For a while now, my son has been asking me to build him what he calls a “nature fort.” What does that mean? Exactly what it sounds like! He wanted me to build him a fort out of natural materials that we could hang out in.

Stumped, I kept telling him that none of our natural materials were large enough to make a fort for humans. Sure, I could plant a sunflower house, ala Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots (which I plan to do next year, by the way), but it would take months to grow, and getting such a late start, by the time it was grown, we’d have precious little time to enjoy it before it got too cold in the late fall.

So, the other day I decided to trim the Pussy Willow tree that is located right next to my back porch. It’s becoming kind of intrusive, and when it rains, its water-laden branches nearly block the door! I grabbed the saws-all and trimmed away, intending to only cut a few branches, then getting caught up in the chore. When I was finished, I had trimmed pretty much every branch that needed trimming, and had a HUGE pile of branches strewn around the ground. All of a sudden, I felt like a cartoon character who has had a lightbulb go off above his head!

Realizing that I now had all the “nature” I would need to build my son a nature fort, I set to work. Luckily, we have an apricot tree in our yard with a low-hanging branch, about three feet off the ground. I leaned the Pussy Willow branches on this branch, as if it were the top pole of a tent. Alternating branches so that one had leaves up and the next had leaves down, I made our nature fort in about five minutes!

Then, we sat back and enjoyed it. We hung out in our nature fort until the mosquitoes drove us inside. The next day, we ate a picnic lunch inside the nature fort. Sadly, our nature fort won’t be around much longer. The leaves are now beginning to wilt, and the nature fort isn’t as sturdy as it once was. Besides, my husband needs to mow the lawn tomorrow, so we’ll have to say au revoir to the nature fort. But I don’t think this is the end of nature forts for us! It was so much fun that I plan to build a nature fort every time we have enough available materials.

You can build a nature fort, too! Feel free to use my idea and tweak it however you like. If you don’t have any low-hanging branches, how about using a picnic table as the frame for your fort, or a sturdy fence? Just don’t use any sharp or heavy materials, as they might poke or fall on the kids! And I feel that I must mention that kids in a nature fort should always be supervised.

If you are inspired by my nature fort and decide to make your own, PLEASE take a picture and post it here or email me at: andreamcmann(at)yahoo(dot)com. (Replace the (at) with @ and the (dot) with . ) I’d love to see your nature forts!