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Building Forts... Building Memories

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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SECRETS

The best fun I’ve had recently was building a fort with my five year old grandson, Indy. We went down to the family room in his house and gathered every available couch cushion, pillow, blanket, and chair. Then, we added a couple fabric tunnels belonging to his little brother, for an entrance and exit. Inside, we had a comforter, a little lamp, and of course, some snacks.

Indy decided we should pretend his big, plastic dinosaurs were trying to climb in from the top. I went outside the fort and began lowering them down on a piece of cord, making voices for them. Indy squealed with laughter. “Do that again, Grandma! Please!” We were on about our 50th go around, when I glanced at the top of the stairs and saw his daddy standing there, watching and smiling. We exchanged something unspoken in that moment, both having been taken back in time, to a day when the two of us were in a blanket fort, in our living room… some thirty five years ago.

Later that evening, he reminded me about the tree fort he and his brothers built in the woods behind our house. They spent hours there all summer long, never seeming to miss the television or other indoor diversions.

As we reminisced about his childhood, I was reminded of my own.

I was barely five and living in a two bedroom apartment in Chicago with my parents, as an only child. My bedroom had a huge, walk-in closet with a small window at one end. I remember the big, brown door had a glass door knob.

I took a lamp from my dresser and brought it inside, along with a little desk and chair, my pencils and crayons, a stack of drawing paper, and a basket of Little Golden Books. It was my secret place. Sometimes my dolls visited and I would sing to them. I remember my mother would always knock when it was time for lunch. It was a happy part of my childhood.

What is it, then, that makes a blanket tent, a fort, or secret place so appealing and so important to children? Is it a feeling of ownership… a sense of control of their own little world, when in the bigger world, they have almost none? Or, is it a desire to be apart, by themselves, in the quiet… away for just a little while, from the household clamor, siblings, or someone telling them what to do? Is it the same instinct that will, later on, drive them to move out on their own and get that first apartment?

But, maybe it’s not totally about isolation, because forts also provide opportunity for children to bond and share experiences and creativity.

stick fort with few kids

I guess it might be a combination of many things, but mostly fun. I hope that those who remember just how much fun it was to build a fort will have the opportunity to share the experience with children… so someday, they can remember, too.

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 6 and Radley, almost 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Monday, 21 March 2016

    Debra this was wonderful! I love the beauty of forts, and tree houses and such. That was really cool how you were able to experience this across generations. Thank you for starting my day off with a little magic.

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