Den building offers countless development opportunities and is particularly good for building confidence and resilience as well as learning to take turns, compromise and problem solve. Den building also gives children the chance to build communication and develop maths and physical skills and even get creative with process art. Most importantly though den building is lots of fun!

Den building PHSE


The fun of den building is that you don’t need lots of resources. The dens can be as simple or elaborate as you like and can involve using all sorts of different resources including natural materials.  For younger children large pegs make it easier to hold up camouflage nets or tarpaulin but older children could experiment with a variety of resources. There are unlimited opportunities for imagination and creativity.

As well as  considering the state of development and the age when choosing den materials it is also important to consider weather and the desired time length of the project you are looking to create. If you choose materials that can be left outside during the den building process (for example, old crates and unused pegs) the activity could evolve over a number of weeks however if you use materials like blankets a new den would have to be created each day. While this is equally as fun, it can stunt the growth of the activity.

The Role of the Adult

When creating a den the children learn all about conflict resolution, problem solving, turn taking as well as team work so the role of the adult is to find appropriate opportunities to encourage this behaviour. Instead of making all the decisions the adult is acting as the mediator and about assisting the issues raised. More often than not, children just need someone to explain the appropriate behaviour and feelings- it is amazing how much they understand and can learn independently.

outdoor maths a

Problem Solving

When the child encounters a problem try the steps below to help them resolve it the best possible way.
1. What is the issue? Encourage the children to speak up, taking it in turns to explain exactly what the problem is.
2. How are you going to tackle the problem? Without giving too much input, give the children the chance to think about how they are going to resolve the problem. If they are stuck do help, however most likely they will have the answer already and just need to think it properly through.
3. If one of the children involved suggests something unfair, try to encourage them to think of another outcome which would be fair on all of the children involved in the den making.
4. Have you found a positive resolution? By this point a decision should have been made about the issue raised and it is a chance to repeat what has been chosen.
By getting the children to follow these simple steps, and encouraging them, they will need less input from the adults. This will then be eventually translated into all aspects of everyday life.

Early Learning Goals covered by Den Building

ELG03 Speaking: The children express themselves appropriately and show awareness of listeners’ needs.
ELG04 Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness: They feel confident to talk about their own ideas in a familiar group, they will ask whether they need help or not and will choose the correct resources they need for the relevant activity.
ELG04 Moving and Handling: Children show strong coordination in both large and small movements
ELG07 Managing Feelings and Behaviour: Children can work as part of a team, talk about their own and other’s behaviour, and its consequences and talk about their own feelings
ELG08 Making Relationships: Children can take into account others’ ideas and can play cooperatively
ELG11 Numbers: They solve problems, including sharing, doubling and halving
ELG12 Shape, Space and Measures: Children can use everyday language to talk about weight, capacity, size, position and compare quantities and objects to solve problems
ELG17 Being Imaginative: Using what they have already learnt about materials and media in original ways and thinking about uses and purposes

Our Favourite Den Building Resources

What fun outdoor learning have you been doing with your children this term? for more ideas visit our outdoor learning page or follow on Pinterest.