Delightful Dens!

Delightful Dens!

Research in Scandinavia, the USA and Great Britain has highlighted the importance of the den-building experience in children’s, social and emotional development. Unfortunately, it also notes that children today are increasingly less likely to be allowed the freedom and opportunity to play unsupervised outdoors in this way.


Here at Playgarden we understand the importance of dens and den play opportunities in the outdoor environment. All our garden installations take full consideration of a child’s desire to find spaces where they cannot be seen by adults. Dens seem to have a special appeal and to generate particular ways of playing, especially when they offer a feeling of being out of sight and a place from which to look out.


Dens can be constructed anywhere; grass, sand & tarmac as well as amongst small bushes, becoming places for reflection and withdrawal or social interactions and gatherings.

Building outdoor dens means that children can construct on a big scale. They are able look at the space and resources available and work out what the shape of their den will be. Do we want a cosy den for 2 or 3 people or a larger den for 5 or 6?

A setting should provide a full range of den building resources so that children can make their child sized spaces more private. They don’t need to be expensive and in fact many can be reasonably purchased from charity shops and car boot sales or for free from parents and the local community. Simple resources such as old sheets, curtains, tarpaulins, branches, wood, sticks, milk crates, boxes etc are invaluable for den building play.

Den play outdoors can be particularly special as time in nature allows children to observe things such as how does the weather effect their den. Rainfall, will it leak? Snow, will the roof support the snow? Wind, will the den stay upright, even with strong gusts? Sun, will the den provide shade?



Benefits of Den Play
Den building offers a range of advantages to children of all ages.
Problem Solving & Planning
Den building allows children to visualise their ideas, putting these into reality. Creating dens will give children the opportunity to think outside the box and problem solve in order to create a structure.
Social Development
Dens create opportunities for group role play, negotiating and collaborating together to reach their ultimate goal to construct a place away from adult eyes. Dens provide a social meeting place where friends can gather together for a chat and new friendships can be made.
Without imagination & creative development the den building process would struggle. When offering an array of resources with which to construct, this will inevitably open up a child’s imagination about what can be used, where it will be used and how successful that resource is. Numerous combinations of materials lead to ever changing constructions.
Language Development
Children will also develop communication and language skills as they work as a team to create their den. They will need to take turns in a conversation, explain their ideas and negotiate with others. This construction play provides opportunities for shared talk also between adults and children. Once built, a secret world of tall tales, imaginative play and make believe is undertaken.
Mathematical Development
The construction of a den means that mathematical skill is needed. Understanding cause and effect, how will the size and weight of the construction materials impact upon the stability & balance of the den. What happens if extra material is added, concepts such as gravity and friction are learned.
Physical Development
Den building activities support gross and fine motor skills whilst developing good hand, eye coordination. Den Building outdoors often involves the movement of large materials. Carrying and placing these in position and manoeuvring can be a physical challenge. Lift up and down and stretching. In addition, lots of smaller elements in the construction can mean many, many smaller movements.

If you’re looking to create a more playful environment contact Playgarden on 114 282 1285 or email us at