My son and his friend head out for an adventure. They are off to build a DEN in the woods next to the waterfall where the wild things are.
Den making is part of the magic that occurs when children and nature mix. That natural magic is part of childhood. The lack of time spent outdoors is having an effect on children’s health and well-being. What better way to help reconnect our children with the natural world than building and constructing dens – providing ways to express their creativity, curiosity and wonder.
“ Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ― Dr. Seuss
The child has direct contact with the earth, the trees and flora. The child can collect, construct and decorate; this interactive play with nature has rules made only by the child, their imagination is unhindered by expectations.
Den building is part of our Nature Art Program. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Encourages children to get outside
- Actively engages children with nature
- Children learn to respect nature
- Helps children fall in love with the natural world
- Expands their creativity and imagination
The longer a child plays, the deeper and more meaningful the play becomes. Building dens fosters a deep connection to and love of the natural world.
Remember your childhood? Did you build a den in the woods or your backyard?
“It’s that sense of ownership that’s important – ownership of nature. How many children get that now? For this generation, nature is more of an abstraction than a physical reality. Kids today can tell you about the Amazon rainforest, but not about the last time they went into a wood alone. Nature is something to watch from a distance, something to consume. Something very profound has happened in children’s relationship to nature.” – Richard Louv (“Let them climb trees” Gaurdian. 2010. John Henley)
“It is through close and intimate contact with a particular patch of ground that we learn to respond to the earth. We need to recognize the humble places where this alchemy occurs. Everybody has a ditch, or ought to. For only the ditches – and the fields, the woods , the ravines – can teach us to care enough.” – Stephen R. Kellert
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.” ― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Time spent in the natural world has a significant impact on more than physical well-being.
“Kids can grow up fine without nature,” says Louv, “but with it, there are marked improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning ability, creativity and mental, psychological and spiritual health. When you consider that in some US schools, up to 30% of boys are now on Ritalin … I’ve lost count of the number of teachers and youth leaders who have told me how different kids become when you get them out into nature. Trouble-makers become leaders. Nature is their Ritalin.” (Reference: The Guardian – 2010 by Jon Henley)
There may not be many wild places left but we can create a small piece of wild in relatively small places. We can provide opportunities for all children to build their very own den in the backyard, the school grounds, park or the woods. Here is a FREE booklet I produced on HOW TO BUILD A DEN & FAIRY HOME to help raise awareness of the importance of Nature and Creativity in a Child’s life.
Whether you are a parent, educator, organization or individual, I promise you that you’ll have oodles of fun sharing this beautiful activity with the children in your lives.
And by the way, Den Building isn’t just for kids.
Building a den is a powerful way of rekindling the child within- igniting our imagination and rediscovering our deep rooted connection we all have with the natural world.
“ To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” – Simone Weil
When I was a child, my favourite place to hang out was high up in the Silver Birch in the back garden. Alone with my thoughts and dreams, my imagination soared. I also loved roaming wild and free on my bike or building dens in the woods with my friends and brothers, these were happy, sacred moments in my childhood. It was those magical experiences in nature that helped shape my life. And I still do all of these nature based activities today, which I believe keep me happy and healthy and creatively inspired.
Let us open our hearts to those things that gave us joy as a child and remember the preciousness of fantasy and imagination.
I invite you to help raise awareness of the importance of wild nature play – download your FREE copy of DEN BUILDING here.
May all children experience the magic of the natural world, with deep love and gratitude, peace Marghanita x
You can learn more about our NATURE ART PROGRAM here.
References: Richard Louv “(Let them climb trees” Gaurdian. 2010. John Henley)
Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary …
By Peter H. Kahn, Stephen R. Kellert
Richard Louv’s books: – Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principal