothespins (optional)
  • Work gloves (optional, if you want to protect from splinters)
  • Plastic sheet (optional)
  • Rake (optional)
  • Long sticks
  • String or rope
  • Show Me Shelter print out (optional)
The best forts are the ones totally kid-constructed.

You can encourage fort building by putting aside blankets, tarps and string for them to use.

Ideas for outdoor forts include:

  • Make a tepee with long sticks tied together with twine.
  • Drape blankets on low tree limbs and use as a covering for a fort.
  • Use bushes as fortifications for your fort. Sometimes there's a kid-sized space inside of a bush.
  • Recycle a large box, cut out windows, and call it home!
  • Build a snow fort, if you have some of the fluffy stuff! If the snow is right, squish snow into square-shaped plastic food containers to make bricks.

If you are someone who likes a pattern to follow, here is a suggested fort design:

Find three long sticks and tie them at one end to form a tripod.

Look for a spot where four trees form a square. Place the tripod in the middle.

Tie a rope about three feet from the ground around the four trees so it forms a square.


Drape the blanket or tarp over the tripod.

Then bring the corners out to the place where the string connects the trees.

Clothespin the blanket to the string.


Rake the ground to remove pointy sticks.

This will make your fort more comfortable.

Put down a plastic sheet on the ground if you want to avoid getting a damp bottom.


Load up your fort with fun stuff.
Add more blankets, toys, drawing supplies, snacks and anything else you want to do in your fort.
Generally, you'll want to stay out of your kids way when they are building a fort.

But if you want to use this opportunity as part of a wildlife discussion, consider printing our "Show Me Shelter" Nature Notebook activity, which gives fort building ideas and encourages your child to draw a picture of their fort.

Fort building can also be the inspiration for your family to provide cover for wildlife, which is one of the four qualifications for a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

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