Building dens is one of childhood’s great joys. It is not only fun but it is a great opportunity for role play, creativity and physical development. Forest schools are becoming increasingly popular as a way of getting children outdoors to learn and develop skills and confidence with den building being a key activity. Even if you don’t have the chance to get to a woodland to make dens, there are plenty of opportunities for den making in a playground or outdoor play area.

Here are some of our favourite ideas for outdoor den.

Den making 1a

The Mini Wigwam

The mini wigwam is a great little place for a child that would like some quiet time to rest or read a book. It very quick and simple to make with a bunch of bamboo canes tied at the top and fabric wrapped around and secures with clips or pegs.

den making 3a

The Kiddie Cave

A larger den for one or more children to play in is a great way to facilitate role play and communication. It also provides a cool and sheltered area on a sunny day. We used a garden bench with crates and bamboo to construct our frame before covering with a variety of fabrics and clipping in place.

Den Building - Hula Hoop Hide Out

The Hula Hoop Hide Out

The hula hoop hideout is a fun idea for role play for 1 or 2 children. The great thing about this den is that you can be as creative as you like by clipping a variety of colourful materials and even tying ribbons to a hula hoop before suspending it on a piece of string from the branch of a tree. As it was a windy day, when we made ours, we used an extra piece of string around the tree to hold it still.

Den Building - Bird Hide

The Bird Hide

A den made using camouflage material makes a great bird hide. For best results position your bird hide in a quiet area. Homemade birdfeeders are also fun to make and a great way of attracting birds for the children to observe. There is a great post on Happy Hooligans with lots of ideas for home made bird feeders that children could make.

Den Building - Tree Tent

The Tree Tent

If you happen to have 2 trees or even fence posts available, a piece of string tied between them provides an easy opportunity for children to make a deb. A sheet of fabric or canopy can then be hung over the string and the sides pegged or weighted to hold the tent open.

Our Top 5 Den Building Tips

  • Get children involved in creating dens, they are sure to come up with some great ideas.
  • If you are struggling to create a solid structure, leaning it against a wall or piece of outdoor equipment such as a bench or climbing frame will help to make it more stable.
  • Use string, large pegs or fixing clips to secure covers onto den and hold everything in place.
  • Put a waterproof sheet or tarpaulin on the floor of a den to give children a dry area to sit down.
  • Make a den into a really special place by letting children decorate it with natural materials of pieces of fabric and ribbons.

Our Top 10 Den Building Resources

Have you tried den building with your children? what other fun outdoor play ideas do you have?