Recently I blogged about my experience of creating suitable shelters when on beach visits with a nursery. I realised as I was gathering photos together that I had examples of other temporary shelters which practitioners use with children, many of which are suitable for thirty children and a class teacher.

Tarp shelter 2

Firstly, I have to confess I’m not a big fan of temporary shelters which take time to put up and dismantle. It is fine if it part of a class challenge or activity to develop team building skills. They are great for special events such as fairs or sports days. However there is no need to spend lots of money on a shelter of any sort and think that it is a prerequisite to a learning activity taking place outside.

Tarp shelter

For group work, often a tarp does the job nicely. It can be held up like a big umbrella for everyone to stand under. Or, as the above photo shows, on a wet day it can be used for a group huddle with a few portable seats to sit on.

Tarp tent

Tarp can also be used with a piece of washing line to create quick shelters. Young children can easily learn how to do this. Below is a posh version with a proper camping tarp and paddles used for poles. Useful for creating shade on a hot day.


Large tents can work well, especially in poor weather if the whole class or group can fit inside the zipped up space. Be aware that many tents are quite dark places. So a dark tent in a country like Scotland with overcast skies on many days doesn’t necessarily make for a bright working environment.


 It is also possible to buy tipis which are quick to put up and take down such as this Tentipi below. This is not a cheap solution but is becoming popular with some outdoor professionals and practitioners.

San's tipi

The advantage of these tipis is that you can have an open fire inside as it has the smoke hole opening at the top.

Tipi inside

Geodesic domes are beautiful structures. They take more time to put up and take down but as part of a mathematical technology project are very interesting to get older children to create. At present, these temporary structures are homemade affairs but instructions can be found here and here.

Geodesic dome

The covering used for this frame is a large parachute. It is possible to buy canvas and other materials to cover the dome, if it is to be used as a temporary shelter.

Geo dome inside

As usual with everything to do with learning, teaching and working outside, there is no perfect solution or answer. My usual advice is to spend as little as possible and experiment until you know what would work best for you and your children in your unique situation. What I do like about any temporary shelter is that you can experiment with what works best where – the shelters can be moved around and the best location found.

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