When we moved home this spring 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 – 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 one branch by branch that my son described as ‘mind boggling’!
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.
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.
Soon Luce and Theo, my twins, were determined to build the most amazing den ever.
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.
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:
- The Woodland Trust has two PDF guides you can download with instructions.
- The Eden Project describes the stuff you need for a den.
- Learn here the den commandments from the Forestry Commission.
- Watch a video with den building tips by the National Trust.
- Read the Guardian newspaper’s instructions on building a den.
- A how to den guide from Forest Holidays.
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.’
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 will be an ongoing project for Luce and Theo during the summer holidays – especially as they want to customise it with cones and other natural décor. A picnic is planned too. And they’ve already invited friends to visit them there this weekend. Yes, dens are a great place for kids to be unplugged and just enjoy the woods.
Some great ideas for dens and forts in woods or the garden, with sticks or tents or trees or even sheets, are on my Pinterest board Wild Kids Outdoor Dens:
Follow Wild about Here’s board Wild Kids Outdoor Dens on Pinterest.