Building A Den – The Benefits & Tips

Due to less free play time, less outdoor time, more scheduled activities  and an increase in screen time, den building is a bit of an endangered activity.  However, given the chance to build them, they still prove a very popular activity.  You only need to take a walk around our local woods to see half finished den hideouts.  The children spend most of their break time at school den building in the wooded part of the play area, and they love it.  It has brought our daughter’s class back together after a friendship rift as they all wanted to partake in building a class den…initiated by the children not the staff I might add!  They provide the perfect hideout for a secret club, to read a story, to eat in, to play in, or even sleep out in.  

The Benefits Of Building A Den:

  1. They are being very physical when they are den building so it is a good fun form of healthy outdoor exercise.
  2. They are problem solving as they construct their masterpieces.
  3. They are getting all the associated benefits of outdoor play and nature play.
  4. They are learning to assess risk, take risks, and all the benefits that come with that for them.
  5. They are learning to negotiate and work with others.
  6. They are being creative.

Site Preparation For Building A Den:

  1. Start somewhere where there is material i.e. a wooded area.  It will be an easier activity and therefore more fun!
  2. Collect sticks of varying size, some large leaves e.g. fern, and some clomps of moss.
  3. Clear the floor area.  You do not want to be trying to get comfy on any sharp stones or rocks!
  4. Check the ground is dry and not a puddle-like area.



Natural Den Building:

There are 2 basic structures of natural den building that I am going to discuss:

  1. The lean to style:  You take a large thick stick, and wedge it into the ground a metre or two from a tree. Then balance another stick horizontally on top of the first stick, and onto the tree.  You can then layer larger sticks diagonally on each side, slowly then filling the gaps in with thinner sticks, and then on top of that, leaves and moss.
  2. Teepee style:  Try to find 4-6 long sticks which have some forks at the top so they can interlock into a kind of cone shape. The basic frame is made from these.  Then add your other larger sticks around filling in the spaces between, before adding the thinner sticks to fill in the gaps.  Then cover with large leaves, and/or moss.

Using Tarp For Building A Den:

We have an old plastic sheet from a DIY shop that we keep folded up in our bushcraft draw for this purpose.  If we are headed out for the day, and I know we might need shelter from the elements to eat, we pack it and use it to build our den.

  1. You need some tarp, some cord, and some bungees for your den building kit.  Although you may only use some of the kit.
  2. Tie the cord or bungees to some trees at either end, making it horizontal.
  3. Pop your tarp over the top making a triangle shape.
  4. Then if it has eyelets, use sticks at the bottom as pegs.  If not, place stones onto the bottom edge to stop the wind from blowing up in the air.

Our job as parents is to be able to facilitate the den building for children i.e. get them outdoors in nature to be able to do it.  I find planning a hike with a rest period makes for a great opportunity.  Our trio usually get on and build one, while I make the campfire and cook the campfire food.  They then enjoying eating their outdoor feast in it, and even sometimes having a story there too :-). As you can see from our photos, we still have some way to go to make them weather tight!!

Building a den - the benefits & tips, den building, dens, shelters, outdoor fun, outdoor kids, bushcraft,

Comments 11

  1. This is my children’s absolute favourite pass time, well that and climbing!

    We had a wonderful place locally that was perfect but they went and built a go ape climbing place on it! My kids were NOT happy!

    So we are on the look out for more, I don’t see any sign of my 11 year old growing out of this yet but it’ll come so I want to make the most of it now while I can x

  2. We had a really large, overgrown garden when I was a kid and used to build dens all the time. I really want to introduce my boys to den building.

    1. Post

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