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Kids will love creating a hammock den

Once little ones grow out of the baby phase, arguably the hardest job you will have is keeping them amused.

Toddlers and young children are inherently curious and creative, both of which are great qualities, but it means they can be a challenge to manage.

Little hands often end up rifling through things that they shouldn't and the cries of 'mummy, I'm bored' may become more frequent as a child's curiosity blossoms.

Academic warns against increased 'screen time'

It is important that you let children explore their environment, and education expert Dr Teresa Belton has hinted that parents should avoid the temptation to constantly entertain their little ones.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Dr Belton suggested that children are increasingly spending time in front of the TV, on the computer or the phone, and hinted that this is not healthy.

"Children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them," she said.

That is not to say you can't direct your child's play, and sometimes just the smallest amount of input has the greatest effect.

It could just be a question of recycling old toys. You can bring out their favourite games they haven't played with in a while - you may well find they have a renewed interest in them.

Building a den

Helping your child to build a den or hammock is a great, easy way to get them involved in imaginary play.

Despite this, it seems that fewer of us are being encouraged to help our children create spaces they can explore.

In a recent article published in the Guardian, journalist Josie Barnard cited a study by environmental psychologist Roger Hart that she suggests proves dens are indeed a dying art.

Professor Hart conducted research into den building in Vermont in the 1970s. During the course of his investigations, he found that 86 children aged between three to 12 years in a town in the New England region had made at least one den.

The follow-up to this study revealed that today hardly any children from that same area have dens.

Research shows dens are good for imagination and expression

In 2012, the National Trust compiled a list entitled '50 thing to do before you're 11¾'. Den-making was among those activities listed.

You may well remember creating dens when you were little. It could well have been a place you enjoyed playing in, or perhaps it provided somewhere you could be quiet and enjoy some downtime.

Whether it was a secret hideaway or a place to play with friends and family, it no doubt provided you with hours of entertainment, not to mention helping you develop both mentally and physically.

Psychologist David Sobel hinted at the importance of dens in a child's development when he said: "A den is the child's chance to create a home away from home that is secret and becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born."

So easy to make

The great thing about dens or hammocks is that they are so easy to make. If you have a sturdy dining or kitchen table, then why not use it to create a comfortable spot for your toddler to play in?

All you have to do is wrap a sheet around the length of the table and knot it at the top, ensuring there is a loop of material hanging at the bottom.

Be sure that it is tightly knotted and very secure and make certain that the hammock lies close to the floor so little ones won't hurt themselves if they fall out.

Then you can sit back and watch as your little one creates their own environment. What they choose to do with the den is entirely up to them. They may want to fill it with their toys or make a home for their dollies, or possibly even a garage for their cars.

If they have cuddly toys, adding them in might help to make it a cosier space. Pillow Pets are ideal, as they provide the comfort of a pillow while offering the entertainment of a toy. 

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