For some River Forest elementary school kids, building a snow man just doesn’t cut it. Building a snow fort is way better.

In the eight years since Principal Pam Hyde has been at Lincoln Elementary School, 511 Park St. in River Forest, it’s been a popular activity for students during the winter. But this winter, the builders — mostly boys — have become more territorial about their forts. It’s not a major issue at Lincoln, nor has it involved any unruly behavior, said Hyde. The school over the years has allowed kids to build them, and still does.

But kids are getting increasingly annoyed when peers knock them over, or worse, snatch some of the snow off the forts to build their own. The structures consist of snow walls — many can be found on Lincoln’s playground. But they don’t stay up for long. Sometimes, the builders knock down their own.

“They started building them the first good snowstorm we had, but if the kids get too rough, we take a break and then let them go back to building,” Hyde said.

However, there’s been no snow-fort building in the past week since the blizzard came and went. The students, Hyde said, have been too busy playing in the snow and making snow angels. Some snowmen have been built, and a few other kids have been rolling giant snowballs.

Willard School, on the other hand, doesn’t allow snow forts. Snowball throwing or “dunking” — the traditional practice of tackling a buddy — isn’t allowed at any of the schools, Hyde noted.

Football is also played but there’s too much snow on the playground for kids to be able to run and catch.

As for forts, Hyde’s not sure why the boys have gotten so territorial of late.

“I told them, ‘You don’t own it. I know you built it, but you don’t own it,” she tells them. “I don’t know why or what it is with them. It’s just a wall. It’s not like it’s an igloo or anything.”

Overall she believes playing in the snow is fun and healthy for kids.

These are good kids and it can be great fun, and we want them to enjoy it. We just don’t want anyone to get upset.”

DIY snow forts

A website, www.creativekidsathome.com, promotes snow forts, or castle-building, as a fun activity for kids. It even offers some surprisingly intricate instructions on how to build them — and a warning for parents to help maintain them.

A sample from the site:

Instructions

  • Pick a container and pack the snow into it.
  • Decide where you want the first wall of your building, and tip the container over, putting the block in place.
  • Make another block, and put in place. Use snow as mortar to fill in any gaps.
  • Keep adding blocks until you’ve finished the length of the wall.
  • Start the second layer, with a half-width block (use a different container, or something with a straight edge to carve the block in half). Keep placing blocks so the edges of one row don’t line up above the cracks in the rows above or below.
  • Keep building until the wall is the height you want.

Ideas and hints

  • Be sure to leave gaps for doors and windows. Once the walls are equal to the height of the door, lay a board (like 2 x 4) across the opening. Use the board to support the next layer of blocks in that spot.
  • There are lots of possible containers. Square or rectangular containers (Lego bins, recycling bins, even diaper wipes containers) work best. Save circular containers (ice cream buckets) for fancy details on the top of the wall.
  • For an ice castle, spray water over the finished structure to create the ice coating. Make sure the air temperature is cold enough to freeze the water quickly. The water should be more of a mist than a fast stream from a hose or it could damage the building.

Warning

  • Adults should check the structure every day to make sure it is sturdy and that any repairs are completed. Be careful as the temperature starts to climb. The walls will melt and could be unsafe.

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