Building a Kids Fort and Having Good Manners for a Lifetime
Posted September 24, 2016 by Fort Magic
It has been said that our basic interpersonal skills are learned in kindergarten. But, what if fort building teaches kids these lessons before they walk through the school doors in their coordinated first-day outfit? Good manners, including listening and respecting others, prove to be lessons we use and perfect throughout life. And, catching them early on gives kids a foundation that serves them well into adulthood. So, grab a Fort Magic kit and let’s get ready to teach our children about having good manners for a lifetime by building a kids fort. Model the use of niceties and social graces as you lay out the Fort Magic sticks, connectors, and arcs. As the building begins, encourage children to address you and one another using “please” and “thank you.” A most obvious example: “Mom, would you please hand me four sticks for the castle base?” Of course, “thank you” follows as you give your child the pieces. Adding “excuse me” brings into play another grace. Building a fort with more than one person involves plenty of opportunities to navigate around one another. Also, the sometimes tight quarters and busy hands lead to bumping into bodies. Both of these instances produce the perfect time to offer up a sincere “Pardon Moi.” In a culture where children are seemingly born with electronic devices in their hands, creating an understanding as to the rudeness of engaging with a device instead of a person may be a hard sell. But, sell we must. Fort building offers electronic-free play, which engages children in non-digital communication with young friends and adults. This vital interpersonal skill boosts comfort and manners in this type of interaction. If a tablet or another device is used to inspire design ideas or research fort games, teach children to put the electronic down when greeting or talking with someone. This simple act demonstrates the respect of giving another person your full attention. Eye contact also says, “I respect what you are saying and care about our conversation.” Fort building engages attention. So, rightfully, there are times when eye contact is not conducive or safe as you must keep your eye on the task at hand. However, there are opportunities for planning, problem-solving and even miscommunication in working with a group that offers times for eye-to-eye contact. Capitalize on these moments to teach children the value of looking at someone with whom you are speaking. This simple act boosts confidence in our kids and often breeds understanding between parties. Creating a Fort Magic masterpiece as a group offers (at least) two lessons in silence. First, let others finish speaking before you open your mouth. As other kids share ideas and stories surrounding the fort build (or completely off topic), our children gain valuable practice in listening without interruption. The same holds true as Mom or Dad gives instruction regarding the safety or other rules of the day. Second, not all that comes to our minds needs to be said. Oh, isn’t this a hard one for us all! As the play progresses and the fort falls or nap time nears, this lesson proves especially challenging. For young children, the age-old adage, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all” applies. For older children, the tongue-holding criteria might include the questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Throughout fort building and play, children can greet one another with “Hi” and “How are you?” Adding a firm handshake multiplies the lesson. And, a “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Sir.” when addressing adults takes etiquette to an unexpected level. If new guests arrive or friends leave in the midst of building or play, be sure to encourage and model the appropriate phrases and behaviors toward them.Typically, plenty of chatter arises from fort building and imagination sites. These informal, spontaneous conversations teach our children how to interact verbally with others. Remembering that dialogue is two-sided offers opportunity to learn listening skills as well. Both components of social interaction prove vital for healthy child development. Help a friend carry a bundle of Fort Magic sticks. Steady a wall of the fort until Dad builds the other. Bring lemonade to a weary builder on a hot day. All of these helping actions teach children to think of and respect others. Once the fort is built, encouraging children not to rush in and to allow friends to go first places an emphasis on others as well. Holding the castle door or rocket ship hatch open for their playmates helps ease into this lesson. As the kids work together to create and play, the social interaction develops and strengthens manners. Sometimes, we as parents can be present to guide gently and covertly the responses. At other times, we need to step back and watch them learn and grow with a bit of independence. Either way, learning good manners and respect for others at an early age, though not perfected, fosters strong relational skills and workplace behavior far into the future.