No. 4 Build a den

Two children build a den at Killerton, Devon

What will your den be? A meeting place for spies, a pirate hideout or maybe a fairy castle for the night? We’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to build the best den ever.

Building a den is one of the coolest activities on the '50 things to do before you're 11¾' activity list. Come along to one of our special den-building events to get even more hands-on advice.

 

What you'll need:

  • Branches
  • Leaves
  • Mud
  • Your hands
 

Find your perfect den spot

Whether you’re building your den in a local wood or your back garden, you’ll need to find a good tree to start. Look for a sturdy tree with lots of nooks and nobbles, or a low branch. This will help keep your sticks in place when you start building.

It can be interesting to have visible tree roots inside your den, but flat ground is easier to build on. You'll also be able to roll some log furniture inside your den then too.

Get building

Top tip: if you lean sticks against a tree like a wig-wam, you don't have to do as much building.

Search for some strong branches on the ground that will make a good framework for your den to start. Make sure they’re wedged into your tree, so they won’t move easily. Then you can start filling in your walls by placing more sticks close together against your tree and main branches. As you collect your branches, what can you see? Are there any patterns on the wood, or creepy crawlies hiding underneath?

You can fill in the gaps between your branches with twigs and leaves. Mud is also a great building material so don’t be afraid to slap it on your den’s walls.

Time to hide

You’ve built your den; now it’s time to explore. Crawl inside and look around. What can you see on the floor and when you look up through the leaves? What can you hear in nature? Close your eyes and see if you can hear anything new. 

Den's are great spaces for letting your imagination run wild. What will your den be – a secret storytelling hideout, a fairy castle, or something else? You could even build two rival dens with your friends and make a treasure hunting competition in the forest. Who will bring the most loot back to their den, without getting caught by the other team?

What else?

If you're going to be out there building a den, you might even enjoy some of the other activities from our '50 things to do before you're 11¾' list - like no. 31 make friends with a bug, as they're often to be found near trees, or in woodland. If it’s warm and dry, you could even complete no. 3 and camp outdoors in your den – just make sure you check with an adult first.

And if you’re still unsure of where to start den building or would like to do this with an expert, take a look at our website or your local National Trust places for den building events near you.