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Kids at home until May? The Boston Public Library thinks you should build a fort

‘It’s a great way to keep your kids actively connected to the library community at this unusual time,’ staff says

The BPL's Children's Library is challenging parents and kids stuck at home to build pillow forts.
The BPL's Children's Library is challenging parents and kids stuck at home to build pillow forts.Steve Annear/Globe Staff

Here’s the hard truth: You’re now going to be stuck at home with your kids until at least May 4.

And by now — just days into this “stay-at-home” advisory — it may feel like you’ve already exhausted everything in your arsenal to keep your children immersed and engaged.

The crafts. The breaking-all-the-screentime rules. Watching “Frozen” and then “Frozen 2,” and then “Frozen” again.

If that’s the case, the Boston Public Library has a mission for you: It’s time to build an epic fort.

“Kids, grab some old blankets (or pillows or sheets or towels) and build your own blanket fort!,” the BPL’s Children’s Library branch wrote on Facebook Wednesday. “How wide can you make it? How tall? How stable? Can you add signs or decorations?”

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Library staff posted the challenge to Facebook shortly before Governor Charlie Baker announced that all schools — public and private — and non-essential day-cares across the state must remain closed through April.

The call-out for people to put together giant hiding places made of pillows, blankets, and other household materials is part of a larger online initiative to keep children active, called the “Creative Kids Challenge.” A new activity will be posted each week to social media, with the hope that participants will post and share pictures of their own attempts.

Rebecca Fox, a children’s librarian at the BPL, explains why it only made sense for the storied institute to launch this online program:

What’s the “Creative Kids Challenge”?

Now that everyone has been asked to stay home, we’re looking for ways to create that sense of communal learning without physical proximity. The Creative Kids Challenge is one way of doing that. Every Wednesday, we’ll post a new challenge on the Children’s Library’s Facebook page — an open-ended art, science, or reading project that kids of all ages can try. Families can then send photos to me (rfox@bpl.org), to share their kids’ creations. We’ll post the photos on Facebook for everyone to see. The community involvement — patrons sending in photos, seeing what others created, commenting, and maybe being inspired to create something new — is really the point of the challenge. It’s a way for people to stay connected and share with one another in this challenging time.

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Why forts?

The week’s theme was actually suggested by one of my colleagues, who thought of it while making her bed. It’s a super flexible challenge, and it lends itself to community participation really well. Almost everyone has an old blanket or sheet or pillow lying around, and that’s all you need to make a fort. Kids can get pretty inventive with their forts, making them as strong or tall or wide or secretive as possible. I really hope that as families send in their photos, kids will look at one another’s forts and be inspired to keep building or modifying their own.

Why do you think this activity will help during this unprecedented time?

Just having an outlet to share your creations with others and to see what others have made can really help combat isolation. For kids, who might be feeling especially powerless right now, it can also be really exciting to have something they’ve made shared on such a wide platform. The fort challenge went up Wednesday morning and already has almost 2,500 views. Blanket forts can also make us feel safe in uncertain times. After the fort is built, kids can climb in with a favorite book or a beloved family member and feel sheltered rather than stuck indoors.

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Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.