Everybody loves a good den.
It's great fun to create and there are endless imaginative outcomes.
You can create a den with very few materials too.
They can be made and enjoyed in an instant needing little effort, or you can enjoy taking time to create your perfect planned hideaway.
That is what makes this task great for any age.
What can we make Den's for?
A den can be made to represent a place that you know well such as a small house packed with little treasures that children in particular love rearranging.
The wooden outdoor houses for example can be packed with opportunities for children to mimic what they see their parents and carers doing - cooking, cleaning, washing etc.
It could be a place to support role play using a tent for example.
There is such a large variety of tents available to buy.
For example: a cake shop, a police station, a vet, a fire engine.
We can then go on to fill with items to help aid their play - dressing up outfits, note pads, stuffed animal teddies, animal carriers, cakes, tills etc.
It may be that a den is created for a place to escape.
A place for privacy to have some quiet alone time.
To sit or lie down calmly taking in the sounds and sensations around us - whether it be the birds whistling happily, the wind blowing through the leaves, the warmth of the sun, the soft pillows and blankets that make you feel cosy.
We can build dens outside too using natural materials. There are lots of places out there that do sessions with trained staff member's who help teach children to make successful dens outdoors in woodland whilst considering many different things, whilst they have the freedom to experiment.
As simple as it is a plain cardboard box will be enjoyed by almost every child.
A plain canvas to allow their imaginations to fly away with them.
You can use your cardboard boxes to create a den of interest. Maybe your child is enjoying boats at the moment? Maybe they are interested in space - you could create a rocket together?
What do you need to make a Den
Den's really can be made using anything and there is so much inspiration out there too!
- card board boxes
- washing lines
are some materials that can come in very handy.
You can also buy Dens.
The plastic little Tikes houses, the wooden outdoor buildings, fabric wendy houses and dark dens can be purchased and range in price.
Why encourage our children to build and play with Dens?
Den's are great for imagination and experimenting with cause and effect.
They offer privacy, a place just for them.
It gives them chance to be creative, to explore what works and what doesn't
There are opportunities to work alone or in a team and to feel proud of their outcomes.
To sum it up in one sentence it allows children to PLAY.
That very important right they have as children, what childhood should all about - PLAYING.
When children are playing they are busy learning.
Which is what I am so passionate about - we need less structure and allow our children to be children.
As Adults we like having spaces that are appealing to the eye, generally clean/tidy and for that space to be functional. Children are very different as they don't experience space this way, instead they contemplate what they can do in a space and enjoy secret hidden corners. Something to keep in mind when building a perfect den.
What should you consider when building a Den?
1) Materials - ensure you enough of what you need, can you use alternative materials if not?
2) Space - consider the space you have to build your den.
3) Audience - is it suitable and safe
4) Time - allow enough time and freedom to build and create
5) Learning - remember children building dens are playing, learning and exploring
Building Dens Today
Its a very sad truth that many children these days do not build dens anymore.
Our day's are busy, there are many families where both parents work long hours and there are many single parent families too where time is scarce for all.
Many of us no longer view the outdoors safe for children to explore alone, many of us are not happy having our children out of our sight and of course technology also plays a part.
Here are some of our experiences of Dens:
We have already introduced Dens to Little N and there had been a variety at that.
She enjoys hiding under tables draped in blankets. She gathers her teddies along with bits and bobs and spends ages crawling in and out.
Dark Dens are great! There are so many interesting objects you can get too to create an amazing WOW factor while you're in there.
We have enjoyed dark dens here a few times now.
Little N enjoys exploring familiar 2D plastic glow in the dark shapes - moon, hand, stars, circles, hearts. Little N loved the glow in the dark Moon - infact as soon as she spotted it she picked it up and continued to carry it around with her even after she had finished playing in there (she has a thing about the moon at the moment.) There were some rope lights that twinkled gently and were pleasing on the eye. Little N kept reaching out and feeling the rope with her hands.
Little N has a Princess tent which we leave up all the time in her bedroom.
She loves pointing out the heart shapes on it before crawling inside.
She enjoys putting her teddies in here and she will often take in some stories for some quiet alone time.
We visited a children's centre where they had a den draped in different materials and the inside was completely mirrored. There were comfy cushions, a basket full of musical instruments.
Little N enjoyed sitting in here with her good friend Little A.
We are yet to explore making dens outdoors but this is something I will deffinately be looking to do with Little N when she is a little older.
A government in Norway are running a campaign called 'Try it Yourself' where they actually pay children to build Dens.
I would just like to conclude this post by leaving you with an interesting quote:
David Sobel, a developmental psychologist has researched dens extensively since the 70s.
"In the middle childhood, ages seven to 11, a den is the child's chance to create a home away from home that is secret, and becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den," Sobel argues, "is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born."