• Emily McDonnell

#11: Blanket fort

Given the pressing need to flatten the COVID-19 curve, my adventure series has taken an indoor turn. Welcome to my new exploration guide: adventure in the time of corona.

Being told you must stay within your four walls can feel like a prison sentence, after all, how much can you really do before you get deathly bored?

I’m not going to lie, the first few days I stayed home were hard. I paced around the apartment, torn between relaxing, cleaning and working. My productivity crashed and I felt frustrated.

Right now, there is so much tension in society, so much uncertainty, that it almost feels wrong to not be solemn. But lightness and optimism are what is most needed to get us all through these concerning times.

This is how I came upon my first indoor adventure idea. After a certain age, our imagination is muted and our daydreaming time is cut. I have such wonderful memories of turning cardboard boxes into pirate ships and sailing the seas with my teddy bear, and of racing around the garden spinning story after story with my brother. There is such a sense of freedom in our own imaginations, so I decided that I should use my time in isolation to set aside my seriousness and instead stimulate my childish inventiveness.

Making a blanket fort as a 29 year required a lot more concentration and energy than I remember it taking at the age of 9. I tried to think about the infrastructure, the sheets I wanted to use and how I could make inside extra cosy. The sheets didn’t do what I wanted them to, the structure was all wrong and I couldn’t find my fairy lights. I threw myself on the floor in annoyance, much like a toddler having a tantrum would do, and realised, from my angle on the floor, my blanket fort was exactly what it should be.

Underneath the layers of cloth was a little haven. It might not have been beautiful, but that’s not what mattered, inside my imagination, it was transformed into a secret safe house. I smiled, fired up my projector, curled up under a blanket and suspended my disbelief to watch (two-thirds of an absolutely terrible) movie.

Rupert never built a blanket or a box fort as a kid (which I still cannot get over), so I think he found it a little harder to get into. My nostalgia for a time with limited responsibilities came rushing back, but eventually, he too relaxed into it, letting adult concerns leave his brain for a little while.

Our newly created world might not have been full of make-believe pirates, but it was one where external worries weren’t allowed. Here’s to more games.

Other random thoughts on play

  • Handstands have been becoming more and more popular within the adult population thanks to the growing yoga movement. Yesterday I watched a fully-grown man practise handstands on his balcony. Ok, perhaps the setting was incredibly ill-advised (I stared with my heart in my mouth as he wobbled around in the wind), but it did make me go into my bedroom and play around with being upside-down! I used to be able to balance for what felt like forever, and I was determined to engage in some childish competition and try to stay standing on my hands for longer than my nearby neighbour!

  • Scientists believe play is important as it stimulates the brain and forges connections between nerve cells, which is what helps children (and other young mammals) to develop motor skills, judgement, creativity and problem-solving abilities. I, for one, am happy to try and improve these skills - let’s not be too serious all the time.

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