Review: Fortamajig Enables Extreme Fort Building without Blankets

Here is a toy that will be with you for a long time.

I wrote about Fortamajig, by the Happy Kid Company, when it debuted two months ago. We have one now, and have been using it for the last month. Here is my report.

Three marketing photos. The first shows the Fortamajig laid out flat. The second shows a fort set up over the floor of a child's room. The third shows a canopy over a child's bed, hooked between the bed rail and a curtain rod.

What It Is

The Fortamajig is for building blanket forts without blankets. It’s an 8-foot-square piece of ripstop nylon fabric, similar to that used in camping tents, and is water-resistant and machine washable.

The square’s perimeter has 24 adjustable elastic loops and 9 loops on inner portions of the square that fasten with Velcro. A two-color reversible version has 18 inner loops.

The ‘Jig has a Velcro-secured flap that can be used as a door if arranged properly, and a mesh window with privacy flaps that can be rolled up or down.

For once, a company actually has great photos of its product in use (wait for the page to fully load, then simply roll over the thumbnails). A few of my own images can be found at the end of this article.

How It Works

The Velcro loops allow you to attach and suspend the ‘Jig over household furniture and outdoor objects… chair backs, door knobs, headboards, tree branches, patio chairs and such.

Each Velcro point consists of a 2.5 inch non-stretchable looped “stub” and an 8 inch (before pulled) stretchable strap than wraps around objects and then affixes to the stub.

Six separate Velcro straps ship with the ‘Jig, allowing you to extend the reach of sewn-on straps.

Four corner pockets allow you to insert weights of your choice if playing in the windy outdoors.

Benefits over Blankets

Fortamajig offers some enticing advantages.

  • Flexibility. You can drape the ‘Jig like a blanket, but more often you are securing it in the air in ways that would be impossible with a blanket. You aren’t constrained by gravity.
  • It’s Huge. Eight square feet goes a long way in making any fort.
  • Lightweight. The single-color ‘Jig weighs less than 2 lbs. Blankets suffer from a serious droop factor when stretched over open distances. If the ‘Jig droops, cinch the Velcro tighter.
  • Easy clean-up. You’re not sleeping at night cuddled up with a Fortamajig, so you won’t be washing it or folding it neatly as you do blankets. Just stuff it into its storage bag. I received the first shipment of the ‘Jig before the official bag was ready, so we keep ours stored in an old sleeping bag cinch sack.
  • Portable. Would you ever bring blankets to a friend’s house? How about on a camping trip?
  • Fast. The process of attaching Velcro is faster and easier than weighting down blankets with heavy books, and Velcro holds the fabric in place better. Blankets frequently require adjustment.

Personal Reaction

My almost-3-year-old daughter was latching the Fortamajig in the first 5 minutes after opening the package. Granted, she was securing it to her toddler-size rocking horse, but she doesn’t have the same ceiling height requirements as Mom and Dad.

She is able to follow my direction is setting up a fort, and has plenty of her own ideas about what and where to latch the straps.

When playing with friends, her favorite activity is to hoard stuffed animals and toy food inside the fort and to attach every spare Velcro strap to something, even if it’s not needed to support the fort.

When playing with a parent, her favorite activities inside are picture book reading and board games. A fair amount of light passes through the fabric, but the built-in window comes in handy.

When we have a fort tall enough for me to sit upright inside, my Little Miss often transforms the fort into a car and we take pretend trips around town.

Lessons Learned

When collapsing your fort and untying the straps, reattach the Velcro strips to themselves. Otherwise, you’ll find some of the straps stick to each other the next time you pull the ‘Jig out of its bag.

The flaps on both sides of the mesh window produce some drooping of the fabric if you haven’t cinched your Velcro tight. I’ve suggested to the inventors that only one flap is needed.

We usually don’t use the door built into the ‘Jig because we build big, open canopies without walls. I wonder how the product would handle if door slits were made on all four sides and secured with zippers.

Heresy

The ‘Jig is sold as a complete fort-building solution, but I see real value in it also being the centerpiece of a traditional blanket fort. Saying so doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the ‘Jig as a standalone product.

Price versus Value

A single color Fortamajig retails for $70 and a two-color is $90. A thinga-reader questioned the price when I wrote a product profile two months ago. Since then, a carrying bag has been designed and added to the mix, and shipping charges made free. But we must still ask the question: is a Fortamajig worth it?

First, consider that fort building is an activity that spans many age ranges. How many toys that you buy in the toddler years will still be enjoyed at age 5, 7, 10 or 14? If you have several children, it’s a toy they can enjoy together.

Second, let’s look at some similar products.

  • $38 Build-a-Fort
    is the ‘Jig’s closest competitor. You might be drawn in by the price, but then you notice it requires an array of clips, suction cups and rope. I could see Boy Scouts camping in the woods getting excited at building a complex contraption (suction cups work on trees, right?), but this raises fort building to a ridiculous level of complexity.
  • $45 Cranium Super Fort
    is a construction set for building modular (boxy) forts. You are limited by the number and assortment of components that come in the box.
  • $70 Aeroblocks are inflatable wall panels that can be made into a fort. How often would you realistically inflate and deflate this thing?
  • $80 Hide-Me Tent & Tunnel by Pacific Play Tents. It’s a dome tent and tunnel. It’s also very similar to the Mambo Combo, a tent-tunnel-tent toy I bought two years ago. Is it fun? Yes. How often do we haul it out of the box and assemble all the poles and connectors? Almost never now that we have an activity table, craft cart, a rocking horse, Sit-N-Spin, and a ton of other toys competing for space. Does it foster creativity? Not much.

The problem with fort toys is that they occupy a lot of space open or closed and setup/takedown is an involved process. These toys need to be like Fortamajig: simple, quickly collapsible and a snap to store.

At the End of the Day

Fortamajig is fun. It’s easy. Your brain gets a workout thinking of fort designs that aren’t limited by gravity. The product is compact and disappears when you want your room back. Plus, it’s cool.

Now, some photos…

Photo of a fort in our living room.

This is a recreation of our first fort. It is latched to three door knobs, a futon arm, a toddler rocking chair, my daughter’s feeding chair, an end table, an adult rocking chair and a Sit-N-Spin.

Photo of a Velcro strap being attached to a door knob.

The Velcro straps hook to regular door knobs as well as ones fitted with childproof plastic covers.

Photo of a Velcro strap being attached to a lever door handle.

That’s Little Miss latching a strap to the childproofing mechanism for a lever door handle. Adults routinely get trapped, unable to figure out that lever.

Photo of my daughter inside a fort holding a Winnie the Pooh plush doll in front of her face.

Here we see my daughter getting camera shy after I’ve taken a dozen mundane photos.

Photo of a Velcro strap latched to a Sit-N-Spin.

Even a Sit-N-Spin sitting on a cushion becomes a latching point. This is a corner of the Fortamajig with one of the weight pockets visible.

Photo of a low-lying fort sprawled out across a room.

Here is a fort we made yesterday. It’s sprawling because Dad builds canopies instead of walled forts. There is a toddler table located in the middle. Perimeter straps are latched to two toy shelves, four toddler chairs, a toy shopping cart and a doll umbrella stroller. It’s a truly toddler-sized fort requiring Dad to lie on his belly to enjoy.

Photo of my daughter smiling inside a fort.

Little Miss beaming.

Photo of my daughter lying inside a fort, half under a toddler table, with her legs kicking up.

She had fun kicking the window flap until the Velcro let loose and the flap came down.

Comments

6 Responses to “Review: Fortamajig Enables Extreme Fort Building without Blankets”

  1. STL Mom says:

    My first thought was, “$70! I could MAKE one for $10!” But let’s see, we need 33 pieces of velcro, 2 1/2 inches each, so about $10 for velcro. Then $10 for elastic. Nine yards of nylon fabric at $5 a yard comes to $45… so I could spend $65 and spend two hours sewing, or I could buy this for $70.
    Of course, I could use an old sheet instead of buying nylon, but then it really isn’t quite the same product and I shouldn’t be so snotty about the price!

    May 1st, 2007 at 6:30 pm

  2. lisa says:

    I love the way this product folds down small enough to be packed into a tote. I see this as being a lifelong toy–one that will be taken to slumber parties, camping trips, etc. Hell, I would have used this as a teenager…

    I’m trying to talk my daughter’s grandparents into buying her one of these, but if they don’t I definitely will. Thanks for the review.

    May 1st, 2007 at 9:44 pm

  3. june says:

    Some of my best memories of childhood involved making due with what we had. I will stick with making forts for my daughter with a blanket. It might be more work and more apt to collapse – but that is part of the fun.

    May 2nd, 2007 at 7:27 pm

  4. connie says:

    wow! i want one!

    May 10th, 2007 at 12:28 pm

  5. mrsgryphon says:

    I just ordered one for our daughter! It looks awesome! While I have fond memories of building forts out of couch cushions and blankets as a child, I also have memories of being so frustrated when walls collapsed or blankets fell down. If the ‘jig is used as the ‘base’, I’m sure our daughter will find ways to add blankets and other pieces to it creatively!

    October 29th, 2007 at 12:31 pm

  6. Whitney says:

    Thanks for the review. This looks fantastic, and I love that a real-life parent has given it a thorough test drive. I think I’ll suck up the price and purchase this for my two preschoolers for Christmas. Heck, my husband will probably get into using it, too!

    November 13th, 2008 at 12:42 pm