Many of us have children and a garden for them to play. Children can make up any story around a piece of rubber or a plant they find in the middle of the garden, anything from a giant chewing gum to a green cloud. However, it is even better to give room for more creativity and build a playground, in which they can play safely and imagine even more fantastic environments. What’s even better, you can ask them what they want and have them build it with you! They will be very proud afterwards and will want to show it to their friends, so you can expect big princess-rescued-from-dragon-tower stories to happen at your doorstep.
1. Finding the right spot
Always think in terms of space. If it’s your garden, take into consideration what other uses you usually give to it. Do you need space for your car, gardening equipment or to set a table and chairs for lunch in the summer? Make sure the area you have chosen is safe (sturdy walls, resistant trees), especially if you are planning to use those elements to hold ropes or other items.
2. Taking care of the floor and wall(s)
Clean the area properly. Remove any waste or dangerous material that is present (sticks, pieces of glass, screws…).
If you’re going to resurface the floor (sand box or soft playground flooring), discard the grass or tiles and dig to the desired depth (take into account that the final height of the sandbox should be a little higher than the level of the rest of the floor, while the final height of the floor should coincide with the level of the rest of the floor).
If you are going to “grow” a hill, just remove the grass or tiles.
If you are going to use any walls (for climbing stones for instance), polish well and check that they can be perforated.
Also, make sure you enclose the area so that nocturn animals cannot access (you might find a smelly surprise in the morning, and you don't want your kid to get dirty with it).
3. Building a swing
There are several materials that can be used for the seat of the swing itself: old wheels, snowboards or a simple chunk of wood will do the job. Grab some strong, thick rope as well. First of all, you should identify the place where the swing will be hanging from. Either the branch of a strong tree or a rafter across the garden, it needs to be reliable. Then, decide how the rope is going to be anchored: you can tie it directly to the branch/rafter, you can have several screws attaching it to the top face of it or you can just encircle the branch/rafter and make a string know. When you have the ropes fixed and hanging from the top, make two holes in the seat-to-be of the swing, at the same distance as the two ropes. Pass them through the corresponding holes and tie them together (or make two separate knots). Ensure that the swing is stable by trying yourself (you will swing sometimes with your children so it should even stand the weight of both together).
4. Accommodating a sandbox
You will need long wood logs or similar (plastic or metal work fine) to create the perimeter. Dig them in the space you had previously prepared, making sure they are properly sitting below the surrounding terrain. If possible, fix them with cement so that they don’t fall when the children play. Get beach sand or fine soil (usually at the gardening DIY shops they have it) and fill the rest of the space with it. Ask the children to decorate the wood/plastic/metal with drawings of their own. If it is made out of metal, you can buy magnets and put them all around – if the magnets are letters, it’s a great way for them to learn how to write as well!
5. Installing a climbing wall
This is higher in the DIY playground difficulty scale. It also depends on what type of climbing holds you buy – if you’re screwing them to a house wall it’s going to be very different to screwing them to the garden wooden hut. Just make sure you follow the instructions on how (and where) to install them. Because this is going to be for your kids, plan the distance between each hold accordingly. Place two at first and see how difficult it is for him (them) to move the foot between them. You should start a route that makes it comfortable for them first. But then, don’t forget they learn and they grow, so make sure you make a harder route in parallel by spacing them more.
Perhaps a good tip is to get yourself a book on how to do this step by step and also depending on the wall characteristics and typ of climbing holds. Check out the one below:
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6. Growing a hill
“Growing” a hill is dead easy. Just start piling up soil that you don’t want (for example when you plant new trees and you have to put back new soil instead of the old one you digged out), and one day you will have a nice little hill for your kids to roll down. Alternatively, buy some cheap soil at the gardening DIY shop. Probably a good idea is to grow some grass on it, so that they don’t dirt their clothes every single time.
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(price as of May 23, 2016)