Den Building

Hannah from this weeks sponsor, The Den Kit Co. shares 4 essential things to remember when den building.

Building dens is a rite of childhood – an instinctive urge to create a secret space, owned by the maker. Whether the child is seeking the comfort and security of a self-made sanctuary, or the thrill of accomplishment upon succeeding in a self-set challenge: den-building offers children a myriad of physical and mental learning opportunities, whilst having fun.

Dens can of course take the simplest of forms – as my sofa cushions and tablecloths will attest – but the very best sort are built outdoors in the wild. Outside, in the natural environment, children are offered an ever-changing landscape to challenge their problem-solving skills and ignite their senses.

Writing this for the lovely folks at Pack Config, I feel the need to list a few pack essentials recommended for a day adventuring with den-building in mind:

  1. Equipment. This should be carried by the child – handing over responsibility but critically ownership of what they need to build their den. In many natural environments you could argue that nothing is needed – the woodland or forest offers all that is needed to build a wild shelter. Alternatively (and predictably perhaps) I’d suggest a den kit, complete with tarp, ground sheet, mallet, pegs and rope. 
  1. Restraint. This is for the adult. The temptation for all parents and well-meaning adults is to help the child using their age-won experience and expertise. However, the best den-building results come from the child using their own ideas, imagination and skills. They might ask for help – try not to rush in. Ask what they think needs to be done, how they think the problem could be solved, let them try. There’s no right or wrong way – there’s no ‘failure’. There’s only learning.
  1. Time. It’s all they really need from us. A den-building adventure is the antidote to the formal learning and prescriptive activities that make up much of the term time week. That space and one-to-one (or as near as possible when you add siblings/friends/spouses/partners/grandparents) is gold-dust for your child. Chat, laugh, explore, ask questions – and admire their handiwork. Often, they’ll surprise you with their capability and insight.
  1. Snacks. The only thing better than building a den is eating something delicious in it. Fact. 

I hope in the few minutes it has taken you to read this I’ve managed to stir up some of your own childhood memories of den-building, and perhaps inspired you to plan a trip with your own child. We’ve been making den kits for children for over 10 years, but we can honestly say that every time we watch one of our young product testers try them out, or see a photo shared by a customer of their child’s proud ‘I built that!’ face – we feel that shot of pure joy ourselves. 

So go, seek, explore – and take the child/ren in your life with you. Let them respond to the innate drive to make their own secret space, and offer them the robust tools and materials to make it really cool. They might even let you in when it rains. 

By Hannah Martyr

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