LEAP Challenge: Build your own fort or hideout!

Take a moment to think of your favorite place. Where is it? What makes it special? Do you share this favorite place with anyone else? There are places we go to feel safe and places we go to have fun. Forts and hideouts can be a little of both!

Our LEAP forts change spots as we change buildings, but are always tucked in a special location. They're usually bright and colorful, filled with soft pillows and silly books. We love setting up the fort before LEAPers arrive! It's a challenge to make it cozy and inviting, while also stirring up creativity. You may have noticed that we like to hang sheets and cloth to create special entrances or that we leave rope low enough for toddler hands. You are always welcome to add to our fort and mix it up!

Fort-building is fun! And spending time in your fort can be relaxing, while providing time for you to bond with your little one. There are many benefits to fort-building that can go unnoticed. This week, we're going to share some of those benefits with you!

  • Problem Solving: Forts fall apart... often! It can feel like you are constantly pinning pieces back up or tightening ropes, but these moments offer a chance for your toddler to try new ideas. Their brains are growing rapidly, and providing problem-solving opportunities can help them develop creatively and logically.

  • Teamwork and Cooperation: It's tough to build a magnificent fort all on your own! Toddlers, especially, may need help securing pieces or reaching spots. If they're building with a friend, even better! Fort-building provides time for you to bond with your toddler, while offering your little one opportunities to ask for help and to learn to trust others.

  • Fine and Gross Motor Development: Reaching for a clothesline, throwing a sheet over a chair, clipping decorations up, and traveling through your fort are all physical activities that benefit your child's fine and gross motor development. Even if you are busy tying knots, your toddler may be watching - what a perfect time to practice those tricky loops together! Creating a special hideout requires a lot of energy!

  • Creative, Imaginative, Child-Directed Play: The best part about forts? They can be anything! Maybe you're pretending to camp in the woods, or cook a meal in your cozy home. Maybe your fort is a submarine that's traveling deep underwater. Or maybe your fort is actually the inside of a turtle's shell - who knew a turtle could store so much in there?! Forts and hideouts can be randomly built or planned out in detail. Either way, they are the perfect environment for your child to build, play, and imagine however they choose!
  • Calming and Regulating: There is something very soothing about breezy sheets overhead and a special, comfy nook. Fort-building provides a safe, quiet space to simply hangout. The act of beginning an activity and using the finished product can provide a sense of accomplishment and self-regulation for toddlers. Feeling especially nervous during a thunderstorm? Build a fort!
  • Year-Round: Snow day? Need suntan lotion? Whatever the weather, forts are doable! Forts can be built inside, safe from bad weather - or outside, with bugs nearby. With so much flexibility, you and your toddler can test our different building materials and spaces, and hopefully experience nature while you build! We can't wait to hear which type of day is best for fort-building!

Forts are fun! It's wonderful to have a special place that is all yours - a place you built, designed, and used. Not only will you and your toddler have fun in your fort, you'll also see these benefits happening as you play. Fort-building is one more way to help your toddler be happier, healthier, and smarter. We hope to see you building and burrowing at our next LEAP class!

Written by Nicole Filippone