It’s Sunday afternoon and you want to get the little ones away from those pesky TV and phone screens... I have the perfect solution. Well, actually, this fun sunny or rainy day activity has been a favourite for years and years, so I can't take all the credit!
Yes, I'm talking about building dens. Whether you craft yours from wood and branches in the garden or out of pillows and blankets in the bedroom, building a den can provide hours of exciting playtime. It even helps to teach your little ones skills like problem solving and creativity. So where do you start?
how to build a den in the garden
When the sun is shining, it's time to get your little adventurers out in the garden. So many den ideas were thought up with the great outdoors or camping trips in mind. Get your team of explorers together to forage for sticks, branches and anything you can make a structure out of. Of course, a den should always be cosy, so bring out a few home comforts like duvets and pillows to line the snuggly nest.
a teepee den
Use a large branch, washing line stand or umbrella base for your middle section. Then, layer over a large sheet and weigh down the edges with stones. Leave a small opening for little ones to crawl inside, and pad out your makeshift tent with cushions. And there you have it – your very own teepee.
If you’re really short on materials, pitch the family tent for the day – it’s a quick and easy solution. Plus, it gives children a bit of shade when the sun is shining. You can even find children's tents with UV protection!
how to build a den inside
Don’t let rain clouds dampen the fun – there are plenty of essential den-building materials dotted around your home. It’s time to think outside the box (unless you have lots of boxes, then bring those along too). Bed sheets, sofa cushions, chairs: just about anything can be used for den building indoors.
You knew you were saving those delivery boxes for a reason. Open them up and use them as bricks to build a fort. Or, flatten them out to make sturdy walls and use a sheet for the roof. The best bit about this one is that your little ones can draw on the walls (without spoiling your living room wallpaper).
the classic blanket fort
Choose something solid for the structure: dining room chairs, a clothes airer or the back of a sofa should work. Next, think about your roof. Gather blankets and bed sheets and secure them over the top of your structure with clothes pegs. Fill it with sofa cushions and extra blankets, and crawl inside (whoever said dens were just for little ones?).
the under-the-stairs den
Think Harry Potter… without the Dursleys. First things first, make sure the cupboard is safe for little ones and is free of gas meters, fuse boxes or clutter. Then, drag in cushions, blankets and fairy lights to make a super-snug hiding hole. It's also a great place to cosy up with a reading light and stack of books (a great escape from the mayhem for busy mums too...).