Social Media

You can find me on the following social media platforms...

Muddy Faces

INSPIRATIONS - simple dens

Activity ideas for den-making using everyday objects, for your Early Years/school setting.

Outdoor Play


A den can be created from very simple resources and even very young children can create their own den spaces with a few blankets. Here we give you some ideas, top tips and suggestions for useful resources to have in your setting for independent den-making and den-making with some adult support.

Photos have been kindly provided by Jane Wratten & Slinn St STARters Community Pre-School, Sheffield.

* Muddy Faces actively promotes child-led outdoor play & learning (see the intro. to our Outdoor Play section for more on this). We recognise and believe in the curiosity that children have and their drive to explore and discover. We hope that you will bear this in mind when considering more prescribed activities like this one – often much more creative ideas will occur if resources are simply provided and children are given the time and space to explore independently.

What you'll need

  • a selction of loose parts

This activity has been provided by

Environmental Considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing, carrying out & completing this activity. Could this impact be reduced? Specific considerations for this activity could include:

  • protecting trees from frictional rubbing

Health & Safety Considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments.
Some considerations particular to this activity include:

  • use of cord/rope
  • storage of den building equipment
  • avoid bamboo canes (sharp when they break) & ends can poke eyes

Moving the indoors outside – easy den building

Children love to build dens and they are so imaginative in their creations that they do not need special “den equipment”. If you look around your setting you will be able to locate many different items that are perfect for building dens. Why not take this equipment outside and let the children show you how it can be used?

Tables and chairs, a clothes airer, perhaps a plastic indoor climbing frame or even a pop-up tent or tunnel can make wonderful den frames. Old sheets and blankets or a table cloth, some lengths of fabric or even some old curtains make ideal den covers. Try jazzing it all up with some colourful organza or sequin fabric!

Cosy cardboard cave

Large cardboard boxes lend themselves perfectly to building a den – maybe the children can even decorate the inside of the box with paint or crayons.

Smaller cardboard boxes or empty plastic storage boxes are good for stacking when building walls.

Basket burrow

A large container like this basket, placed on its side, immediately becomes a ready-made den waiting to be customised by its occupants.

A large sheet or blanket draped over the top gives a sense of enclosure and, when inside, the occupants can pretend the world outside is a very different one.


Tipis made from old broom handles, clothes poles or long sticks can provide an excellent frame.

Provide some rope, string or wool for securing the top, and materials for round the outside. An old sheet could be painted on.

Ton bag tent

Use a ton bag supported by poles for a perfect pop-up small space.

Stick props work to support the bag but are not very stable. Try lashing a cube frame to fit inside, or use the straps or tie the top corners to a fence. A perfect problem solving project for young minds!

Other den activities on the Outdoor Hub

INSPIRATIONS - tarpaulin dens

This activity page is full of simple den making ideas using a tarpaulin or other material. A perfect activity whatever the weather!

Read More about INSPIRATIONS - tarpaulin dens

Tarp den on a yard or hard space

Top tips on how to create a den in a school yard where fixing points are minimal.

Read More about Tarp den on a yard or hard space

INSPIRATIONS - dens with branches

Most woodlands have a good supply of shelter building resources. Learn how to create some basic structures.

Read More about INSPIRATIONS - dens with branches

Developing skills & resources

Design skills are key to a successful den and, by having a range of different-sized and shaped materials, children will have to consider logically and look carefully at the individual materials they are using. Over time you can build up your resources, providing a range of materials that can be used in many different ways.

Why not find a wooden pallet or an old fence panel (check for nails and any other hazards), supply resources to ensure it can be secured safely, and let the group or child do the rest?

Read more about dens below in our Outdoor Hub section on Dens & Loose Parts:

Loose parts, dens & block play

Explore benefits and theories, guides, articles and ideas for using block play, dens and loose parts in your early years, school and outdoor settings.

Read More about Loose parts, dens & block play

Disclaimer: Muddy Faces cannot take any responsibility for accidents or damage that occurs as a result of following this activity.You are responsible for making sure the activity is conducted safely.

Key Features


Keep in touch

Register to receive our free email newsletter, full of outdoor inspiration, dates, deals and competitions.