Have you discovered your hidden talent of den building? This classic outdoor activity aims to combine communication skills and the ability to all work together to complete the challenge. This allows children to better understand their environment, team and focus on their building skills.


  • Rope (2m rope x 6 - each group)
  • Tarp (1 or 2 per group)
  • Natural materials (sticks/poles)
  • Water
  • Watering can


Den Building

This is a fun activity that you can do anywhere. The aim is to create a den for you and your group. The group may use any natural materials around them. Ask questions like:

  • Why did you build it there?
  • Will it stand up to wind?
  • Is it waterproof?

Shelter Building

Although this is similar to building a den, this activity requires many additional considerations. The leader starts off by asking the group to imagine that they are lost on the hills and can see a town in the distance but cannot get there by nightfall. You will have to survive the night on the hill, by constructing a shelter.

What will you have to think of when making a shelter?

  • Terrain - Where on the hill should you make a shelter?
  • Strength - Could you use natural structures to strengthen your shelter?
  • Size - Is a spacious shelter going to be cold or warm?
  • Water protection - How are you going to waterproof your shelter?
  • Wind protection - How will you tie or weigh down your shelter?

You could either do this before you venture outside or discuss as you are building it. You may also wish to design the shelter before you build it. Once the groups have decided what design to build and where to build it, it is then that they can gather appropriate supplies (1 or 2 tarps and 6 pieces of ropes). Alternatively you could ask each group questions related to survival and for every question they get right, they get a piece of rope or a tarp.

The Water Test

Once everyone has finished, you gather everyone to the first shelter. Perform a structure test by shaking it and then follow with a wind test to see if the tarp is tied down. If you're happy that the shelter is safe, then ask that group to get into the shelter for the 'water test'.

Begin by using the watering can to pour the water onto the shelter. The water will hopefully not go into the shelter. Then focus on the door and explain about horizontal rain (wind hitting rain making it go sideways), opening the door and getting the doorway wet.

Ask the group to leave, then rate the shelter out of 30 (1-10 for; structure/wind/water). Repeat until you have completed all group shelters and have a winner. Get the groups to discuss, which were the best features of each shelter.

Safety Tips

Be aware of using the correct lifting and carrying techniques. Be aware of slips, trips, and lower lying branches. Also when tying two sticks together, do not to trap your fingers.