How to build your own outdoor play equipment

An outdoor playground can provide an excellent way for the kids to get some much-needed exercise. A full-fledged outdoor set can run into hundreds and even thousands of pounds, though. This costly fact leads many to consider the advantages of building an outdoor playground themselves. Often, many of the most commonly available outdoor supplies make an excellent do-it-yourself alternative. It merely requires you to be creative. You can cheaply design and build a playground that will be every bit as fun as a shop-bought model.

Lay down a soft surface where the play equipment will go. Because the kids may well take a tumble every so often, it is important that they have a cushioned surface on which to land. Common choices for this are loose sand and mulch; the softer the surface, the more protection the children have.

Check and remove any nails, brackets or other potentially dangerous parts of timber that has been pre-used. Sometimes, these elements can be tough to spot, but obviously their removal is necessary to prevent serious injuries.

Search out unusual and interesting building materials. For example, old railway sleepers make great forts because the beams are so large.

Sand down all timber used to build platforms, bridges, etc. Smoothing the surface down will allow you to apply weatherproofing stain and varnish to preserve the life of the play equipment when it is exposed to the weather. Plus, it will lend an attractive and professional appearance that can rival and even surpass outdoor playground kits available for purchase.

Erect beams that are joined by iron piping at the top; this will serve as a chin-up bar that will encourage upper body exercise and development. Make sure, however, that the bar is within easy reach so the kids are not intimidated by its size. Bury the beams deeply in the ground with a post shovel to avoid toppling.

Place tyres in a honeycomb formation so children can practice dashing through the obstacle. Even if they trip while playing here, their fall will be padded and the chance for injury minimal.

Attach sturdy ropes from higher areas so that kids have the chance to climb and swing. Of course, the actual height will depend on your child and his or her comfort level with being in an exposed elevated position.

Design interesting nooks and turns in the playground pieces, securely connecting corners with large bolts and nuts that don't stick out so far as to cause injury. Having an interesting place to hide is part of the great allure of a playground. A sense of adventure is a central part of any outdoor play experience, so the more unusual you can make the architecture, the better.

Things You'll Need

  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Sandpaper
  • Varnish
  • Sand
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About the Author

Charles Dodd White has written freelance articles for five years. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in "Night Train," "Pequin," "Rain Taxi" and others. He holds a Master of Arts from Western Carolina University in English and a Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University in writing.