Neighborhood Diplomacy: Rules of the Fort

Last summer I took a risk. I gave my children unstructured time to wean them from relying on a full schedule of activities. I wanted them to learn to use their time according to their own initiative. At first I feared they would be bored or they wouldn’t learn and develop without additional opportunities, but I proceeded anyway.  I waited, and I watched. A story unfolded in neighborhood play.

I wrote about the fort my kids created with others in the neighborhood. I thought I had written the end of a story, but it was really the start of a series. Later, the fort was destroyed. At the start of spring this year, my kids—a year older and wiser—began a new fort, in a protected location in our backyard. A conflict broke out with someone who hadn’t been invited to participate. We all learned lessons in peacemaking.

The instigator returned, humbled by the experience, and asked if he could join the fort. My kids came and asked my permission. I counseled them to make sure he understands the need to respect our property.  I encouraged them to talk to him about that. I didn’t define any rules. A week later, another dad in the neighborhood told us about these:

Rules of our neighborhood fort

This may or may not be the end of the story, but I’m assured that my risk is paying off in experiences they will carry away from our Minnesota neighborhood someday.


  1. Michelle at Scribbit
    Apr 29, 2009

    I can bring snacks–and I’ll be very careful not to go on the roof I promise.

  2. Paula
    Apr 29, 2009

    When I was young we built a fort out of sticks and tall grasses. A neighbor watched us build it for two days and then came to tear it down. Must be part of growing up to build a fort and have it destroyed. Interesting after this many years I can still remember the fort and confronting the neighbor boys. It was a lesson that stuck with me. Kind of ties in with another lesson – You don’t destroy or criticize unless you rebuild or have a solution. Both are difficult to learn and follow.

  3. TJ
    May 1, 2009

    Just a clarification – I was a little vague about where these rules came from. My children developed them and passed them out to the members of the fort. We found out about the rules when the neighbor dad stopped by and joked with us about them. After that, I found them at our house. I’m impressed with the diplomatic strategy my children devised with these rules and the accompany “pact” each member was given to sign and return.

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