The list of ideas for DIY playground equipment is almost limitless, so base your choices on cost, the size and layout of your backyard, whether you will fill the space or only use a small portion of what is available and crucially, what the children want. Getting their input early and showing them a few designs will spark their interest, involve them in the process and allow them to take part in the decisions. Getting them to "buy in" early means they are more likely to play on the equipment, which is the overall goal of a DIY project for young people.
Things You'll Need
- Tractor tire
- Strong rope
- Warm, soapy water
- Measuring scale
- Tape measure
- Hand drill
- Mini digger
- Embankment slide
- Strong wood
- Electrical sander
- Breathing mask
- Wood protectant
- Wood glue
- Wood screws
- Outdoor playground paint
- Medium paint brush
Create a traditional tire swing using an old, unbroken tractor tire and a long length of strong rope. Clean the tire with warm, soapy water and a sponge. Weigh the tire when clean and free of dirt using a measuring scale. The tire must weigh no more than 350 pounds to comply with ASTM safety standards, according to Swing N' Slide. Measure the distance between where you want the top of the tire to hang and an overhead support structure, such as a sturdy, overhanging branch. Cut two lengths of rope at least double that distance, with some slack for knots. Loop the ropes over the branch so they are equal in length. Drill four opposing holes in both flat sides of the tire using a hand drill. Thread the four rope ends through and tie into secure, double knots.
Dig a sand pit and pool if you have space using a mini digger. Lay large pieces of waterproof tarpaulin in each. Leave a foot or so of "lip." Weight the lip down with soil and gravel. Re-lay the lawn if necessary. Add clean, soft sand to one pit. Add clean, fresh water to the other. A high-quality child's play area needs to allow at least 75 square feet per child, so factor this into your choice of location for larger equipment and overall space allocation for activity-based play, such as sand pits.
Build a simple but effective slide out of smooth, safe tubing. If you have an embankment in your yard or a grassy slope, consider purchasing a specially-designed flat or tubular embankment slide which has the advantage of not requiring a large amount of supporting structure, such as a wooden housing. The support comes from the slope itself, making it a very cost effective solution. Choose between stainless steel, high-density polyethylene or glass-reinforced plastic. You can install these yourself or ask for professional assistance.
Combine a standard swing with a wooden climbing frame. Design the climbing frame using pen and paper or a computer design program. Purchase enough wood to create the design or collect wood from your home if you have a supply. Make sure each piece is sturdy and free of woodworm. Measure out the lengths of wood. Saw the wood into the required lengths. Plane and sand the wood surfaces to make them safe for children. Wear a breathing mask while you spray or paint on wood protectant. Fix the structure together using wood glue, nails and wood screws and a mallet. Add optional extras such as an elastic rope climb, hiding tunnel or vertical climbing wall for older children.
Design and paint your own "toys" on stretches of flat floor using specialist paint and a medium-sized hardwearing paint brush. Include a colorful hopscotch grid, large spots, lines and concentric circles for ball games such as netball and a house, island or shop floor plan to spark young imaginations. Use environmentally friendly paint that is designed for external use and keep the tins in the garage for when the lines start wearing out. Hopscotch is made with thermoplastic paint to an optimal design of 0.6 meters by 2.1 meters.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep youngsters away from heavy machinery such as diggers, which can cause physical injury.
- Protect your eyes from harmful chemicals such as paints and protectant sprays. Work in ventilated spaces, outdoors if possible.
- Lay safety mulch, rubberized mulch or artificial grass to make the surfaces around the play equipment less dangerous. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, playgrounds need at least 12-inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or rubber mats.
- Do not build tire swings for kids under 5. Heavy, moving tires and ropes can knock small children down and trap their fingers.
- Photo Credit playing on the swing image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com