Seattle-based toy company Fort Boards brings STEM-infused play to the Eastside
While watching kids playing with oversized Lincoln Logs at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, Fort Boards founder August Graube was reminded of his favorite childhood activity and set out to take fort building to the next level.
It took two years and 165 designs, but earlier last September Fort Boards hit the market, providing kids – and their parents – with a new way to build.
The interlocking boards, which come in yellow and red, can be connected together to create forts and structures of all types, like space shuttles, castles, and even pirate ships.
“The open-ended nature of (Fort Boards) has been what we found to be one of the differentiators,” Fort Boards Marketing Specialist, Neal Mizushima, said. With endless possibilities in the hands of the builder, Fort Boards help foster creativity for builders ages 5 and older.
More than just a fun, creative outlet for children, Fort Boards encourages STEM concepts at the same time. “Just by building and playing with the toy, kids get a real-time sense of how physics work,” Mizushima said. “They can visualize a three-dimensional structure, then use instructions or create their own structure in real life. They’re learning structural engineering without realizing it.”
In addition, the boards are marked with symbols so builders can create 180-, 90-, and 60-degree angles. This helps young builders learn what kind of angles create the sturdiest structures.
Due to the educational benefits they provide, Fort Boards have been popular with children’s museums and schools in the area. The pinching motion of using the connectors helps build hand strength, which can help children who might be struggling to grasp a pencil correctly. And because Fort Boards can be played in a group setting, the toy also promotes teamwork. “There’s a lot of integration, cooperative learning, and working with other kids with Fort Boards,” Mizushima said. “They learn to share and how to follow directions.”
Misushima said it’s these benefits that caught the attention of occupational therapists and why Fort Boards are now being used to help students with special needs. “The toy wasn’t intentionally designed for children with special needs, but early on we had customers asking if they were,” Mizushima said. “We didn’t know the answer, so we reached out to some occupational therapists and sent them some packs to try out. The response was really positive.”
As Fort Boards continue to grow, the Seattle-based company looks forward to releasing new products – including a smaller starter pack, which will be available later next month – and land in more stores across the country.