If, like us, you’ve got kids at home with you during the lockdown, then your living room has likely already been co-opted into a building ground for blanket forts. Or perhaps a corner of your garden has been transformed, and declared out of bounds. We’ve been pretty tempted ourselves — what better way is there to deal with all the craziness out there than to sit under a sheet in your pyjamas?
We all have memories of the forts we built as kids: sheets and blankets propped up with broom handles, backs of chairs, and pure imagination, or with sticks and rope and old tarpaulin in some secret garden nook; crawling through cardboard tunnels into tent palaces with cushioned floors that were our own small worlds. Was there anything so cosy, and so pleasing?
It’s these aspects of fort-building that seem to appeal to us all: the cosiness; the safety; the magical way in which a piece of fabric over your head can shut out the world. Running a glamping tent company and creating beautiful spaces with our canvas bell tents means we’re all too familiar with the joys of blanket dens.
Camping or glamping in the UK is an escape — a way to connect with the land, and with each other. This company was sparked by my memories of making my own yurt as a teenager, having always been drawn to creating secret outdoor places. Lotus Belle Tents, when you look at it this way, is a natural continuation of that early fort building.
Until I started coming up with homeschooling ideas for the kids, I hadn’t thought all that hard about fort building, beyond it being a fun lockdown activity. Then a friend put me onto a book by David Sobel: Children’s Special Places. The summary of the book reads:
“From the ages of five to twelve, the middle years of childhood, young people explore their surroundings and find or construct private spaces. In these secret places, children develop and control environments of their own and enjoy freedom from the rules of the adult world.”
Fort building is already an incredibly special and important developmental activity, but amid these current circumstances of coronavirus and extended lockdowns, it seems more vital than ever. We’re all struggling to deal with what is happening in the world around us — none more so than children, who don’t always have the language to express their concerns.
David Sobel’s book talks about the importance of children being able to create these spaces for themselves, and keep them a secret. Blanket forts are a safe and controllable mini-world that’s just for them.
It reads: “These places serve excellently as places of retreat to look at the world from a place of one’s own, as places for experimenting with how to put things together and locales for hide and seek.”
They are so valuable and desirable, as they provide “the satisfaction of being able to transform the environment successfully and comfort in being able to make a place for oneself — ordering the world assists in the development of a sense of personal order.
“These places are called forts because they serve as retreats from the forces of the world. As the notion of the self starts to mature in middle children, children start to perceive how fragile their individuality is in face of the big world outside.
“The small, manageable world, with everything pulled inside, is calm and reassuring. It provides a protective barrier within which personal forces can be summoned to deal with the onslaught of otherness.”
“We need to recognize and respect children’s need to find a place of their own as a step toward becoming their own persons.”
That really rang true with me. Right now, doesn’t a comforting and manageable space feel like something we all need? A place where reality can be shut out for a while. And for children, a place which makes sense. A place with a little magic.
From all of us at Lotus Belle Tents, we hope you’re all keeping snug and safe in a fort of your own.
As for the future, read our insights on what’s next for UK glamping this summer.