Thanks for all the ideas, everyone! All the suggestions for a fort building kit got me thinking, because right now, the elaborate fort Daniel has built in the basement is his favorite place to be. Unfortunately, he's using all of our folding chairs, which we use them from time to time - like Saturday night when we had dinner guests, so the fort had to come down for the evening. The folding chairs can't be a long term thing. For an evening, I mulled over alternatives and searched the internet for giant tinker toys and then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. I remembered the two years I worked for a touring opera company and our entire set was PVC pipe, painted silk back drops, and as the year progressed, increasing amounts of duct tape to hold everything together. Of course! Everything we need is at the hardware store, and relatively cheap.
So off I went to the hardware store, where I bought a few 10' lengths of 1/2" PVC and had them cut into 30" lengths. I picked out a whole bunch of fittings so they can be attached together in many different ways. I threw in a couple different colors of twine, some bungee cords and a pair of scissors. I even pondered the duct tape aisle for a few minutes before deciding that I didn't want to risk getting it on the walls and floor; having twine wrapped around and through the entire basement as "security wires" is bad enough. To top it off, I went to a thrift store and bought a couple large sheets so Daniel can cut door flaps or window holes as he pleases without having to ruin anything we might want to sleep under.
All this stuff would be awkward to wrap, so I didn't. I made a couple heavy duty drawstring bags for all the loose parts, and because Daniel will miss out on the fun of unwrapping this gift, Stuart and I hid the new fort supplies in his existing fort (once we found the entrance, that is) and wrote some rhyming clues to take him on a mini-search around the house. These clues are pretty bad. I hesitate even to elevate them to the status of poems, but at least they rhyme.
Daniel is also getting 7 gold-colored dollar coins and some new PJs because his current ones are so short they come halfway up to his knees. It's all a bit unconventional, but I think - I hope - he's happy.
Tomorrow, pictures of the birthday boy!