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Muddy Faces

Tarp den on a yard or hard space

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

What's New

Introduction

Making dens with tarps on yards or hard ground can be tricky. It is easier if you have a fence or gate to attach to. There are many interesting loose parts that you could incorporate for creative and simple constructions.

This activity provides some top tips on how to create a tarp den in a yard or hard space with limited anchoring points. Be warned - it can be a bit tricky and having heavy anchor points makes life a lot easier. Hopefully there will be ideas in here you can use to enable den building whatever your space.


Key Features

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:

  • source of poles
  • use recycled materials

Health & Safety Considerations

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

  • using string/cord
  • heavy objects
  • trip hazards

What you'll need

This activity has been provided by



Child-led activity

The wonderful thing about den building is if you provide a good selection of materials you can let the children be the designers, builders and problem solvers. For more on child led activity read child led play.

In this activity we demonstrate some basic den building techniques. We have used a tarpaulin, 2 poles, 2 pole stands for support, and some weights to tie onto.

The basics

You will need:

Covers

Fleece, tarpaulins, sheets etc - to cover your structure.

Supports

A selection of poles, tubes, planks etc - used to raise and support the den - need to be tied together to create a frame or placed in a crate, hole or stand.

Fixings

Cord, polyrope, string, bungees, clips, pegs - to give a variety of options during construction.

Weights

For example, tyres, log rounds (see next image), traffic cones, sand bags etc.

Den stand

The log shown here is a Muddy Faces multi-use stand - it has different sized holes drilled in it for poles, and loops screwed onto the sides for attachment points.

Building your hard standing den

Stand up the poles

Place two den pole stands in line (the approximate depth of your den). Insert a pole vertically in each hole.



Alternatives to a pole stand

  • if you have a log round you can drill a hole in the centre of it to support a pole. Use a carpenter's brace and a large auger bit to create a large hole
  • fill a bucket with stones or concrete and leave a hole to put the poles in
  • set your poles into concrete

Create a ridge using a rope & two poles

Place a weight – brick, log, tyre or sand bag (the heavier the better) - in front of one of the den poles. Attach the end of a rope to the weight and lead the rope up to the first den pole.

Take the rope and twist/tie it around the pole in the pole stand.

If you have a hole in the top of the pole (see drilling a pole) you can thread the rope through then twist it around the pole to hold it in place.

Thread the rope through the second pole (or tie it around) and anchor it on the other side, as with the first pole.

This stage will require some fine adjustments of weights and poles to get the lines taut (be careful - it is easy to pull them too much and topple the poles).

Cover

If your anchors are not heavy enough it is likely the whole thing may collapse at this point!

If you are using a rectangular tarpaulin create a fold across the longer length and place over the rope ridge (as pictured).

Secure

Secure the tarpaulin to each pole - if there isn't an eyelet in this halfway position create an anchor point by tying in a pebble (see images below - click on first one to see a slide show).

pulling out the edges

Now that you have created a ridge and the tarp is secured to the poles you can pull out the sides.

Place a weight roughly in place near to where each corner of the tarp will be pulled out to.

Secure the tarp to each weight using rope/string/bungees, then pull out the weights as necessary to hold the sides of the tarp taut.

create the space inside the den

Make a comfortable sitting area underneath - foam mats, blankets or picnic blankets can be used.

Take it further

Add a provocation - writing materials, animals, bird watching resources or story telling props.

INSPIRATIONS - simple dens

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

Read More about INSPIRATIONS - simple dens

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

INSPIRATIONS - tarpaulin dens

It is amazing what you can do with a tarpaulin! Check out a few tarp den designs to get you started.

Read More about INSPIRATIONS - tarpaulin dens

FURTHER READING

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

Dens & loose parts

Dens and loose parts play are a perfect partnership. This section looks at benefits and theories, guides and articles, and ideas for using dens and loose parts in your outdoor setting.

Read More about Dens & loose parts

Benefits of den building

As well as being a lot of fun, den building supports the development of a number of key skills.

Read More about Benefits of den building

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

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.

MFK52 B Bird Hide kit 20x20

Den Building & Construction

At Muddy Faces we provide an inspiring 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!

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.

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