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A den for all seasons. Indoors and out!

Children love dens - crawling into small spaces, being hidden away, adding their own treasures, pretending to be somewhere else - is all so appealing! One nursery setting explain how they are using a wooden pod, usually found outdoors, to bring the excitement of a den inside.

Posted on Wednesday 05th April 2017

outdoor den pod

This pod has been very valuable to our children’s learning as well as being aesthetically pleasing within our classroom environment. Currently, enhanced with a grass style rug, some green cargo material and hessian, we are using the pod within our jungle-themed small world area.

As we have moved towards a more neutral and natural style of furniture in our EYFS classrooms, the natural wood fits in easily with this look whilst also creating a wow factor for both children and parents. Dressed up with fabric or fairy lights it can literally be turned into anything from a quiet book nook to a mini role-play area.

Previously, we have used the pod as an easy-to-create reading nook, simply by adding cushions, blankets, books and soft toys. The children love this quiet space to sit with their friends and look at books or for role-play, reading stories to the little dollies and teddies we put inside.

The frame itself can easily be covered with a large piece of fabric to turn it into a simple dark den. This works well for sensory based learning. Our nursery children have loved sitting inside the pod with different coloured torches and mirrors to explore themes such as ‘Light and Dark’ and ‘Space’. With some black material and a few glow in the dark stars it can be instantly transformed into a space station. Once inside, the pod is relatively quiet, which has proven to be a great success when using the recordable microphones. Children love to record their own voices then rewind and listen back.

Adding a CD player and a few music or story CDs has also been a valuable use of this space. Individual headphones, which most schools have, can be challenging for children to share. Class teachers end up using a 5 minute timer to encourage turn taking of headphones but this often isn’t conducive to learning, as valuable listening and attention time is interrupted. Our pod, however, is a really great quiet space that allows four or five children to listen to a 10 minute story CD all at once without interruption.

Writing challenges don’t need to take place at a table and when working with 3-4 year olds who don’t always want to sit for too long, it can be valuable to create other writing zones. We have included clipboards in our pod to allow children to access various writing challenges. Add a few clipboards, pens and binoculars and suddenly children can be in a jungle look-out hut being challenged to write the names of jungle animals they can see. Or, in order to inspire boisterous boys to stop and pick up a pen, it might be turned into Batman’s Batcave.

Most recently, we turned the pod into a witch’s cave having shared together the story ‘What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen’ during direct teaching time. We put two plastic Halloween style cauldrons inside as well as wooden spoons and plastic insects. This enhancement really helped to push on children’s text related vocabulary as they role-played making witch’s stew. Children were overheard independently using the repeated language of the text. Creating a small dark witch’s cave without the pod would have been a real challenge as our classroom is very open. We would have had to move a lot of furniture around to create a den that probably still wouldn’t have proven to be so quiet and secluded.

It is generally acknowledged that classrooms have a tendency to look a little feminine which some would say puts young boys off certain types of play or certain areas of play. The rustic style of the pod really pushes away from any feminine aspect and provides a boy friendly area within our room. Earlier in the academic year, we read a selection of the ‘Percy The Park Keeper’ books, which our boys loved. With a few simple park themed story props, our little pod turned into Percy’s hut and really engaged our boys in their role-playing, which we often find our staple ‘home corner’ is unable to do.

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With thanks to Emma Harvey from Broughton Jewish Cassel Fox Primary School for writing this blog post.