Blog home
The Blog

Fresh Ideas and Inspiration for education

Outdoor Dens: Communication, Language & Literacy

Children love building and exploring dens and they are a great opportunity for child led learning and development. There has been a great deal of discussion about supporting disadvantaged children and 'narrowing the gap', with additional support for disadvantaged 3 and 4 year olds through the Early Years Pupil Premium. Activities in the den provide a way for young children to learn through a quality, play based approach. When planned carefully with adult guidance and resources, dens become encouraging environments that can promote communication, literacy and mathematics.

Posted on Friday 29th May 2015

Why not help build firm foundations and narrow the gap with a fantastic den? We would love it if you shared your den building experiences with us on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below.

Forest Hideaway – Bright Sparks Day Nursery

This story follows Laila (4) and Paige (2) who spent a morning playing in a fantastic natural den made by Bright Sparks in Mansfield to celebrate Den Day. We decided to use some innovative ICT resources to encourage communication, language and literacy, letting the children decide what they wanted to do with them.

Woodland Den

First of all the girls went exploring in the forest to find the den. When we found it Laila exclaims, “We can look for deer out of the window!”. The girls love their pets and Baxter the puppy has come along to join in the fun – there are plenty of sticks for him to play with.

Forest Hideaway

Then they decided to make the den a little bit more like home with some tarpaulin, hessian, some bean bag seats and with some help from adults they pegged some camouflage netting to the doorway. Lots better for spotting deer now. Baxter the puppy keeps guard of the territory whilst the girls play inside – the children enjoy having an enclosed space to carry out their play activities.

Den day

Eager to practice her writing and drawing, Laila starts writing letters on a talking clipboard and drawing deer on some wooden writing boards which fit in nicely in their woodland den. She then encourages her younger sister to do some mark making, which allows Paige to develop her fine motor skills. In leading the play, Laila is developing her self-confidence and also looking out for Paige by using her communication skills.

Den Day

Once the talking clipboard has lots of writing on it, Laila can’t wait to show everyone that she knows how to record her own message. This is really intriguing for Paige who then learnt how to play back her sisters message on the clipboard over and over again.

Next the rechargable and recordable mobile phones are out, which allow the children to communicate in an exciting new way.

Den Day

They can call each other using the phones and communicate even when they are on opposite sides of the den. Laila also takes this opportunity to give a phone to Mum & Dad who have been sat close by watching the child-led play unfold. Laila enjoys making important phone calls from her hideaway and Paige feels more confident when there is a familiar voice on the phone, giving her reasons to talk.

Den Day Den Day

After a while Mum mentions that she spotted a swing further in the forest so everyone goes to explore. Laila bravely swings on the rope swing by herself and everyone is impressed. This type of supervised activity is great for risk-taking and developing physically.

Den Day Den Day

Paige is too small but really wants to follow in Laila’s footsteps so Dad helps out. After a tiring morning playing Laila, Paige, Baxter and family decide to head home – there were lots of bluebells growing in the forest so Paige picked herself a souvenir.

Den Day

We would love to see your den creations and hear about what activities children get up to in their dens – share with us on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below. Happy den building!

View our Den Building Pinterest page here:

With thanks to Laila, Paige, Baxter the puppy and Bright Sparks Day Nursery in Mansfield for the use of their outdoor space.