How to Make a Natural Shelter


A natural shelter in it’s most basic form does exactly what the name suggests. It provides shelter and is therefore a necessary survival tool should you ever need it. At Forest school level it is much more than that. Building a shelter provides many holistic benefits to those involved including team building, enhancing gross motor skills, achieving tasks and community cohesion for all those involved. It is also a great way for learners to get up close and personal with their woodland environment and all the materials that it possess.


    • Find suitable location for your natural shelter. Ideally you are looking for a clearing where there is no shrub layer like nettles to get in your way. A tree with forked branches (a y shape) will make a good basis off which to build your shelter.



      • Collect suitable materials for your natural shelter. You will need one long branch which will act as the main support frame off which you will build off of, depending on how big you want your shelter will depend on how big this branch needs to be. As well as that you will need plenty of sticks and branches of varying lengths which will make up the walls of the shelter. Finally, you will need a collection of leaves (I find old ferns or conifer branches that have fallen work well.) You will use these to weave in and out of, or rest upon the wall branches.

      • Ensure there are no pointy or sharp bits on any of your branches that may be dangerous to any of your learners. These need to be safely removed before the activity continues.

      • Once any sharp branches are removed, the biggest branch is then slotted into the fork in the tree. Make sure that it is firmly in place and that the other end is dug well into the ground to ensure that the branch will not move.

      • You can now start adding to the walls of the den using the different length sticks and branches. One by one you lay a branch onto the support frame and make sure it is firmly in place. The taller branches for the higher end of the shelter and the shorter ones for the bottom end. You continue this process until both sides of the frame are full with branches and the shelter is stable.
      • Now take any leaves that you have collected and weave them in and out of the branches coming down each side. If it is not possible to weave them in and out then rest them on the branches as best as possible. This stage not only provides added protection from the rain but also added insulation through making the walls that much denser.


      The shelter should now be complete and provide adequate shelter from mother nature. A good shelter will not only provide shelter from wind and rain but also warmth from the cold. It also will act as a shaded area in hot conditions. 

      Don’t forget to send us photos of your dens!!


      The Crash