Building an outdoor den is one of the most simple but fun things to do with your children. This article looks at some den building kits and outdoor den ideas for you to try with your kids.
It’s so natural to want to build a den as a child. Your kids have probably used anything they can find around the house, like bed sheets, blankets, and pillows, to build a cosy hangout. So why not use this instinct and take things one step further? There are several den building kits for kids and plenty of materials you can buy online to make the perfect outdoor den with your children. This article looks at some den kits and outdoor den ideas for you to try with your kids.
Whether you’re thinking of a den building for imaginative play or a safe place for kids to escape when they need some alone time, we have got you covered for creating the ultimate hideaway for children (and adults) to enjoy! Don’t worry; all the ideas listed here only require simple materials and basic DIY skills. However, you will need to provide a tonne of imagination. So take a look at our outdoor den ideas and see what you can come up with yourself.
How to build a den outdoors without a den kit
We’ve all seen dens in the forest while out on a walk. A super simple way to make a den is by using natural materials. Encourage kids to use trees to help with the structure of their shelter or show them a couple of pre-built examples of your own, so they can study them and learn from you.
Firstly choose an area with many long sticks on the ground, large leaves, and sturdy trees. You can take some string or other essential supplies, such as tarpaulin, rope and tent pegs. Still, ultimately, the kids should be able to build a shelter using primarily natural materials. Cover it with large dry leaves. Choose a suitable area between trees. Please ensure the trees are super sturdy and check for any loose branches; you don’t want them to fall off the tree onto the den whilst playing. Next, run your rope or paracord between the two trees. You can use some bungee ties for a quick way to secure the shelter without causing any damage to the tree. Next, drape a tarpaulin or waterproof material over the cord. On one side of the tarp, run some lines from the tarpaulin to the tent pegs. On the other side of the tarp, peg it into the ground. Finally, it’s time to decorate! You could add fairy lights, blankets, or anything to make it unique.
What skills does building a den promote?
Building an outdoor den with your kids is a great way to introduce survival skills early and promote creativity, communication, and teamwork. You can even use your den to learn further, take a book out with you, have story time in the shelter, or even picnic—a great way to fully immerse in nature. Incorporate creative writing and encourage kids to write stories about their dens. A great way to spark a story is to talk about who will visit your den when you’ve gone. Will it make a new home for woodland animals? Who could they be? Maybe the Gruffalo will come and visit?
Den building safety
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to consider any risks. You can involve the children in this discussion too. Think about what clothing you should wear, whether there will be any trip hazards, and how you can safely lift large branches. Take care with any tools you take out with you and supervise children.
How outdoor play can improve mental health
Spending time outdoors and playing outdoors is an excellent way to take time out, reflect and give our brains a little time off. Time outdoors is time away from school, homework, busy schedules and demanding routines. In addition, time outdoors can help children to relieve stress and anxiety as it releases a hormone called cortisol in the brain. As little as five minutes of exercise in a natural outdoor environment improves self-esteem, mental health, and well-being in young people. Many schools are jumping on board with this, featuring forest school sessions, outdoor lessons, and even their gardens and vegetable patches. So check what’s available at schools already and in your local area.
Try these ready-made den building kits
There are lots of different types of garden den building kits you can buy. Some are basic, but others include many exciting extras. They make a great birthday or Christmas present for adventurous kids.
1. The Den Kit Company, the original outdoor den kit
We love that the Den Kit Company encourage immersive, exciting, and imaginative outdoor play. Their kits are designed to encourage children to play and explore outdoors and foster a lifelong connection with nature. The handy haversack is filled with everything a child needs to make their outdoor hideaway. The bag contains a handmade Shropshire wooden mallet. Khaki haversack bag, made from cotton with a practical shoulder strap for easy carrying, camouflage tarpaulin made from tough, waterproof polyethene, an enamel mug, face paint – great for camouflaging yourself in the woods, 10 metres of robust and natural jute rope and eight steel tent pegs. This den building kit is suitable for ages 6+ and is to be used under the supervision of an adult.
2. My Adventure Kit, The Essential Den Building Kit
These den building kits are fantastic for children who love to play outdoors or those you want to entice away from the TV and computer and encourage them to use their imagination. The essential den kit comes with a medium-sized rucksack, a wooden sign, two hessian sandbags, a union jack flag, a camo tarp, eight tent pegs, a ground sheet and a paracord.
3. Early years Ideas, Den Making Kit
This den making kit is an excellent option if you have ample space or are a learning provider. The kit has various resources to adapt any space into an area for imaginative and cooperative play. Each kit contains a 1.5m square ground sheet, two 1.5m square eyeleted den covers in natural heavy-duty waxed, tree-print fabric, one 1.5 x 2.3m large, hemmed den cover with eight eyelets in a different heavy-duty waxed, tree-print fabric, one 10m high-vis long rope, four 2m high-vis medium ropes, six 1m high-vis short ropes, six wooden ground pegs, a den building handbook and a storage bag.
4. What about a trying a Teepee when building a den?
Teepees have become popular and are great for children who love to use their imagination but love to be warm and cosy; they are also a great winter alternative. There are lots available online, or you could get creative and make your own. Make one as elaborate or as simple as you like. We’ve picked out a few great ones for you.
Bushcraft days out for kids where you can learn den building skills.
Woodland Classroom, Family bushcraft experiences
Woodland Classroom offers family bushcraft experiences where you can escape modern life and spend quality time in nature. Gain confidence and skills to light campfires with your kids, teach them to use sharp tools safely and build incredible shelters to keep the weather out. You will learn engaging and fun skills that you can then take to the outdoors to enhance your family camping trips.
Trueways Survival, Kids survival weekends
Trueways Survival offers a range of courses for kids that are fun and informative whilst teaching hands-on bushcraft skills; children will learn skills such as shelter building and lighting fires. All classes are for one child and one adult. Trueways Survival runs courses nationwide, so check out their website to find one local.
If you want to learn more about how to teach bushcraft to kids and more days out available, read our bushcraft for kids article here.