Skip to main content
A photograph of two children hiding in a den with the Eden Project in the background and a young girl closer to the camera and holding a stick

How to build your own den

You don’t need much more than a table and a sheet to make a great den, either in the house or garden.

But if you can get your hands on some interesting (and free!) materials, you could keep the kids busy for a whole day.



Steps to build your own den

Maybe you’ve got some old rope in the shed, a couple of blankets in the cupboard, or some bamboos in the shed… Well, here are some ideas for what to do with them.

Stuff for structure

All good dens need a sturdy frame.

  • Chairs and tables are one quick way of building a structure.
  • Bamboo canes: light, strong and fairly cheap.
  • Poles: if you can’t get bamboo, you are going to need something similar, such as broom handles or tent poles.
  • Bendy sticks: make all sorts of interesting shapes with these, or with plastic bendy pipes.
  • Fallen branches: really fallen, not just branches you can reach. If you can only find thin ones, try tying them together to make them stronger.

Stuff for tying

  • You’ll need a way to tie the structure together.
  • String and rope
  • Old bicycle inner tubes: cut into strips 2.5cm wide, these are great for tying things together.
  • Rags: cut up old T-shirts. Save old sheets to cover the shelter.

Stuff for shelter

Now for making it look beautiful, or for keeping out the rain, if the den is outside.

  • Bright materials can help you turn your den into a palace, fancy restaurant or castle.
  • If you want to use your dens in the rain you’ll need waterproof material, such as plastic dust sheets or tarpaulin. Leaves are also good for this, but you’ll need loads if you don’t want it to leak.
Three children sitting/standing by a handmade den onsite at the Eden Project

Stuff not to build with

Avoid glass as it can break into dangerously sharp bits and steer clear of big bits of wood, or anything else big and heavy. Tins of paint or chemicals are bad news for you and the environment and don’t cut bits off living trees.

More tips to keep everyone safe and happy

The Den Commandments

  • Always tidy up after yourself. Please don’t drop litter, especially if you use manmade materials.
  • Look after living trees and plants: they take years to grow and seconds to destroy.
  • Don’t steal from other people's dens!

Safe play tips 

  • To enjoy den making you need to stay safe, so this bit is really just about not doing anything stupid.
  • We aren’t saying that an adult should be there all the time but a grown-up should know what’s going on and where!
  • Keep your den lightweight, so that if it falls in, it won’t do too much damage to any den builders inside.
  • If you are going to dig into the ground, don’t go very deep.

Shop for outdoor play