Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
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.
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 objectsâ€¦ 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.
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.
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.
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…