Top 4 Skills Children can Gain from Building Dens

June 15, 2017 Published by


Here are our top 4 things that children can gain from den building:

1. Creativity and problem solving skills


Children need to think creatively to build a successful structure

Building dens offers an amazing opportunity for children to be imaginative and creative. They can build any kind of den they want – it could be their own little house, where they can invite a friend to dinner, or maybe a castle they need to protect from invaders!

Working from the ground up, children can build their own ideas from scratch, so they also need to be creative with the materials they use. Cardboard becomes brick, and you can almost hear their drawn on doorbell ring. Using materials that aren’t purpose-built also means children need to think flexibly and use their problem solving skills to work out how to put together a successful construction – for example, understanding that when building a den made of a bed sheet and chairs, the chair’s position can change the shape and size of the den.

2. A great setting for role play and privacy

A secret den gives children privacy, where they can get lost in their own world away from adult intervention. There’s something about being inside your own den that makes everything more exciting, so it can encourage children to read, play together and tell each other stories.

It is also a chance for children to engage in role play, where they can act out situations they may have come across in their own lives – such as going shopping or getting into trouble with a parent – while taking on the role of another character. This can help children approach the scenario from a point of view that is not their own, allowing children to develop quite complex social skills, by learning how people in the same situation may experience different thoughts and feelings.

Pretending to be someone else also means children who are shy can become loud and confident. It allows children to experiment with another personality, and maybe push the boundaries a little too, without getting into trouble for it! For example, superhero play means a child who may feel small and powerless in their real lives can pretend to have superpowers that can defeat anyone and anything.

3. Team working skills


secret-life-of-4-year-oldsCredit: Channel 4 – The Secret life of 4 Year Olds

When building a den with others, children can learn even more useful skills as they work together as a team. They may need to work together to move heavy or awkward materials, such as tree branches, and may also adopt team roles. For example, one child might be the leader directing the rest of the group, while other children work on collecting materials.

Den building also requires good communication between the members of the group, so children can explain their ideas to one another. They may need to negotiate and be aware of equal contribution from all members of the group too.

The importance of such skills are evident in Channel 4’s Secret Life of 4 Year Olds. Two groups of children are attempting to build a den – one group of ‘team leader’ types of characters, and the other group consisting of more ‘inhibited’ individuals. It is really interesting to see how different personalities interact when working together on this project.

 4. Physical activity and an amazing outdoor experience

Building dens can be a brilliant physical activity for children, without them even realising it – they’ll be so caught up in finding materials for their den, they won’t notice all the running around they are doing! Constructing the den is also good for developing their gross motor skills, strengthening muscles and promoting fitness.

If they are making a den outdoors, children can further benefit from the chance to explore nature. Being hands-on and getting covered in mud is a really good experience for boys and girls alike; you could even have your own Bear Grylls in the making!


A ‘bivouac’ (or bivvy) shelter



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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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