Kids need secret spaces

What is it about secret spaces that is so appealing? Lean-to forts in the backyard, cozy holes in a hedge, the sheltered space under a weeping willow tree, that funny little space under the upper levels of the playstructure at the park, and of course Harry Potter’s room under the stairs — all of these secret spaces create an immense amount of joy in kids of all ages.

When I was young, I was lucky enough to have not one but two fabulous secret spaces in our house. The first was in my bedroom. My room had a gable window that overlooked the lilac trees that grew beside the house, and next to the window there was a very narrow little storage space with a pint-sized door. I used to spend hours playing in there, even though it was barely wider than I was. The second secret hiding spot was in my parent’s room. In the back of my mother’s closet, to be precise. The closet was an ordinary little closet, but on one side the wall was only built half way down from the ceiling, making a half-height doorway that led into a little space under the eaves that could only be accessed by stooping a little (or a lot, depending on how tall you were). The roof sloped at a steep angle, so the little space was rather triangular. There was a closet rod in there, and it was used to store off-season clothing and other bits and pieces, but if you were willing to push the clothes to one end of the rod and bring a flashlight with you, it was a great little secret fort, especially on rainy days.

Given that it was pouring rain today and school is done for the summer, we decided to try building an indoor secret space like the ones I remember from my childhood. Our house is fairly new, modern construction with an open-concept floor plan that doesn’t lend itself to secret spaces. Except, in the basement, we have a curving staircase with a storage space under it. Normally home to the Christmas decorations and other bits and pieces, today it was transformed into this:

the space under the stairs

The space under the stairs, closeup

The kids didn’t lose any time in adding a few of their own touches, including a flashlight (you can just see it hanging from a hook in the above picture). I hope they find as much joy in their secret space as I did in mine.

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