Creating An Imaginary World: 8 Tips To Build The Perfect Den In Your Garden

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Don't worry - all of our ideas require only simple materials and DIY skills, but, they will need lots of imagination!

Whether you're thinking of den building for imaginative play or just to make a hide-away for the kids to use whenever they need some alone time - be inspired by one of our ideas to create the ultimate hideaway for the children to enjoy this spring/summer.

Before they choose which den they'd like to build, ask them to think about what the den could be used for? Relaxing? Playing? Picnics? Camping? They can take their favourite games, books and activities or even prepare some snacks for a cosy picnic in the den. And then, if they're feeling extra brave and adventurous, they could brave it and sleep outside in the den overnight!

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Urban den design:

If you and the kids love modern design, try building an urban style den. This is also perfect for older kids, as they're a lot less likely to grow out of this design - whilst other 'Wendy house' style dens may get grown out of quickly! Using pallets or other wood try to integrate a little square garden den into your fence - to maintain a contemporary look while providing children with a sophisticated garden spot for playing outdoors. The exterior of this outdoor room should be designed in line with the garden fence so it blends perfectly into its urban surroundings and should be able to fit a couple of chairs etc.

Wigwam style garden den:

Create a DIY wigwam using a tree in your garden as the central structure for that authentic charm. Lean branches or planks of wood up against the tree and secure with rope. Then, why not use the same wood to form a circular seating area? The finished result will give you so much nostalgia from those camping weekends with campfires and toasted marshmallows!

During lockdown, after their outdoor play in the daytime, why not take a hot chocolate down to the wigwam and tell some spooky stories in the evening? The kids are bound to love it.

Bohemian garden den

This idea is perfect for really creative kids and adults who have a wacky sense of style and are interested in DIY! Use some (free) pallets to create the walls - by leaning them up on their sides and securing them to the base (this can be a pallet laid flat), using rope, nails or screws. Then decorate it with any colourful crafts that you love to do as a family. Use ribbons, colourful pompoms, garlands and bunting. When you're done, why not plant some pretty potted plants and aromatic herbs to become a calming and reflective retreat for all the senses? Who says outdoor play and den building can't be calming?

Hobbit garden den

For anyone with slightly more time and space - why don't you try building a Hobbit home? Or, if your kids aren't into the Hobbit, it could be called a rabbit hole. Using a low-lying shed as the start of the structure, create a semi-circular structure over the top that joins up smoothly with the grass either side. This could be made easily out of sheet wood and/or chicken wire! This idea is perfect for a garden with quite a hilly terrain. Then, lay turf over the space to camouflage it into the grounding encourage kids to grow things on their roof! Roof gardens are the future after all!

Den for the day

If you don't have the space for a permanent structure to be erected in your garden (or, you just don't fancy one being amongst your flower beds all the time), why not make a temporary den for the day? On a warm day, it's important to ensure that kids are getting plenty of time in the shade. So, encourage the children to get creative and build a den. This is a really useful building task for them and a really good team-building activity for siblings too. Whether they choose to use bed covers, towels, sheets or anything else - let them use their imaginations to think of the best way to make a habitable space for the day!

Den kit

If you don't mind buying materials for your kids to build a den - then why not just order a den kit? Like this one: Bear Grylls Dangerous Den Kit from BattleBox. Let the kids work as a team to follow instructions and build something that they can be proud of. Dens are a space that kids can be so creative and experimental with - much more than their bedrooms, as there are no boundaries or expectations with these outdoor spaces. So encourage them to build it with pride and love and they will appreciate it for years to come!

Cardboard castle

If your children love role play, they're likely to love this idea! All you need is lots of cardboard, scissors and some strong tape. Cut and stick the cardboard into castle shapes and put together a fortress for them to play in. Dens need to cater to your kids' personalities - so if a castle is what they desire, then a castle is what they should build! To make the castle stand, you may need some chairs or similar to help it. But these can also double up as different storeys or viewing towers for kids to play on, so they can come in handy! Not only is a castle the den of all dens, but it is also a great way to encourage them to reuse and repurpose materials - which is becoming increasingly important!

The classic treehouse

Building a decent treehouse is really hard! According to The Independent: it takes something like 60 man-hours start to finish and costs more than £100 in wood and materials. However, if you're lucky enough to have a mature tree in your back garden and the time and money to build one - then it will certainly be a great experience. Also, if you do have these things - then your kids are likely to have already told you that they need a treehouse.

Since this den idea is slightly more tricky than the others, it should only be attempted if you have the right building expertise and materials - as the heights can obviously be dangerous. Although this den building needs to be built by adults (or teenagers if they're handy), it doesn't mean that the kids can't get involved. So encourage them to draw plans, try hitting a few nails in and to keep thinking of new and exciting ideas as the building goes on. If your kids get involved in the process, then they are likely to enjoy it for so much longer. Just remember to build plenty of support under the base and to use a suitable and safe wall height - the roof is of course optional. Then, when it's done wait for a nice warm evening, take some cushions, blankets and a torch and spend the night up there under the stars!

Enjoyed our tips on building dens? Then take a look at what else we've found...

For those of you who have found yourselves reading this blog, you're likely to have children wanting to be 'dengineers'. Luckily for you - there is a CBBC series called The Dengineers, which is like Grand Designs or DIY SOS for kids. Each episode sees a group of designers and builders bring to life a child's dream den, so this is another place that you can get inspiration from!

Finally, for anything else relating to how to build the perfect outside den properly and responsibly, click on the link to get some ideas from the Eden Project's top tips for building.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents. 

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it's important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.  

Kidadl provides inspiration for everything from family days out to online classes, arts, crafts and science experiments. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong. 

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Annabelle Beaumont
Passionate about recycling

Originally from Bournemouth, Annabelle spent her childhood travelling and exploring. She moved to Bahrain at the age of 13 and then to London at 19 where she attended Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. She loves all things creative - especially if they involve recycling materials, as this is what she is most passionate about. Aside from art, Annabelle also enjoys walking her dogs and cooking for friends and family.