Review: Connectables Fort Building Toy

Photo of colorful Connectables panels connected by Velcro straps hung between our living room curtain rod and a couch, creating a lean-to. Also shown is my daughter as seen through a gap in the toy's fabric. She is smiling.

Our first Connectables fort, at a Dad-inspired height, that became occupied by my 4-year-old daughter and her grandma. The anchor points are a curtain rod and futon ottoman.

This is an awesome toy.

Last year I fell in love with the Fortamajig fort builder made by The Happy Kid Company. Its goal was to replace household blankets. No, really, I’m serious. It has achieved victory in our home as a plaything. Blankets are still good for cold nights.

So I was drooling earlier this year when I heard a hint of a whiff of a whisper about something called Connectables, a new toy from the mom-inventors of the Fortamajig.

For the past three months my family has been playing with this successor, or perhaps this versatile supplement to the original Fortamajig.

Photo of my daughter connecting Velcro straps on our first Connectables fort.

The kid knows Velcro.

Photo of my daughter crawling under a piece of Connectables fabric and into the fort.

Crawl, crawl, crawl in our first Connectables fort. Hey, that’s not an entrance!

What It Is

Connectables are a light flexible barrier for creating a fort or cave or other fun hiding or play space. They attach to each other and to objects in your home or backyard.

The set consists of six colorful 33" squares and two 58" rectangles made of ripstop nylon fabric. It’s material similar to that used in camping tents. Each square is bordered by 12 Velcro loops while the rectangles have 16 loops. The corner loops are extra stretchy with elastic.

When you wrap the Velcro around an object, it becomes an anchor point. Bed rails. Chairs. Couch arms. Door knobs. Shoe trees. An electronic rocking baby swing. *cough* Not while the baby is in it. Hey, even a curtain rod or closet rod.

Any of the Velcro loops can be lengthened using one of the ten extra loop extenders (5 short, 5 long) included with the toy.

By far, my 4-year-old daughter’s favorite use is to shroud the lower half of her bunk bed to make a room within her room. And when a friend sleeps over, we make an improvised tent spanning the length of her room.

Photo of my daughter peering out from the bottom bunk of her bed. Four Connectables panels hang down, turning her bed into a fort.

Bottom bunk: instant fort. Top bunk: storage for little brother’s future playthings. Dad made this fort.

Photo of my daughter smiling, taken from inside her bed fort.

Inside the bunk bed fort. The camera flash obscures the fact that the Connectables glow when there’s a sunny window on the other side.

Connectables vs. Blankets

Hey, I’m not knocking blankets. They’re great and you already have some. Just the same, Connectables have something to offer.

1. Greater creativity. Connectables expand what’s possible. You can configure forts in ways that would be difficult to impossible with blankets. You can suspend the fabric at any odd angle, limited only by the height
of your anchor point and the depth of your imagination. That becomes
part of the fun, finding and moving furniture and manipulating the
fabric to make it all work. For example, a lean-to is easy with Connectables, running the panels from a curtain or closet rod or top bed bunk rail down at 45 degrees to the ground.

2. Lightweight and secure. Velcro is more resistant to the constant movements of kids rubbing against the fabric when you hook onto a solid immobile anchor. Blankets suffer constant droop and the inevitable cave-in. To hold a blanket
in place, you often need to wedge it between something or pile books on
top to hold it down (a bit dangerous with toddlers involved).

3. Easy maintenance. The day after a blanket fort, I’m washing all the blankets. I don’t have that compunction with Connectables because they have no fibers to trap dirt. Whatever grime they might pick up during normal play isn’t getting on me in my sleep like with blankets. If needed, they are machine washable. The only real maintenance is to restick the Velcro loops back onto themselves when you’re done so the panels don’t get stuck together when you stuff them back into the storage backpack.

4. Portable. Take the fort to a friend’s house or Grandma’s house. Blankets are portable too, but it would be weird to bring blankets with you, or to impose by asking the other person to dirty their blankets.

Photo of a mass of colorful fabric panels suspended from various heights and connected by Velcro.

A sprawling fort combining Fortamajig (the large purple portion) and Connectables that my wife helped build when my daughter’s friend slept over. The anchor points are a bunk bed, curtain rod, closet rod, dresser and a couple small toddler shelves.

Photo looking through the doorway of my daughter's sleeping fort. Her and her friend's sleeping bags are visible.

A look inside the sleeping area. Yeah, extra caution is required if you’re going to leave kids unattended over night inside a fort. Do so at your own risk. I removed the entryway panels before they went to bed and made sure the Velcro was firmly attached.

Connectables vs. the Original Fortamajig

1. They are expandable. Use Connectables and a Fortamajig together for bigger forts, or combine forces with whichever one a friend owns.

2. Connectables are easier to handle than the Fortamajig (which is a single 8-foot square panel). My daughter can pick up a 33" Connectables panel and work with it while the Fortamajig is so large she concerns herself with one Velcro loop at a time. She likes being able to pick up a Connectables panel and see "the big picture" of how it will integrate into the fort.

3. Our Connectables forts tend to be small and tightly contoured around objects. The Fortamajig lends itself to sprawling roof-like applications or being draped over a table. One type of fort isn’t necessarily better than the other.

4. Connectables require more work to assemble than a Fortamajig because you’re connecting eight fabric panels to each other as well as to anchor points. That’s not a criticism, just an observation.

5. Connectables are more colorful. My 8 Connectables panels came in 7 varying solid colors (two panels are blue). The Fortamajig being a single large square comes in one color or two colors double-sided.

Supervision

The toy is rated for 3 to 12-year-olds, and my daughter hasn’t encountered problems, but I recommend direct adult supervision for kids in the lower half of that range. Pay special attention that untippable anchor points are used and double-check their Velcro latching.

The Cost

A Connectables set is $90 and Fortamajig is $70. If you price out the
fabric, Velcro and sewing time, it’s seems quite reasonable. Still, I
accept they’re not for everyone, namely people who will stick with
blankets.

I view Connectables as a toy with great growth potential. Unlike
virtually all other toys that parents of toddlers buy, this one will
far outlast toddlerhood. When do kids stop liking forts? Age 8? 10? 12?
36? *cough* And consider that the versatility of the toy increases as your
child grows and becomes more inventive.

My Reaction

At 1-year-old, my daughter’s first fort was a blanket I draped over her toddler table. What has escaped me about blanket forts until now is the degree to which I must handle almost all aspects of their creation because they simply are not easy for a toddler to manage. Even around her third birthday, she couldn’t handle a large blanket by herself, nor keep couch cushions upright while a blanket was thrown over. I doubt she can do that at 4-years-old. She’s just not big enough.

Fortamajig and Connectables allow a degree of immediate involvement because a kid just has to understand how to manipulate Velcro. Sure, my daughter is sloppy and her anchor points are limited to heights not much beyond the top of her head, but does she need higher? She has fun helping build forts or doing it herself when Dad steps out of the way.

It has been a lesson for me in letting go, not correcting everything my daughter does… because let’s face it, a toddler makes a lousy, sloppy fort. But to her it’s ultra cool.

Connectables are empowering kid-size fort building tools. They are a perfect standalone toy, and are great for adding extra excitement to pretend play.

[The Connectables were provided to Thingamababy for review, but if they hadn't been, I'd likely have opted for the Connectables today and the Fortamajig in a few years when my kids have cut loose and are building big forts without Dad.]

What Can a 4-Year-Old Do?

Photo of my daughter smiling while peering out a fort she made. The fabric is messily connected to several objects in the room.

This is entirely my daughter’s fort. I helped move an easel and rocking chair and attached the two highest anchor points. She also pulled in a toddler rocking chair.

Photo of my daughter's bum as she crawls under the fabric to enter her fort. To her right is a wide opening where she could have more easily entered the fort.

She never uses an obvious entrance.

Photo of my daughter smiling inside her fort. Her head is tilted and her hands help up and out, except for the two middle fingers which are partially pulled in.

What’s with the finger gestures and tilting head? She likes doing that for photos now.

Photo of the art easel used in the fort with a lengthy message written on it in dry erase pen. The message is detailed following this image.

I asked my daughter to name her fort, and she quickly enlisted me for dictation of her set of rules. The easel reads:

Hide-a-lot Fort. You can almost hide anywhere in this fort. There’s one big space for big people and two small spaces for little people. Those are places you can hide if you want to play hide-and-seek. Everybody who wants to be playing hide-and-seek, these are places you have to check. You should always hide in those places if you know the person is going to be checking there.

And when we later played hide-and-seek, you better believe the fort was the first place she looked for me every time.

Comments

10 Responses to “Review: Connectables Fort Building Toy”

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is going on my “got to buy” list. What a great item!

    June 23rd, 2008 at 11:27 am

  2. John says:

    Cool toy, and great review. Your daughter is a pretty cute and looks like she is having a lot of fun.

    June 23rd, 2008 at 11:45 am

  3. Sara says:

    I wish I had them both. I KNOW my boys (age 2.5 and, ahem, 29) would love playing together in them both. I do sew, though, and may try to improvise something with velcro and maybe some thrift store bedsheets. Maybe not as functional or cool as this version, but (depending on how much $$ I would have to spend on velcro) would maybe be in my price range.

    June 23rd, 2008 at 12:21 pm

  4. jen says:

    The colors!! Oh, I want these. My oldest is 2.5 and my youngest is still a baby, but I have visions of the two of them cavorting around underneath homemade tents, plotting as sisters do.

    Ok, honestly? I want them for me. :) We have a big set of Playhut pop-up tents that I got a thriftstore for an amazing price, but the problem is that I am a wee bit too big to get inside with my kid.

    What a cool solution to that problem.

    Oh, and I totally think that your daughter’s looks of sheer delight completely accentuate how cool this product is.

    June 23rd, 2008 at 12:26 pm

  5. dawnroo says:

    very cool! my kids would love it, but the price seems a little steep. until i find a deal, i guess we’ll stick with blankets! :) thanks for the review!

    June 23rd, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  6. lace says:

    Great review. I think I need to get these. Blanket forts are a bit more work with the cleaning and refolding.

    We haven’t done a fort since this winter. I think it’s time for another one.

    June 24th, 2008 at 10:30 am

  7. Diana says:

    This is awesome! This looks even better than the Fortamajig which I had been drooling over ever since your review…

    June 24th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

  8. Stacey says:

    This is great. My daughter is almost 3 and loves playing in her own “forts” or “tents”, but I agree with the lack of creativity with blankets for younger kids. Not to mention the amount of clothes pins and such that I am trying to use to connect everything. I can totally see that she would be able to figure this after playing with it a couple of times.

    July 3rd, 2008 at 7:33 pm

  9. kyla says:

    thats a big fort!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 27th, 2008 at 2:49 pm

  10. Autmn leaves says:

    These look so cool. Shame is I can’t find anywhere in the UK which sells them.

    November 10th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

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