Engineering 101

Nov 26, 2021
makeafort eco-friendly imagination toy

“Children more than ever, need opportunities to be in their bodies in the world – jumping rope, bicycling, stream hopping, and fort building. It’s this engagement between limbs of the body and bones of the earth where true balance and centeredness emerge.”

David Sobel

A few months ago I began honing in on what to get our 5, turning 6 year old for his birthday. The options are really overwhelming. There is almost NOTHING a boy this age doesn't want--and the catalog companies seem to be well aware.

But, as his mom--I know what he plays with THE MOST. Cardboard. Seriously, getting him to give up the boxes that come to the door to be tossed is a literal battle. More than once, I'm ashamed to admit, under threat of punishment he's had to carry half-wet boxes from the lawn to the burn pile.

The boy loves robots, but he is magically enticed by the blank canvas that is cardboard. Toilet paper tubes, doTERRA boxes, costco run produce crates...

Anyway, in spite of his vying for every robotic, battery powered thing-a-ma-jig he laid his eyes on, I know what we see him doing more than anything else. Cardboard. Seriously. And trying to construct the elusive perfect fort has been the dedicated effort of every child I've ever known--my kids included.

So, as a mother I felt led to find something that would sustain his attention for longer than the 15 minute wow period that most toys offer. Something that he could come back to again and again. I'd had my eye on some fort-building kits, and then ran into something that really got me excited!

So infrequently can I satisfy both my innate drive as a mother to impress my children with gifts that prove my love, whilst also granting me the sweet satisfaction of perhaps doing just a bit of good for both the planet and the national economy (it's like the trifecta of gift-giving, right?), but this time I stumbled upon just that!

Make-A-Fort scratches all those itches, here are some of my favorite features:

  • hours of open ended creative play
  • made in the USA
  • Eco-friendly production
  • AND online guides that make kids excited
  • stable + brilliant engineering that isn't SO complicated he needs me, but
  • is fun for all ages
  • encourages pretend + imagination play
  • stores neatly away in a briefcase style box, under a bed or a sofa.
  • encourages kids to color and interact with the building structure--it becomes not just another plastic product, but a personalized memory keeping 


  • we don't have a lot of extra square footage, so it's challenging finding a spot to build. Though, I'm happy to dedicate what was formerly our TV room to this endeavor, and outside has been perfect on these beautiful fall days we've had recently!
  • The circle hinges don't fit neatly back in the box after they're punched out of the packaging the first time, so we've had to use a cloth drawstring bag to keep those tidy.
  • 2 sets is plenty for 3 kids to enjoy, but 3 seems like it'd be even better. But seriously, as a fan of collecting all the parts--it's more my thought than theirs!

So, here I am, sharing this formerly unknown brilliance with YOU! As the holidays approach, I know it's hard to wade through the piles of ads and wishlists, but check out make-a-fort! We got 2 explorer kits and have thoroughly enjoyed them for hours and hours!

In a day and age where plastic is king, it was SO refreshing (especially compared to the other gifts he got this year) to have a box that all he had to do was open and play. No zip ties to cut, plastic to peel off, batteries to insert or charge, or twist ties to figure out. Instantly his imagination was triggered, and here we are are almost 2 weeks from this birthday and he's come back to it more than the others, too. 

A little bedroom campout. <3

There are loads more ideas on their website to help get the creative juices flowing!

Here are a few more shots of the fun they've had outside. 

these little discs are also like hinges and hold the pieces together. The yellow triangles are for added stability and work amazingly well. and are easy to use for little hands too!I love that even our 13 year old is eager and generally is the acting contractor when everyone is working on a project together.

We discovered you may not need discs at every intersection, especially once you've added the triangles.And, this is the mansion-- you can find instructionsInstructions for this design were on the Make-A-Fort website. Having a guide was helpful for learning how to best use them the first few times. They moved in and spent most the day out there--lots of talk of a camp-out, but the lows were in the 20's that night. They're planning an outdoor excursion for early fall. They really got comfy in there, moved in LOTS of bedding.

Quickly decided they needed some roof over the open areas.

And I'll admit, save for my aversion to small, cramped + tight spaces--this little bungalow was really calling my name...⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

At any rate, I'm super happy with this toy/kit/product. It's really more than just a toy--it's like a homeschool engineering program. Give me a minute and I think we could easily come up with a syllabus and knock out a credit hour or two. :D 

What amazing products for kids are on your lists for the holidays this year? 

*here's a shot building in the house--we make it work inside too, time to finish that basement though--this is the perfect movie room/basement/bonus room plaything!

Not sure where to start with homesteading?

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