Girls have been asserting their power with fort building since the posting of the first scribbled “No Boys Allowed” sign. This marking of their territory as all things girl with (no boy nonsense permitted) gave girls the opportunity to build of their own accord, run freely and dream boldly. In essence, girls were able to explore life without limits. A Fort Magic kit in the hands of a girl offers endless opportunities to discover the world around her. Fort building and girl power run hand-in-hand. Creating forts can plant the seeds in a young one’s mind of whom she longs to become and the things she dares to dream. And, these seeds will one day birth her adult reality. As we often hear, we reap what we sow.
Perhaps we were too quick to assume that the iconic “NO Boys!” declaration meant that girls needed time away from the noise and activity of the male gender to pursue the quieter, softer, pinker activities. While many girls may enjoy this type of play, many may not. At any rate, neither type of play clearly describes the whole of her. After all, isn’t girl power about the freedom to choose your dreams and hone in on your strengths, whatever they might be? Fort building opens windows and doors to girls that go beyond stereotypes and assumptions. Experiences go beyond the traditions of princesses and tea parties. And, even if these themes make the repertoire, the mere act of imagining, designing and building the fort launches girls into new territories. As Michele Yulo might understand it, that daughter of yours is learning “to look past those gender boundaries marked ‘boy’ and ‘girl.”
So, how does girl power explode through fort building? The primary characteristic of girl power jumps out as confidence. And, fort building boosts this quality in a variety of ways. The mere act of imaging a build and bringing it to life gives girls a sense of accomplishment. During the process, failed plans birth new ideas and opportunities for success increase. Problem-solving bolsters a girl’s I-can-do-it spirit. Is this not the definition of confidence?
The universal nature of fort building with no rules of right and wrong (outside of safety, of course) encourages girls to explore and invent. This act of trying of new ideas sets the stage for confidence to develop. Parents help most in this area when they hold off suggesting ideas and refrain from criticism. Yes, hold your tongue! On the other hand, encouraging remarks about a girl’s inventive creations, persistence in problem solving or faith in her ability to succeed inspire confidence.
There were days not in our distant past when the impropriety of girls running and working with their hands existed. While remnants of this philosophy may rear their ugly heads, we, as parents, need to guard against perpetuating them. Fort building and play offer girls plenty of opportunity to stretch their limbs in movement. Physical health and strength empower girls with confidence. Also, fort building encourages girls not just to envision dreams, but to get active in constructing them. The hands-on nature of this childhood act requires children of all genders to build, create and engage with materials and problem solving to bring about innovation. The unique perspective of girls adds nuances to these activities that the world is longing to know.
Many a girl’s mind excels at science and math. Yet, these career fields significantly lack the presence of females. In fact, research shows a decline in women involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields across the board – a notable concern to many in these education and career fields. Even President Obama stated concern with the under-representation and missing the talent of girls in math, science and engineering fields in 2013. The significant impact of this small percentage of women in STEM fields raises great concern for the lack of girls pursuing this dream. The intelligence and perspective of females are needed.
The White House recognizes that to improve the number of women in these fields involves engaging girls in STEM subjects both formally and informally. It is almost like the White House itself gave fort building its stamp of approval. Girls participate in lessons of measurement, shape, hypothesis, problem-solving and a host of other STEM skills to create and interact with Fort Magic sticks and connectors.
Fort building activities enable girls to think beyond the box of what it means to be of the female gender, to use their uniquely feminine qualities in a wide variety of arenas. Choosing the softer, pinker side of life should be just that – a choice – and not because your daughter saw no other option. Help her activate her girl power through fort building!
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