Go Forth and Fort: Family Fort Night

Play seems to be in the air this Winter:  learn about inclusive play, read about toy collections in public libraries, or catch up on the Babies Need Words Every Day blog tour which includes multiple posts on play.  We even chimed in with our webinar Press Play! Injecting Play into Library Programs for Kids. All this to say, PLAY IS AWESOME! And today I’m going to take it one step further and tell you about my favourite way to play at the library: Family. Fort. Night.

Nuts and bolts:

  • We posted signs with four very simple instructions:
    • Step 1) Find a book
    • Step 2) Gather supplies
    • Step 3) Build your fort
    • Step 4) Read your story in your fort!
  • Make sure to have LOTS of books on hand. You’re going to be doing some fast booktalking and will want to have displays with your favourite read-alouds ripe for the picking.
  • Keep your supplies in a central location so the tape and ALL THE CLIPS don’t wander off.
  • If at all possible run this program after-hours. Not only is it way more fun, but you’ll also find the adults browsing the MAD magazines. Seriously.

Fort Night SignsIMG_20160126_184809


Supplies needed:

  • Blankets, sheets, pillows, tablecloths – you can ask families to bring their own or have them on hand
  • Plastic clips or wire clips or tape- do not put books or other heavy objects to hold things down
  • Flashlights and/or glow sticks
  • Books!

Extensions activities:

  • Read a story to begin the program and gather everyone together – bedtime stories are a great choice like the Pigeon Needs a Bath or I Dare You Not to Yawn or stories that inspire creativity like Chalk or It’s Not a Box.
  • Have families name their fort and draw for a winner at the end of the night.
  • Play music from your collection or nighttime sounds in the background to set the mood.
  • Make dreams come true and play hide and seek like our friend Amy, The Show Me Librarian, did at her Family Forts After Hours program. To do this she gave each family a glow bracelet, had the person wearing the bracelet hide, and instructed the rest of the family to find their person.
  • Depending on space and the age of your fort builders you could also play flashlight tag where the child who’s it can only tag other players by casting the beam of their flashlight over them



Fantastic forters*:

And now it is your turn, or in the words of our F/Hairy Godmother, go forth and fort! Have you tried a family fort night program at your library? Please share all the details below in the comment box!

*Did this pass the Nine Year Old Giggle Test? Are you kidding me?! Of course not.

6 thoughts on “Go Forth and Fort: Family Fort Night

  1. So much fun! I couldn’t believe how easy this program was to run – the kids instinctively seemed to know how to build forts (even kids who’d never heard of them before), and it was a great opportunity for kids to work together and make friends. Fort Night (or afternoon in our case) can even work in really tight quarters – you might not be able to play hide-and-seek or tag, but just snuggling down in a tent with a good book and a stuffed toy can be enough excitement for one day. 🙂 I think the flashlights seemed to be the real stars of the afternoon, the kids were just enthralled. 🙂

  2. We just held our first Family Fort Night. It was… AWESOME! Thanks to this blog post, and the others you linked to, the planning was super easy. The families monitored the kids, so that part was easy, too. In fact, this program has more bang for the buck than any I have done in a LONG time. Kids were excited about reading, parents had fun, it was low-impact on staff. We had each family make a campfire craft — paper logs and tissue flames, and gave them a fake candle. Kids LOVED that — and they looked so cool flickering away in the forts. We added a Scavenger Hunt and Glow Bracelet Hide-n-Seek at the end, the perfect wrap-up to the evening. One mom said, “This is the best idea ever. Will you be doing this on a regular basis?” Lots of thanks from both parents and kids. I highly recommend trying this program!

    PS, we made the program supplies into a kit so any of our library branches can borrow it and replicate the program. I think the kit cost around $35 to make, but that included the Walking S’mores supplies (which were all consumed).

  3. Would love to do this at my library during Spring Break! What kind of clips did you use and where did you get them?

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! The clips we used were similar to these ones however I do not know where they were purchased as our library bought them centrally. I think you should be able to find them at most dollar or supplies stores and the best thing about this program is kids will make it work with whatever supplies you have! Enjoy 🙂

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