Build a Fantastic Backyard Fort

What You'll Need

Start by thinking about ordinary items that you already have in your house and garage, and how you might use them in imaginative, new ways. You'll need items to make the walls and ceiling of your fort, such as:

  • Blankets, sheets, or oversized beach towels
  • Drop cloths and tarps
  • Shower curtains or window curtains
  • Cardboard (in pieces or entire boxes—the bigger, the better!)
  • Natural materials like branches or hedges

You'll also need items to hold them up and attach them, like:

  • Picnic tables, benches, stools, or other furniture (to cover with sheets and blankets)
  • Clothespins, clamps, or zip-ties
  • Rope, bungee cords, or clothesline Duct tape
  • PVC pipes or pieces of scrap lumber
  • Branches, sticks, or other natural materials
  • Large rubber bands or large safety pins

Finally, you may need tools (and adults) to help size and cut your materials, including:

  • Tape measure or yardstick
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter or carpet knife
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Pencil and paper (for marking things that will be cut)
  • Safety equipment, like work gloves and goggles

Get Ready…

1. Start by looking around your yard for a flat space that will become your building site. Do you have a play structure, trees or stumps, hedges, fences, clotheslines, or other features that could become part of your fort or help support it?

2. At the same time, scan for and remove any potentially dangerous objects.

3. Measure the space to get a general idea of how much material you'll need and how large the pieces should be.

4. Check to be sure the area is clean and dry. If the ground is damp, consider putting down a waterproof tarp as a floor.

Get Set…

1. Imagine the fort of your dreams. Is it an active place where you can crawl and hide, or a relaxing space with open sides where the breeze blows through? Does the sun shine in through an open roof, or does a canopy of branches provide shade? Is it freestanding, like a one-room cabin made of cardboard, or loose and billowing, like sheets draped over clotheslines and chairs?

2. Brainstorm different ways you can transform the items you've found into the fort you're imagining. Can you duct tape cardboard together to create walls, rooms, and even swinging doors? Are there branches over which you could drape sheets? Can you fasten objects together to make a frame that will support blankets or beach towels?

3. Search for and gather all the materials you'll need to build, as well as any tools to help size and cut them (with assistance from grown-ups, of course).


1. Bring your building materials and tools to your building site.

2. Work together to organize your materials and figure out how to put the pieces together. (Tasks that require sharp tools should be left to the grown-ups, but kids can help, too.)

3. As you build, fasten all parts of the fort securely. Use duct tape to attach cardboard walls, clothespins and clamps to hold draped sheets and drop cloths in place, and rubber bands and safety pins to pull excess fabric out of the way. Zip ties, bungee cords, and rope can lash sticks and scrap lumber together to create support structures with sturdy corners.

4. When it's done, move in!

Bring books, favorite toys, blankets, stuffed animals, board games, and art supplies into your fort, and enjoy playing in the brand-new space that you imagined and built yourself. Add decorations—in a cardboard fort, you can even color on the walls with markers, paints, or crayons. And if you decide that grown-ups are simply not allowed, well, that's okay, too!