Who doesn’t love den building? Even grownups would be fibbing if they said they wouldn’t enjoy getting creative and building cosy little hideouts to play in – it’s just far too much fun. With this in mind, we’ve created this little guide to indoor and outdoor den building ideas for the whole family to enjoy, complete with suggested materials and building tips for creating the best indoor and outdoor dens you’ve ever seen.
Ready? Set … Build!
So you’ve chosen to make a cosy little indoor den?
Let’s get started with some handy materials to help you start building:
Here are a few ideas for everyday household items you could use to build your den or fort. You don’t need them all, just pick and choose what you can get your hands on!
With a sheet draped over the top these make perfect dens
The bigger the better, cardboard makes great den walls
Place them across the top of your den to make a roof
Great for tying walls together or for draping sheets over
The classic shelter materials, drape them on top
Perfect for sitting and lying on
Decorate for a cosy glow (battery lights are best)
Sweets, popcorn, games and colouring books
Now you’ve got a few bits and pieces of a homemade den building kit, it’s time to start building!
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
If you have a bunk bed or a cabin bed, you’ve got a ready-made den structure just waiting to be transformed into a cosy hideout. You simply need to tuck in some sheets and blankets around the top bunk to completely surround the bottom bunk or under-bed space and hey presto! Den-ready in seconds.
Got a few dining room chairs or two sofas? Simply arrange them back-to-back with space in between for your den. Then all you need is a big sheet or blanket to drape over the top as a ceiling and you’ve got the beginnings of a den.
Tables act as all-in-one walls and ceilings, meaning you won’t need as many sheets and blankets to finish off the main den structure. You can also join up lots of different tables to make quick den extensions – just add blanket walls and you’re done!
A few household brooms or mop poles make the perfect roof supports for a big den. You can place the broom across the top of your back-to-back chairs to give your blankets and sheets an extra bit of structure to drape over, preventing any unwanted sagging in the middle.
Want to make a really really big den? Try tying lengths of rope or string across a few far-apart points (make sure they’re strong and won’t tip over) and then drape your blankets and sheets over the tops to create a roof.
Once your den is built you can add a hint of magic with a few strings of fairy lights. Use battery-powered lights as these give you greater amounts of freedom and are much safer to use for a den. You can wind them around your support ropes, drape them from your den walls or simply lay them around the edges of your den for a cosy glow.
A den isn’t a den unless it’s comfy and cosy. Scatter the inside of your den with lots of cushions, pillows, duvets and soft toys to give you something soft and squashy to sit on and snuggle up with.
Dens are the perfect place for games, movie-watching, reading and midnight-snacking. Stock your den with a few tasty snacks and lots of fun activities for hours of entertainment in your new home-within-a-home. Don’t forget the password!
Building an outdoor den brings entirely new challenges that take plenty of creativity to overcome. Up to the task?
Here’s what you’ll need:
You don’t need all of these things; this list is simply here for inspiration. Use whatever you can get your hands on and get creative with your outdoor dens.
Not cheating! Tent poles make excellent basic den structures
Climbing frames are ready-made den frames!
Strong and sturdy with lots of space underneath for hiding!
Lean them up and weave them together for a rustic den frame.
Perfect for tying your branches, twigs and poles together for a sturdy structure.
These make excellent waterproof roofs and walls
Handy for creating shady coverings
Great for making walls, roofs and floor coverings
Great for decorating your den walls
You’ll need something to make your den comfy and cosy!
Use battery or solar lights to decorate
Sweets, popcorn, games and books add fun!
Ready to start building your outdoor masterpiece?
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
If you have family tents or if you have a climbing frame in your back garden, these make excellent ready-made structures to form the basis of your den. You can drape your sheets or tarpaulins over the top and add other structures onto the sides to make giant mansion dens (if you’re feeling ambitious).
If you’re struggling for a structure, garden furniture makes the perfect solution. If you have 4 or 6 garden chairs, try arranging them back-to-back with space in the middle. This provides a support structure for you to drape a sheet or tarpaulin over the top, creating an instant den. Garden tables also make the perfect starter structure; simply drape over a sheet and you’ve got a cosy hiding place with a ready-made roof.
If you’re lucky enough to live near woodland, you can go foraging for fallen branches and twigs to use as your outdoor den structure. Make sure these really are already on the ground, and don’t be tempted to remove them from their trees yourself. Your den should not harm the natural world around you. The bigger branches can be leaned up against one another and tied to form a basic den structure, while smaller bendy twigs can be woven between to fill in the walls.
The most challenging element of building outdoor dens is making sure they are waterproof, just in case the heavens open. With any luck you’ll get a nice sunny, dry day, but it pays to be prepared. The best things to use for waterproofing your outdoor den are plastic sheets and tarpaulins, as these are completely waterproof and very easy to work with. Or, if you want your den to be completely natural, you can use leaves. The bigger and broader the leaves the better, but make sure these are already on the ground and you’re not taking them off living trees. You’ll also need lots and lots to make sure your den doesn’t leak; try layering up leafy branches and twigs to fill the gaps.
If you’ve created your den walls using cardboard or branches, why not give them a lick of paint to create a colourful, personalised look? You can paint your branches in all kinds of colours or paint yourself your very own front door and some windows if you’re using cardboard walls. Just make sure you only do this on a dry day and don’t paint anything important like your garden furniture or climbing frames!
An upturned box or crate makes a surprisingly good seat or table for a little den, especially with an additional cushion or two. Spare pieces of cardboard also make excellent den flooring, providing a thick, clean and surprisingly comfortable layer of protection between you and the ground.
To make your outside den prettier and more practical in the dark, try adding battery or solar-powered fairy lights. You can dangle them from the roof of your structure or drape them over the top, or you can lay them out on the ground inside your den for a magical glow.
What’s your outside den going to be used for? Relaxing? Playing? Picnics? Camping? You can take your favourite games, books and activities out into your den for an extra adventurous playtime, or you can prepare some sandwiches and snacks for a cosy picnic in the garden. Or, if you’re feeling extra brave and very sure of your waterproofing skills, you could go the whole hog and sleep outside in your den overnight (just make sure you have permission first!).
One moment, keen den builders! Here are a few very important rules to follow to make sure your den building is safe and fun for everyone:
1. If you’re building an outside den, make sure you respect the environment and don’t damage anything that’s living there.
2. Only build your outside den in your own garden or somewhere you have permission from the person who owns the land.
3. If you use paint, only use water-based paint and don’t try painting anything on a day where it might rain. And don’t use paint if you’re building your den on wild or public land.
4. Always tidy up after yourself when you’re finished with your den and don’t leave any litter. The best den builders leave no trace!
5. Make sure an adult is supervising your den building and aware of what’s going on
6. Don’t use anything too heavy as the roof or main structure of your den in case it falls; you don’t want to get hurt!
7. Don’t use anything breakable to construct your den, and don’t take anything breakable inside your den. Accidents happen and sharp edges can cut you.
8. Make sure you ask your parent or guardian’s permission if using any furniture to build your den
9. Don’t use any electrical items to decorate or play with inside your den; wires and cables are a trip hazard and electricity can be dangerous if used wrongly.
10. Have fun, be safe, and build the den of your dreams!