Friday the 16th June is save the children den day. Many children in the world live without shelter. They have been displaced by natural disasters and conflicts. Save the children aims to provide them with the basic necessities of life: food, water and shelter. This year I will of just started at a new school when this comes around, so I’m not sure how much I will do this year. To make up for that I am going to spread the word here of the good work Save the Children are doing.
On the 16th June or as close to as can be managed you’re encouraged to raise money and awareness of these issues through building your own shelter, by building a den. This can be done in school or at home. By signing up you receive a pack of ideas to fund raise and also how to educate your class or own children about the challenges faced by children round the world.
For a bit of inspiration I highly recommend den building by Jane Hewitt and Cathy Cross.
This little book has a wealth of ideas and pictures of different dens both inside and outside for inspiration. Some are obvious like the cardboard box den to some more creative ideas.
My second recommendation is Home-Carson Ellis. This beautifully illustrated book is a great topic starter for home around the world. It shows a wide variety of different houses around the world ideal for the message of den day.
It is still quite a way of off den day, but if your setting is anything like mine it takes a while to build materials for any of these theme days. For den building I have a good collection of tarps, old curtains, paracord, pegs and poles to allow the children to build nice simple dens themselves. It’s worth building a supply of cardboard boxes for easy quick builds. I like having the children help attach the para cord between two fences on our playground. Then a tarp under as a ground sheet and one over the top, then pegged at the ages makes a simple large den. The children can do most of the work themselves having done it with me enough times and it fits plenty of children at once avoiding disappointment for the children who can’t fit.
Building dens ticks off many parts of the EYFS curriculum. Just in case you work with staff or senior leadership who don’t see a value to the day I’ve listed some curriculum links. I’ve listed EYFS links, but KS1 and 2 have plenty of links too within PSHE, D&T and geography as well as core subjects.
Personal, social and emotional development
Den building always attracts large numbers of children. Within this are good opportunities for evidencing building relationships. They need to select resources and discuss what is working, so self confidence and awareness comes in. While building dens they have to manage their behaviour and once the den is built I often find they put caps on how many are allowed in at once for safety, which is always good for them to develop their own self control.
Communication and language
Hopefully the children will talk back and forth as they build and take into account others opinions. Often how and why questions will come up allowing them to show deeper understanding of what they are doing. If working in large groups generally plenty of speech will be involved. Then when the den is built further language usually comes out in role play.
Den building allows opportunities for both fine motor skills such as tying knots, scissor control or attaching pegs and gross motor skills moving large equipment. Then as the den is built they need to negotiate the space in and out the den. Plenty of exercise can be involved in den building allowing for discussion of health and self care.
There are plenty of stories that can be linked to den building to develop reading. Then within planning and designing their den their are writing opportunities for what equipment they need and then creating signs, warnings, maps to the den after.
Plenty of basic counting skills can come into den building such as how many children are allowed in the den, but I find den building a better excuse for finding the comparative language of shape, space and measure coming into a real life example. Sizes, position, shape, distances and weight all come into den building naturally.
Understanding the world
The theme of den day is ideal for making those links to other communities and seeing how other peoples lives differ from their own.
Expressive arts and design
Building a den gives the children a way to express something about themselves on a large scale. They can access different tools, mediums and techniques to decide what sort of a den they want.
So within one special day the children can help other children around the world, but they can also cover a lot of ground in their learning. The day can easily be extended into a topic if the children engage well. The dens can easily be extended to homes and buildings. Then yo have many stories that can be brought in. The most obvious being the three little pigs, but plenty of other choices.
Underneath my den ready for Alice when she’s a bit older. Currently she is becoming interested in crawling under things. Under the table, under the armchair, under blankets, so not long until we can start on some den building.
A quick and easy den. An umbrella and scarfs. Easy to pack away too.