Tuesday 13 November 2012


A den each, and the garden looks like a shanty town!
I think den-making is really important for children. Quite a part from the construction skills and problem solving involved, once a den is made it gives them a little space that is theirs to rule over and to enjoy without the interference of pesky adults! They can fill it with bedding to make it cosy, or favourite toys to play with. They can invite people in or they can keep it all to themselves. It's also brilliant for imaginative play. A den can be a cave or a castle, a space ship or a submarine and you can be whoever you like once you're in it.

Danny wishing he could go in Zac's den.

You can make dens indoors or out, so it's an all year round activity.

Indoors it will probably involve moving furniture. When children are really little they'll need quite a lot of help with this, but as much as possible it's good to let them be the architect and tell you what they want you to do so that they still feel like it's their creation.

 Even when you do the heavy work, putting a roof on a den is not always easy to do. My tip is- give them the largest blanket/ bedspread/sheet you can find. Trying to stretch something like a towel between a couple of chairs quickly gets very frustrating if it keeps falling off the end you're not holding! Clothes pegs for attaching sheets are also useful and kids learn how to do this pretty easily.

A bedspread tent over a plank.
A hidey-hole in the hedge.
Outside, it's nice to try and use things in the environment  to help make the shelter. In fact you may not need to construct the den at all, just find an existing space in the bushes or hedge and make it a bit homely! The boys once made a great den inside a heap of hedge trimmings and were very cross when it got cleared away.

Similarly, if building a den is tricky, you can use a real tent instead. Some of them are so easy, even young children can pretty much put them up by themselves. They will inevitably decide they want to sleep the night in there, and unless it's raining or freezing it's usually worth saying yes to avoid the battle- they're bound to be back inside long before you want to go to bed anyway!

Making dens was a fundamental part of my childhood. When I was young I was allowed to go off to the nearest area of woodland with my brother or some friends to play. We used to spend hours making dens- propping branches up against trees and covering them with twigs and greenery; swinging on home-made rope swings, sliding down the chalk pit in a tin bath etc.We had A LOT of fun. I was not pre-school age, but I probably wasn't much more than 10. The best thing about the den making experience was that we were there on our own. We made all the decisions about how and where to build, negotiated over whose ideas we should use, felt the sense of achievement when the den was completed without any adult help or intervention.
Building a den in the woods with friends.
It makes me so sad that today the media has made us so terrified of the possibility of child-abduction that our children might never get that sense of freedom. Even though my rational mind says that the chances of anything happening are miniscule and almost certainly no different than they were in the 70s, the cases that have hit the media headlines, and the reactions of the world-at-large to the poor parents of the children involved, make it a very difficult decision to make. I hope when my boys are older I will be brave enough to let them go off with their friends and do dens in the wood just like I did.

I just found this web page which has good den-building advice for older kids:

And loving the den with decorations in this great post:


  1. I would love my wee man to make dens but his preference tends to be to pull them apart! In our country kids post we made a bridge or tunnel though so getting close :)

    1. Haha. I'm not sure what age the building takes over from the bashing! Mine were both the same. x

  2. The Eden project do some great den building sessions as part of their summer holiday activities and as for us, well there are dens and camps all round the farm from my children and holiday makers here. A great past time here on the farm. I love the natural hedge den in your photo, great for kids imaginations. Thank you for linking your ideas up to Country Kids.

    1. Too jealous of yours having a whole farm to roam about on. Mine absolutely love building dens in the forest now, but it's a car ride away.