How to Build Forts To Keep Kids Engaged and Learning
Posted May 20, 2017 by Fort Magic
Building forts gets rave reviews from most kids. As a parent, you probably know this truth without research and scientific evidence to support it. Just recall the passion and pleading behind the request, “Can we build a fort today? Pleeeaasssee!” Did you listen to the cheers when the Fort Magic kit appears in the middle of the family room or backyard?
What about teaching your kids something when building forts? Swinging to the other end of the spectrum, kids elicit an automatic sick face when presented with this option, or they fall onto the floor in a heap of frustration. Fortunately, learning and fort building go hand-in-hand without a child even realizing he or she is learning something. In other words, forts keep kids entertained in mindful, healthy ways without the gag reflex, whining or complaining that goes along with forced learning.
Lessons taught creatively with forts engage kids and cement the learning in their brains in ways traditional models cannot. See these aspects of how fort building helps your youngsters learn.
— Physical activity (like fort building) awakens the brain and prepares it to learn and store information.
— Learning occurs through all of the senses. So, hands-on activities such as fort building boost brain power and retention.
— Talking, listening and moving (products of fort building) engage multiple areas of the brain. The more parts of the brain your kids use, the more information they retain.
— All of us learn through different vehicles (auditory, kinesthetic, social, tactile and visual). Fort building capitalizes on these styles for a complete learning experience.
— Experiences with fort building offer the achievement gains of hands-on plus minds-on activities.
Often we think of learning and lessons as academic. However, these principles apply to the emotional health lessons as well. While academics prove valuable to our kids’ futures, learning to live well offers even greater success. Let’s look a few examples of how to bring life learning into partnership with fort building.
Brain House Fort
Dr. Hazel Harrison, a clinical psychologist, offers compelling reasons for us to understand the functioning of our brains. Furthermore, in her article,”How to Teach Kids About the Brain: Laying Strong Foundations for Emotional Intelligence,” she shares a creative way to playfully pass this information onto our kids. Harrison’s assessment of creative play found an interesting result. A shared family language helps children regulate their emotions. Consider these fort adaptations:
— Use a Fort Magic kit to construct a house with two floors.
— For the physics-minded, make the top floor “flip”.
— Add stairs, a trap door or some symbolic means to move between floors.
— Choose stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs, Lego figures, Barbie dolls or characters of your child’s choosing.
— As Dr. Harrison suggests, give your child freedom to name the characters.
Then, play and teach as described by Dr. Harrison.
Battling Fear Fort
Our kids face fear as they snuggle in bed at night (remember the Boogie Monster?), on the playground and when playing in school. Helping kids to combat this negative emotion gives them valuable life skills which enable them to live life fully. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to fear. The practice of being grateful releases dopamine and boosts serotonin which makes us feel good. In this way, teaching our kids to be thankful reaps physical, psychological and social rewards.A fort becomes a safe space to tackle fears with the antidote. Give a few of these ideas a try.
— Use paper to cover a fort frame. Then, encourage your kids to write things for which they are thankful on the walls.
— Fill a fort with bean bag chairs, blankets, and other comforting things. Use the space for kids to journal about fears, but more importantly, about things for which they are grateful.
— Adopt a daily practice of entering the fort together and taking turns shouting out the gratitude boosting things in your lives.
Furthermore, fort building instills confidence in kids as they overcome obstacles, face failures and find victories. This confidence helps them battle their fears from a healthy place.
Scanning for Joy Fort
Finding joy in life does not come naturally. Shawn Achor words it this way, “It is not necessarily the reality that shapes us but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.” Teaching our kids to change the lens improves their happiness and much more.
In fact, the external world each of us experiences only predicts 10 percent of our happiness. The other 90 percent is dictated by way the brain processes the world. Said another way, raising positivity improves levels of creativity, intelligence and energy levels across many life activities.
To switch your child’s lens, create a fort that edifies joy in several ways.
- Celebrate life’s victories. Birthdays, good report cards, restoring a friendship and more
- Snuggle nightly into a bedtime and share a positive experience from the day to relive it.
- Stock a fort with stationery, small gifts and more to build a random acts of kindness headquarters.
Helping children control anger, decrease tantrums and handle sadness fall within our top parenting responsibilities. Often, we feel ill-equipped to do so effectively. Coupling fort building with emotional health lessons gives us the tools necessary to build emotional intelligence in our kids.
How do you encourage learning, creativity, and emotional intelligence through fort building? What activities seem to teach your kids these important skills? Share your ideas with us below!
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Hands On As We Grow Blog: A wonderful family blog that focuses on hands-on activities for parents and children to incorporate during learning and playtime.
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