How to Make a Den Outside: Tips From The Pros
Find out more about things to do at our Dorset holiday cottages , where we Need a secret kids-only hide-out or simply something to get the children away from their screens and making the most of the great outdoors?
Den-making is one of the best outdoor activities with kids and one of the top ways to reconnect with nature as a family, whether you’re enjoying a picnic or a day out, are on holiday or are in your own back garden. If there are enough of you, you could even have a competition, competing to make the best den in a given amount of time.
Find out how to make the perfect outdoor den every time, using our tips to build the ultimate outdoor fortress out of simple everyday materials.
- Choose your materials. Depending on where you are and what you have to hand, these can include a table and other outdoor furniture, a sheet, blankets or a tarp, string or rope, bamboo poles, broom handles, tent poles and pegs, and fallen tree branches (don’t cut or break anything off a living tree).
- Think small. Big dens are colder and less stable than smaller ones.
- Prepare your space. Firstly, make sure it’s a safe spot, free of dangerous items such as broken glass and in a place where you won’t get in other people’s way. Flat, grassy areas are ideal, free of slopes and dips. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in your den, try to have its entrance facing south to maximise daylight and warmth.
- Head for the woods. These can be the perfect place for building dens because you can use surrounding trees as support and have fun scavenging in your surroundings for materials. Before you use a tree as support, however, check for loose branches that could fall onto you.
- Think about structure – many dens collapse because not enough thought has gone in at the planning stage! The best dens have a sturdy frame at their core, created from poles, sticks or branches tied together. Avoiding using large, heavy items including big pieces of wood that could fall on people inside, and don’t dig deep into the ground, if at all. When choosing a frame, fallen trees or trees with low branches can make for great roof supports to which you can then add a structure of branches and sticks.
- Waterproof your den. Again, depending on what you have to hand, you can create a shelter using a tarpaulin or plastic dust sheets. In the absence of these, leaves are an option, but you will need to collect A LOT!
- Make your den comfortable, lining the floor with blankets or with natural materials that you find to hand. Again, respect nature and don’t pull up live plants.
- Embellish your den using your imagination, using everything from brightly coloured left-over bunting to fairy-lights, and fill it with games and treats from playing cards to cookies or even locally foraged foods such as nuts and blackberries. You can also use dens as a base for fantastic outdoor games such as Capture the Flag, and if you’re spending a lot of time there, you might even want to create a fire to sit around.
- When you’re done, tidy up after yourself and don’t leave any litter. If you’ve made a den in a natural setting using natural materials, dismantle it so it doesn’t become unstable and pose a risk to to other people who come along.
We have several acres to explore, including a willow den and nature trails, easy access to the ancient Thorncombe Woods and regular organised activities including kids’ bushcraft sessions.