Great fun for your family!
DIY Backyard Play Areas
by Pam Hutzler
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Out of Control Screen Time
"Screen time" refers to activities that are done in front of a screen. This can include time in front of a television, video game, computer, or even a smartphone or tablet. It's no secret that technology has captured the attention (and some would say... the minds) of a whole generation of kids. In fact, according to KidsHealth.org, kids under 6 years of age have on average two hours of screen time per day and kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend nearly four hours per day in front of a screen. So what is a concerned parent to do? Well, get them outside and away from the screens, of course! One great way to do this is offer them a backyard play area that they won't be able to resist. Maybe you're thinking, "Sure, easy for you to say! But, we live on a limited budget." No problem! Follow these DIY backyard play area tips to give your kids backyard fun without busting your budget.
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Define Your Goals
It's never a good idea to start a project without having clearly defined goals and a plan to achieve those goals. Therefore, before you do anything, you need to consider what you really want from a backyard play area. Maybe you just want something simple like a sandbox or a few swings. Or maybe you want an elaborate play structure that screams fun and includes plenty of opportunities to slide, swing, run, jump, and climb! Keep in mind the age of your children, their activity level, available space, and your budget. Then go from there.
Another important thing to consider is the number of children that are likely to be playing in your backyard play area at a time. Maybe you just want a quiet, secluded area that just your family will enjoy. Or possibly you look forward to hearing the shouts and giggles of all the neighborhood kids while they play together in your backyard. Keep this in mind as you plan your play area.
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Search for Good Design Ideas
Now that you have an idea of what you want in a backyard play area. It's time to start looking for design ideas. A good place to start is your local park. See if you can glean any smart, budget-friendly ideas while the kids play to their hearts' content.
Next, get on the internet. The internet literally offers practically endless ideas. One good place to begin your internet search is the DIYNetwork.com. But don't stop there! Just type "backyard play areas" into your favorite search engine and watch while what seems like infinite possibilities pop up on your screen.
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Bumps and bruises are a common part of childhood, but there are things that can be done that will keep bumps and bruises to a minimum. As you put together your play area, watch for areas of concern. Make sure you have a soft landing pad for kids that have an affinity for "flight." Also, sharp edges are always a danger, but they're especially dangerous to a child that's running full speed ahead but looking behind. Keep this in mind when you're putting your play area together.
Another consideration is the local wildlife. Make sure neighborhood cats can't use your brand new sandbox as their litter box of choice. A simple cover will go a long way in stopping Fluffy from leaving a little surprise. Also, recent news headlines have included terrifying stories of young kids being attacked by a neighbor's dog while outside. If this is a concern in your neighborhood, please be sure to monitor children at all times while they play outside. In fact, it's always a good idea to keep a close eye on the kids while they play outside. A little playtime with your kids will be good for you as well. You'll get free exercise with great company! What's better than that?
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Let the Search for Materials Begin
You've got a great plan and you're ready to begin. The good news is that you have plenty of options when it comes to finding low-cost materials for your project. Word of mouth is probably one of the best places to start. Let your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers know that you are looking for materials. You just may be surprised at what you're offered. When we were searching for materials for our backyard play area, a neighbor offered us their structure for free as long as we moved it ourselves. Of course, we jumped at the chance. It was a great starting point for our backyard play area that our kids enjoyed for years.
Don't forget the many options online. Check out Craigslist, Freecycle, and local Facebook user groups. There's really no need to play full retail price for your material if you're willing to be a little patient.
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Here's your opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. Add a feature or two that's unique to your backyard play area. One great place to start your creative search is Pinterest. You'll flip at the creative ideas offered at this site! How about a DIY sandbox with a cover that converts to two seats? Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? Found it on Pinterest. Or how about a DIY hobbit hole house to intrigue imaginations? Can you guess where I found that idea? Yep, you got it... Pinterest! This creativity doesn't have to be expensive. Just look for ideas that meet your DIY skills and budget and get creative!
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Organize a Building Party
You know the old saying, "Many hands make light work." It's a favorite of mine. In fact, I use it often when I want help with household chores. But, this can also apply to your backyard play area. Why not organize a building party complete with some grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for the participants? You'll quickly get your play area put together, and you'll have a blast at the same time. Just don't forget to reciprocate when your friends ask for help.
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Turn Your Kids Loose in Their New Play Area!
So you had a great plan. You found some amazing ideas that were both safe and creative. You found the materials for next to nothing because you were willing to do your homework and practice a little patience. And you had this great party that combined great friends, fabulous food, and a little DIY fun. All of which left your family with an awesome backyard play area that your kids are dying to christen. Well, what are you waiting for? Let them loose and let the screen-free fun begin!
Take the Next Step:
- It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
- Visit the TDS library for ideas on outdoor family fun.
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