Listen. Can you hear it? The roar of the crowd as the jousters speed toward one another on quick-footed thoroughbreds? The clink of teacups as the princess gathers with friends for afternoon tea? The queen calling for the prince as he runs about the hedged castle grounds? If you listen, especially carefully, these sounds and more rise to your ears as your children create fantastic castle fort ideas. Is it not a delight to pick up on the nuances of a child’s conversation and their imaginative plans to play? Parents enthralled by this observation through hearing spend hours some days just listening.
But, what about the children? In a world where listening proves to be a growing problem for those as young as preschool, parents can foster this skill in their homes and backyards. And, once again, fort building comes to the rescue. How so? First, turning off the screen engages the ears. The overwhelming clatter sounds from video games and the tube cause children to tune out extra stimuli. In other words, it trains children not to listen. Yes, even educational programs and activities decrease a child’s listening skills. Plus, the language models from these sources are weak at best, according to experts. Second, stories, music, and books encourage active listening. Forts breed stories, provide fodder for songs, offer an environment for music and give solitude to explore books. Furthermore, engaging in these activities allows children to create mental images for words and sounds. And, these mental imaginings breathe life into forts.
Finally, meaningful conversation boosts a child’s intrigue and encourages the practice of listening. Talking about children in their presence discourages them. Engaging in a separate conversation in front of them causes kids to turn off and tune out. Forts open up opportunities for back and forth discussion that involves children and teaches listening skills. Let’s take a closer look at these concepts in action while using a Fort Magic kit to build castle forts. The laid out sticks, connectors, and arcs of a Fort Magic kit leave endless possibilities for the active minds of children when designing castle forts . No two castles need to look alike. So, engage the imagination and begin to build.
For younger builders, use a Fort Magic pre-design to construct a basic castle shape. The conversation that ensues involves your children’s listening skills as they seek to understand how you are putting the fort together and their role in it. Enjoy the chatter as you create. Encourage them to ask questions. Engage in the building. Problem-solve when glitches occur. Or, create stories of knights and chivalry, queens, and honor as you build. A fort is not the only thing you are constructing. Relationship and listening skills take form in this as well. For older builders, the imagination drives the hands in constructing castle forts. Medieval forts with dungeons or a grand ballroom for a royal gala offers traditional make believe. Some may have turrets. Others boast towers. Still, others offer drawbridges. But, also consider underwater mermaid castles or outer space alien fortresses. Look beyond the walls for hedge mazes and secret gardens or jousting arenas. Again, engage in the story with your child. Or, watch as they interact with friends in the construction process. Whether with you or others, the ability to listen develops as your child interacts in meaningful ways with those involved in the project.
Castle forts offer opportunities for make-believe, imagination, and creativity. Add to this the history of fortresses, knights, kings and queens, and the list of ways to build listening skills expands. Castles and forts prove one powerful combination in raising listening, learning kids. Engage children in reading chapter books on medieval times together. Fictional series such as Magic Tree House offer fictional characters with historical accuracy. Read and let the imaginations of your children paint pictures in their minds. Then, build it! Act it out! Bring history to your backyard.
What did knights wear? How did armor protect them during battle? Brainstorm ideas and give them life through costume pieces. No need to invest in ready-made garb. Hunt the house for items that work as shields, helmets and more. Craft armor and head out to defend the castle. And, why do queens wear pointy hats? Was this fashion all the rage or is there more to the story? What did princesses do during the day? Could they play in those long dresses? Use the Internet (or look to books if you are taking a complete screen fast) to help find answers to your kids’ castle life questions. Find picture books of castle history and traditional clothing. Let the images inspire designs and costumes. Read aloud the captions to answer your child’s curiosities. Be the example of a listener as your child weaves stories of life in medieval times. Then, send them off to plot, plan and play.
Before bed, climb back into the castle and weave stories of princess rescues and dragon defeats. Taking turns telling the story encourages greater listening, so the next part of the story fits the ongoing plot line. And, the tales breed dreams as children drift off to sleep, which birth tomorrow’s fort building adventures. What are your child’s favorite castle stories and how do you include them in your fort building adventures? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
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