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Muddy Faces

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!

Outdoor Play


A smaller sized tarpaulin is the perfect resource to have in your bag for a quick fix shelter outside (or inside).

Here we'll show you some different designs to play around with.

What you'll need

Long sticks/poles

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:

  • prevent rope friction on trees
  • source of wood

Health & Safety Considerations

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

  • use of rope/cord
  • suffocation
  • choice of site - check for insect nests, falling dead branches etc

Top tips

  • choose your site carefully and consider wind conditions
  • use tarpaulin grabbers to add additional fixing points, and to create stronger fixing points than the eyelets
  • try using bungee cords or ball bungees as an alternative to string
  • make repairs with tarp tape
  • to extend the life of your tarpaulin pack away at the end of the day to prevent damage/deterioration caused by the elements.
Simple den just lie under 60x60

As simple as it gets....

Just lie under it! (pegs or no pegs)

INSP tarp dens raised entrance 60x60

Lift up the front to create a raised entrance

One step up from the 'just lie under it' approach is to lift the centre of the tarp to create an entrance.

Tie a piece of string to the central eyelet on the long edge of the tarp, then tie the other end to a reasonably strong branch, fence or line to lift it to the height required.

INSP tarp poles to raise

Use poles to raise the tarp

Use one or two poles to raise the tarp. Either prop them up if you have the tension and the tarp is pegged out, or tie the tarp to the poles.

Using poles that have a hole in the top makes this a quick technique.

Insp tarp dens tie to tree

Tie the tarp to trees

Creating a tarp shelter in the woods is ideal as there will be a good selection of fixing points.

INSP tarp dens ridge using line 60x60

Create a ridge using a line

Tie a line between two trees and hang the tarp over the line, pulling it tight using ropes attached to more trees on pegs on the ground.

If you make the ridge high enough you can hang a hammock underneath.

INSP tarp dens ridge using poles

Create a ridge using poles

Create a a simple ridge by propping up 2 points in the centre of the tarp, at opposite edges. Peg the poles for strength.

INSP tarp dens camoflauge 60x60


Add a camouflage net to the front of your den for the perfect animal/bird observation den.

Other den building activities on the Outdoor Hub

INSPIRATIONS - simple dens

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

Read More about INSPIRATIONS - simple 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

Further reading

Our Outdoor Hub has lots of useful theory and practical information on dens.

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

Free den building guide

Free to download, created by Muddy Faces. An excellent (though we say so ourselves!) and extensive practical guide to indoor and woodland den building.

Read More about Free den building guide

Benefits of den building

Den building supports the development of a number of key skills, as well as being a lot of fun!

Read More about Benefits of den building

Muddy Faces products

The Muddy Faces shop has a great range of tarpaulins, poles and shelter fixings - visit the following shop sections to find out more.

Cat Loose Parts Boy with crates 600 x 600

Loose Parts & Den Building

At Muddy Faces we provide an inspiring range of loose parts to provide open-ended resources allowing children's creativity to blossom and a wide range of den building equipment that supports you in encouraging children to be innovative and more resourceful.

For more information about dens explore the Dens & Loose Parts section of the Outdoor Hub and our range of Den Building activities!

MFK52B Bird Hide Kit 20x20

Den Building Kits

Check out our range of den building kits, a useful addition to your loose parts provision or forest school resources. They encourage children to use their imagination, making several different shaped dens or hideaways. Ideal for making dens inside and outside the classroom.

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


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