how to build a clip fort

How was your Valentine’s Day? We had a drizzly pre-Valentines romp in the park with friends and I spent Valentine’s morning leading a fun docent training workshop at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA). Under the leadership of Education Director, Lucy Larson, SJMA one of the most visitor-centered museums around. It’s not a huge museum, which means it’s easy to navigate with squirmy kids, and if you ever take a docent tour you’ll be surprised at how much the docents care about what YOU think. No stuffy lectures here!

So backing up a bit, I’ve been clearing the clutter from my house (see herehere, and here) –what a slow job that is with two little kids running around the house! — and I found a huge stack of sheets that we really don’t need anymore. We gave a few away to our favorite thrift store, but before I parted with all of them I asked the Tinkerlab Facebook community for ideas on what we could do with this bounty of potential fun. So many great ideas came my way that I decided I’d try a bunch of them out. So today I’m starting with building a simple fort with sheets and big kitchen clips. This activity is perfect for little kids and helps foster imagination and invention, while giving kids the opportunity to build with everyday materials.


how to build a clip fort under the table

Start by assessing your room for fort-able furniture. Anything heavy with lots of head space is good — if the piece is too light it has the potential to tip over. Move things together and shift your furniture around. Some ideas: couches, dining tables, coffee tables, kid art tables. Look for places to clip your sheets, move the sheets around and twist the corners and edges until you and your kids are satisfied with the results, and BAM — you have a fort.

These steel wire clips (above) don’t have as much reach, but I use them for just about everything in my kitchen so they’re plentiful in my house. They’re great for clipping to thin things under 1/2″ wide.

how to clip sheet to the table for a fortI’ve had these forever and couldn’t find them online, but they seem to be similar to ng this big clip (with round magnet on the back so you can stick it to the fridge when you’re not turning your house into a faraway tent planet).

clip a sheet to the coffee table

This is one of our favorite set-ups: scooting the coffee table up to the dining table for an low entry that rises for easy sitting (and sleeping). My three year old dragged a few pillows and blankets inside for an extra-snuggly spot.

take a blurry picture of your dadI was busy snapping photos when N asked if she could take a drive with the camera. So she turned the camera on my husband who is so game, and she wiggled down onto her belly to take this shot. I have a heavy camera, which makes for some wobbly (but happy) photos.

I recently came across this site, All For the Boys, which hosts a weekly Fort Friday post. It’s awesome, and if your kids like building forts you’ll get all sorts of inspiration over there. Not to mention, Allison takes photo submissions and might include your fort on her site. In her words: “If you want to share a photo of your fort to inspire us send them to info[at]allfortheboys[dot]com and I’ll share them here on Fort Friday.”

Do your kids like to build forts? What do you like to make them with?


  1. love these photos!!! yay for forts! we are huge fans of clip forts!!! for christmas, N received a large rainbow tie dyed sheet (something to do with your sheets!) and these wonderful huge wooden clips: http://www.palumba.com/product/cherry_play_clips/142/?catID=104 
    they’ve been getting a lot of action ever since, mixed in with our chip clips from the kitchen, too, of course! (you may be able to find those wooden clips at the waldorf store with your gift card — OR you can make them with 2 blocks of wood and rubber bands.)

    • I will definitely look for those clips in the Waldorf store – that would be a great way to spend my gift card. These must be the most beautiful clips I’ve ever seen. Who knew?

  2. My mom is a QVC addict and buys the most odd things – this was one of them! But they ended up being excellent for fort building. The clips are large enough to go around chair legs and other supports. http://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx/view.2/app.detail/params.item.M25016.desc.Set-of-40-Flower-Vine-Multipurpose-Garden-Clips?&cookie=set

    • Those clips are so cool and I’m sure I never, ever would have found them if you hadn’t shared the link. THANK YOU (and thank you on behalf of future reader/fort builders)!

    • Oh my gosh! What a great photo – I just love the expressions on your kids’ faces (and a little peak at your sewing machine in the background). Forts make anything more magical, don’t they? I think I’ll move one of our meals to a fort tomorrow. Super idea!

      • BTW Rachelle, I absolutely adore your blog! Keep inspiring us and thank you!

  3. Very cool – we use bull dog clips (no idea what they are called in the US I’m afraid) to attach to anything as they come in all different sizes

    • Yes, we call them that too, Cerys. Thanks for the suggestion — I’ll have to look for them next time I’m out.

  4. Just like Cerys we use bulldog clips too, perfect for forts and tents.

    • Another vote for bulldog clips! Thanks, Ali.

  5. Wow, I just found your site.  Thank you for the clip tent idea.  I’ve passed it on to Raymond Parenting News on facebook.

  6. We build forts all the time and everywhere. Such is life with two boys. Our favorites are probably driftwood forts at the beach.

    • Driftwood forts! I forgot about those — thanks for the reminder. Our favorite driftwood beach is San Gregorio near Half Moon Bay. Where do you go for driftwood?

  7. Forts!  Great idea, especially now, since winter vaca is coming up and we are going to need some fun indoor activities!

    • Mmm hmmm, it’s perfect for winter vacation. Good luck, Ann!

  8. It’s a very good idea !!

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