“Come see what I built!” calls Sarah, my eight-year-old neighbor, whom I’m babysitting. I haul myself into the room, preparing my best, “Oh, what a lovely popsicle stick man!” face, and freeze in terror. “Do you like my fort?” she squeaks, a chubby hand waving from between grimy wood planks that were, until recently, part of the picket fence. The chipped wood is full of rusty nails going every which way, and I see a roly-poly disappear into the plush carpet. Oh, dear. Here are some tips to make sure that your fort has a little more taste (and a little less tetanus) than Sarah’s. When building an awesome blanket fort, there are several key factors to keep in mind, lest your fabulous fort become a pillow puddle. First, location. It doesn’t matter how cool your fort is if you decide to build it in front of your parents’ bedroom door.
1. In corners (the less structural integrity you’re responsible for the better)
2. Under tables, in refrigerator boxes or in closets
3. On or around bunk-beds (You can make hammocks! Hammocks are cool.)
1. In kitchens (unless you can take over the fridge and slowly lay siege to your family until they meet your demands.)
2. In the middle of the room (Your fort will sag. Sag is not a happy word.)
3. In bathrooms. Enough said.
Second, construction materials. The materials can make or break the fort, even if there isn’t as much of a chance to get creative. The most stable forts incorporate existing surroundings, which is better for those of us who are architecturally challenged.
1. Pillows (especially for walls or foundations)
2. Blankets (especially for roofs or draping)
3. Cardboard or boxes (because you can draw on cardboard)
1. Your sister (I don’t care if your fort needs caryatids to achieve its full glory; your sister is NOT a building material!)
2. Heavy and unstable surfaces as walls or weights to hold sheets down (there is nothing scarier than having a mirror hit you on the head and shatter while your best friend laughs hysterically)
3. Your mother’s wedding dress, anything rusty or pointy, pots and pans, your sleeping dog and anything else that could potentially earn you a Darwin Award
Last but not least, decorations. This is the part where you can add your own special flair that makes your fort a fort instead of just you suffocating under random quilts that are unnecessary in Southern California.
1. Books (props if you manage to include a whole bookshelf) and your laptop
2. Holiday lights to add pizazz. Now you can read your books by multicolored light!
3. Candy/cookies/hot chocolate/tea (joy is not complete without sweets and a warm beverage, but make sure not to spill)
1. Burritos (When you try to eat a burrito in a fort and end up dropping what can only be described as a bean and cheese grenade onto your favorite blanket, it is a sad, sad day)
2. Potted plants (while turning your fort into a personal greenhouse sounds like a beautiful and refreshing idea, soil is a horrible thing to get everywhere)
3. Fire (yes, roasting marshmallows in your fort is an awesome idea, but the fun dies after your impromptu haircut and home makeover)