How to build an awesome den

Kids in the woods

When we moved home when my twins were younger one of the top requirements was finding a place to build a new den.  My kids were sad about abandoning their previous ‘secret’ den so we needed to start over in the woods near our new home.  As I’ve discovered it’s important for kids to play in dens and forts – and written about why – so I was determined to help them in their den-building quest.

Our plan was to build a fun den in the woods using only natural material they’d scavenged from the ground. Little did we know that soon they’d have put together a working den branch by branch that my son would describe as ‘mind boggling’!

Find a den building area in the woods

Location, location, location. Well, that’s what they say about finding a home and it applies to dens as well. We needed to avoid swampy and wet ground, slopes and had to find a clearing where we could construct a den without damaging any live trees and plants.

We began scouting the woods for the perfect spot.

Fallen branch in Y shaped tree
Y shaped tree
Finding branches for den building

Then we found it! A tree had fallen into a sturdy Y-shaped tree forming what would be the main spine – or frame – for the den. It was also an area where there were fallen branches and lots of sticks on the forest floor which we could use for the den’s structure.

How to build an awesome den gathering branches
Large branch for den

This image I took of my son building the den (above) is now in the permanent collection of the Young Victoria & Albert Museum in London in their Build it, Play Gallery.

Soon Luce and Theo, my twins, were determined to build the most amazing den ever. 

Tree swinging

Of course, another requirement was to have good trees for climbing and swinging on nearby.

It took us quite a few expeditions into the woods to slowly put the frame together. Luce and Theo searched for long fallen branches to prop up on either side of the ‘spine.’ They then collected smaller sticks, twigs, twine and moss covered branches to fill in the sides.

Den building in the woods
den constuction in the woods
Building a den interior

A bonus feature was an extra ‘room’ at the back of the den.

Here is a list of some great resources with den building tips:

Kids den in the woods
Den building in woods

Luckily my children’s den is just a short walk away from our home.  We’ve been going back and forth there – weekends and free afternoons after school – to work on their den. Luce and Theo have named their wonderful and huge den the ‘treetop hotel.’

How to build an awesome den in the woods

The National Trust and other sites often list woods with den building activities if you’re looking for a place where your kids can go wild outdoors. My two had previously had some practice runs in how to build a den during the wild wood weekend at Wakehurst.

The den was an ongoing project for Luce and Theo during the summer holidays  when they customised it with cones and other natural décor. They soon had picnics and adventures there with their friends. Yes, dens are a great place for kids to be unplugged and just enjoy the woods.

9 thoughts on “How to build an awesome den”

  1. Pingback: Activities You Can Do When You're on a Camping Trip - This Lady Blogs

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  3. Wow what an amazing den they have built, it is so good to get kids out into nature doing these things, so well done for being so positive in encouraging it.

  4. Their den looks fantastic! We love building dens and have found a couple of great places near us where we can build them 🙂 great photos. #countrykids

  5. I can see a whole summer of fun to follow with this den. Well done the twins, this is a great effort and worth the time spent researching the perfect building spot. I look forward to reading more adventures from the den over the summer. Thank you for sharing on Country Kids.

  6. My kids would spend hours in a den, then ask if they could sleep in it that night. We need more trees around, though. Nice!

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