Den building: top tips

Getting started

Look at the materials around you – what can you use? Here at ShelterBox we say, ‘The best materials, are the ones you’ve got available’ 

Think about location – where is the best place to build? We’re all sharing our home spaces right now and mum or dad may be home more than usual. You don’t just want to plonk your den in the centre of the room. Try and find somewhere quiet and off the beaten track (bonus points for secrecy) where you won’t trip everyone up.  

Think about the natural features of your environment and how you can use them to your advantage. wall, sofa, dining table or broom stick…. avoid semi-permanent landmarks like your older brother’s long legs. 

Building basics

The basics of a solid shelter are:

  • Foundations – the floor is probably best as it is flat and stable. Advanced level den building can involve trees… but we’re all meant to be staying indoors right now! And you need at least two responsible adults on hand for that. 
  • Walls and roof – a table, sofa cushions, chairs and blankets – your home is your oyster. 
  • Beams things like broomsticks, garden canes or rigid tent poles can help shape a roof to drape a blanket or sheet over
  • Connections – (where bits are joined by rope, straps etc.) Buntingskipping ropes or dressing gown belts can be used to keep your blanket in position. 
  • Bracing – bracing a wall will protect it from kicks and knocks. For example, a sofa cushion propped up with smaller cushions will be more stable.  

Become a ShelterMaker

The good

  • Stability – how durable does it need to be? Will it withstand a gentle knock from the cat? What about your little sister jumping on it? Is this to last the afternoon or a whole weekend? 
  • Bracing – support will makes walls stronger and less likely to fall down. If you are tying things together, make sure you don’t create a trip hazard, and don’t use props that might get up and wander off… like the dog. 
  • Size – how big does your structure need to be? if you want to spend the night in it, you’re going to need to be able to lie down. 
  • Ventilation – you’ll need windows or at least some gaps to let your den breathe. You can also use this space to have essentials like snacks and games delivered by willing helpers. 

The bad

  • Flappy – tuck in those blankets and make them nice and tight. You don’t want the wind blowing your roof off. 
  • Ponding (water gathering in pools on the tarpaulin– best not to build your den in the bathroom. But you probably knew that. 
  • Airless  if you want to hang out in your den, you don’t want it to get all smelly if the dog or your younger brother decide to join you. 
  • Sharp edges and heavy objects – these are to be avoided if you don’t want the fun to end in tears. 

The finishing touches

The structure is only half the story. These homely touches turn a basic shelter into a great place to hang out:

  • Blankets, cushions and rugs so you can stretch out and get comfy. 
  • It’s not much fun sitting in the dark! Find torch so you can see inside your new home. 
  • Books, games and devices to while away the hours. 
  • Window boxes and house plants for some greenery. 
  • And not forgetting plenty of drinks and snacks to keep you going on your adventure. 

Now it's your turn!

Get started on your shelter today

Don’t forget to post it and nominate three friends to build and share their own! #sheltermakers