Fort Engineering 101: Discovery at Home

Materials Needed:

  • Pillows
  • Fitted and flat sheets
  • Furniture
  • Broom
  • Safety pins, clothespins, chip clips, binder clips
  • Random household objects!


  • Use furniture, blankets, and other materials to create a fort to fit the entire family!
  • Pro-level fort engineering tips:
    • Use fitted sheets. They can stretch and hold around chairs and other furniture pretty well.
    • Use heavy objects like soap bottles, books, and rocks to hold down blankets and sheets.
    • The back of the couch is a great place to start. Tuck your sheets there, or use a broom handle behind pillows to create a tall support.
    • Don’t forget forces! A sheet has to have equal forces pulling on it for it to stay in place as your roof.

How to Expand it:

  • Create constraints or challenges to encourage problem-solving. Can you build your fort with fewer materials? Can you make it tall enough for an adult to stand up in?
  • Encourage imagination. Can your fort serve as a veterinary clinic? A jungle hideout? A kitchen?

What do kids learn?

  • They experiment! When kids experiment, they're learning how to learn. Failure is an important part of experimenting, so let kids try things that won’t work. It’s how they figure things out!
  • Basic engineering skills. Engineers solve problems with constraints, in this case, limited materials and space. They learn to solve problems by using the engineering design process: asking questions, coming up with solutions, building, testing and improving.
  • Fort-building is a great lesson in force. Kids tend to spend a lot of time figuring out how to keep their roof from slipping off one side of the fort or the other. If a roof isn’t equally supported on both sides, putting even force on the sheet, it won’t stay put.
  • Spatial or visual thinking. Being able to imagine the positions of objects and how they interact is an important skill for learning math. Asking if the fort is big enough for a grownup to stand up in encourages spatial thinking.
  • Science Vocabulary
    • Force: energy caused by a push or a pull, in this case, the pull created by gravity and other supports on the roof of your fort!
    • Constraint: a limitation or restriction. Materials, time, and space are common constraints. Real engineers have to work around constraints all the time!