“Blanket Forts and Treehouses”

Adults often want to spend time away from children, but it is equally true that kids like to get away from grownups. They construct all sorts of structures to allow them to hide out for a while. Above is a simple fort made of sheets and chairs, hastily assembled by two kids playing detective.

My friend Skipper had a cloth teepee that he set up in his room to retreat into. I had a cloth that fit perfectly over a card table which was designed to make the covered table look like a little house with an opening to crawl in through. My siblings and I used couch cushions, chairs and blankets to make a space to hold four kids, a dog and two cats. The neighbor twins had a tree house, but we never were so lucky. I did carve out a space for myself under several fir trees among violas and buttercups and had little fairy tea parties there.

It turns out that the need for a sheltered space continues through our lives in different ways. In grade schools teachers have come up with various strategies for children who are feeling overwhelmed by emotion. Sometimes it is a corner with pillows, sometimes a special chair, sometimes just a desk away from the other kids. Unlike being sent to the corner as punishment, the child is offered a chance for a little break to settle down while still being with the class. As adults we too sometimes need to cool off. Instead of raging at one another, we take time outs for ourselves and go to a place similar to a blanket fort, perhaps the back yard or the car. I know mothers who have locked themselves in the bathroom to get their sanity restored.

I would love to hear about tree houses, forts, hideouts and caves that my readers once treasured. By the way did they have signs like “No Boys Allowed?”

33 thoughts on ““Blanket Forts and Treehouses”

  1. Two of my best friends lived next door. We had forts in the woods as well as a tree house that we slept out in! We all had brothers and they weren’t interested in being around us so no problem there.

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  2. As a country boy I had as many forts, dens, ships, houses etc as I wanted. I became an expert teepee builder, weaver of branches and twigs, fire maker. Oh….the memories you’ve stirred here Elizabeth. I may have to move out of my house and find a decent wood to live in!

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  3. Like you, I had a teepee, though I called it a ‘wigwam’ at the time. I also made forts from chairs, sheets of cardboard, and blankets. Tree houses were unknown in central London in my youth. The only trees were in the street outside.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. Working with kids who have been traumatized, blanket forts and those cocoon chairs, etc are very good for helping them to feel safe and sheltered. Your post made me think of that

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  5. Some friends and I escaped reality for hours in “the fort,” which was a naturally occurring wigwam- like structure in the woods behind our houses. It’s someone else’s property now, and I wish I could go back one more time. It really was our sanctuary.

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  6. We used blankets for makeshift tents, spread over tables. Outside, we had a barn to hide in, with a loft secluded away from all the adult world. We also hid out in the grave arbor, until the grapes ripened and the bees descended upon our hideaway. No treehouses, although we climbed many a tree!

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  7. The best presenter at National teacher conferences was Bev Bos. She was a legend, and she was my first teaching ‘light bulb’. She talked about quiet, intimate spaces for children, and how teachers needed to find a way to create these in their classrooms. She was right. Forts with sheets are the best, and it is far more than just fun for children. They need these spaces.

    She also stressed the importance of outdoor play and letting children learn on their own. No helicopter parents allowed.

    You can see why I think (know) she is absolutely right. We have lofts in the classroom, and under the loft is more popular than the top of the loft. See, they need forts.

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  8. My friend, little sister & I had a spot under the house, the house was built on high foundations so it was probably around 10′ in height, we don’t have basements in our domestic houses here in Australia.
    Dad had his workshop under there & we had made a rather comfy space in one corner to escape to! We had lots of dolls tea parties there! Lol!
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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  9. After my brother and I started sleeping in separate bedrooms, the bunk beds stayed in my room. I obviously asked dad to leave them as they were (he was planning on separating them, it was the kind where you can split in two beds) and then I made my hideaway by hanging bedsheets all around and making the bottom bed an enclosed space to chill and read. Sometimes I’d get into my wardrobe and take a nap on the clothes (especially shortly after laundry), but I was a strange child!

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      1. Enclosed spaces are great as long as you can leave any time you want, and I agree! I wish I could take a nap on a pile of fresh laundry now as an (alleged) adult!

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        1. Once at the art college where I taught one of the students did a project of safe enclosed spaces. We all wanted to climb in, but she only allowed ones she said yes to. A bright girl!

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