In the past few weeks of staying put at home, you’ve likely cycled through all of the usual children’s activities, and you’ve probably even dug deep to resurrect some classic pastimes from your childhood. So it’s only a matter of time before your family tackles the tried-and-true box fort. If your quarantine team is ready to fortify, read on for road-tested fort-building tips.

Fortunately for my family (and for this blog post), my husband is a furniture maker and generally a very crafty person, so he was very handy in putting together these tips for making box forts.

And the best part of doing at-home DIY projects with your kids is that they’ll be having fun while they learn basic problem-solving and engineering skills, core foundations of STEM learning.

Step 1: Gather supplies. If you have a collection of leftover moving boxes stowed away, that’s perfect. If you’ve had anything delivered lately, especially any medium to larger-sized boxes, gather those. For attaching, duct tape always works, though depending on the look you’re shooting for, packing tape is prettier. The adult fort-builder/supervisor of fort building will also need a utility knife.

Now decide with the kids: What kind of box fort are you building?

  • Castle
  • Pirate ship
  • Haunted house
  • Army base
  • Old West fort
  • Jail

Step 2: Arrange Your Boxes. Now that you have the vision in place, configure your boxes for the structure you’re building. Generally, for structural integrity, you should start with fully assembled, taped-shut boxes. Your fort can be a combination of kid-crawling height and kid-standing height – mix it up.

Pro tip: Make rooms that lead into other rooms that lead to the next, creating a warren. That makes it fun, so the structure becomes something more than a box.

Step 3: Attach the Boxes. At the points where you want one box to lead to another, use the utility knife to cut a drawbridge-style (bottom-hinged) door on box 1, then cut a fully cut-out door-hole of matching size on box 2. Lay the “bridge” of box 1 down into box 2, then tape it down.

Step 4: Build Special Features: There are lots of special features you can add to a box fort, and even the simplest ones can make a big difference as far as creativity and enabling imagination.

  • Entryways: Castles call for a working drawbridge (you make opening/closing pulls using string), while forts would have a sliding slab-style gate. (Castles also demand crenellations: leave the top flaps of the box open and untaped, cut out the crenellations and tape the corners of the flaps to each other so they stay upright.)
  • Windows: Cut these out with the utility knife; windows can be square, porthole-style, or have a gothic point. Cardboard shutters or tea-towel curtains optional.
  • Other features: Children can make a crow’s nest/ lookout/ tower, flags, cannons, furnishings…Inspiration will follow once the fort takes shape!

Step 5: Decoration: Now that the fort is established, the kids can take over decorating their hideout with markers, paint, or whatever art supplies they want.

Designing, building and decorating a box fort is as much fun as playing in one, but once you’ve done all the above steps, it’s time to unleash that second 50 percent: Let the games begin.