CM April 12, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 26

image Construct-A-Kit Fort and Playhouse.

Philip Poissant and Dede Sinclair. Illustrated by Darrel Bowman.
Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1995. 56pp, paper and kit, $29.95.
ISBN: 1-895897-15-7.

Preschool - grade 6 / Ages 4 - 11.
Review by Sylvia Smith and Evan Thornton.

If your front porch is like ours this time of year, somewhere behind the piles of different boots for rainy mild days, cold fair days, coldish but slushy days and those trick-you-into-thinking-spring-is-early this year dry warm days, you've got a stack of newspapers in a box you've been meaning to recycle all winter, but were always too rushed in the mornings to bag them properly and put them in your blue box along with the cans and bottles. In our case, we keep waiting until we remember to ask for paper bags, not plastic, at the grocery checkout. Somehow putting the old papers out in plastic bags defeats the whole idea of recycling, though we're never sure why.

Into this breech of never-acted upon good intentions is exactly where this excellent play structure steps. Here's the theory:
  1. Kids like to build forts. They'll make 'em out of anything they can, including a tablecloth draped over a couple of oily work stools they found in the garage.
  2. Savvy parents like kids to have forts, since everything, especially quietly reading books, is just more fun in a fort.
  3. Most parents who aren't too anally retentive have a pile of old newspapers around they feel a little guilty about.
  4. Parents don't spend enough time building nifty forts with their kids, another thing they might feel guilty about.
  5. With due care and attention, most parents can roll newspapers into a neat tube shape. If they could sturdily "cap" those tubes, they'd have "struts" -- and the beginning of a nifty fort.


Combine the irrefutable logic behind this theory with some plastic connector caps and elbows, and a very clear (and well-illustrated) set of instructions, and the concept for this kit is complete -- an indoor play structure constructed with old newspapers!

Kids under ten can help by sorting, counting, stacking, and folding the sheets of newsprint. One four-year-old we saw even installed the plastic connector caps.


The first time we used the kit, a simple "cube" house was ready in a little more than an hour. And it was a fun "activity" hour, too. After a week's wear and tear on the cube house (including using it as a steam tent for clearing up a clogged chest) we salvaged all of our struts the next weekend and made a castle with the addition a few sheets of water-painted bristol board. It even had a drawbridge.

The Construct-A-Kit Fort includes instructions for making a spaceship, a tent, and a playhouse. One note -- you'll need plenty of masking tape. And figure on using a least two thick Saturday newspapers of the same format -- no mixing tabloids with broadsheets.*

Now if only someone could do something visually attractive with fourteen pairs of boots. . . .


Sylvia Smith is a parent and teacher; Evan Thornton is a parent and newsprint-hoarder. They live in Ottawa.

*But then, nobody who reads tabloids recycles anyway, right?

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364