Cheap outdoor play area ideas your kids are sure to love

Inexpensive Backyard Play Areas

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Ideas for Inexpensive Backyard Play Area Needed

Does anyone know where I can find plans or ideas for simple, inexpensive backyard play areas? We've promised our sons that we will build a play area in our backyard, but I am having trouble finding plans for this. Although we could design our own, we would rather have ideas from someone who has been there before! Thanks!

Two Places to Start

Try the library for ideas in books and possibly on videos. Usually if the library doesn't have anything like that, they can get something from other libraries through their interlibrary loan system. And try home improvement stores, like Home Depot and Lowe's.

Online Plans and Materials for Backyard Play Area

Try for a great resource for all do-it-yourself projects and they have a great section on kid projects. A great way to get free materials for your project is to join your local Freecycle page at People post things there that they want to give away. Once you post a few things to give away, you are able to post your wants on there as well. Post that you want scrap lumber and you will undoubtedly receive a lot of emails offering you all kinds of stuff if you come haul it away.

Patience and Creativity Pay Off in Big Way

I watched our local for a playset. I have seen swing sets selling from $20 for a metal one to $600 for a high-end wood model. After a month watching, waiting and missing out on some offered, I was able to buy a very sturdy playset from a family that had outgrown it. $100 got me a dismantled wooden set that had a tower with a 6' x 6' deck, fire pole and three swing bay. I spent another $35 on hardware to reassemble the set.

We wanted a slide also. We saw some for sale and some offered free but were never the first ones there. I finally found one when I was taking my trash to the county wide drop-off area and saw a dismantled swing set being brought in as trash. The set had fallen into disrepair, but the slide was still in good shape. We could have gotten a rope ladder and other parts too if I had more time that day to dismantle what was being taken off the truck. I did notice that the caretaker at the dump was not having the man throw the set in the trash, he was having him stack it behind the dumpsters. I'm sure someone else came and salvaged the rest at some point.

You must look in unconventional places and be patient. You may even want to ask co-workers and friends if they know anyone who has older kids who may have outgrown their set and be looking to get rid of it to free up space in the backyard. It took several months but I was able to get a huge, sturdy set for a total of $135. And I can still have room to add on if I come across a rope ladder or other parts.

See: Keeping Mosquitoes Off Your Children Outdoors

Before You Build a Backyard Play Area

Before building one, ask around. Often, parents with older children will give one away if you remove. You could run an ad in the paper offering to buy one. Lastly, before you build, see what your children play with at the big public playgrounds and see if you can incorporate this in your structure.

Check Out This Book

There is a book available through the library called Backyard Play Areas You Can Make. It has some amazing and simple designs, and if you combine two or three, you can build a great inexpensive backyard paly area.

Don't Miss This Free Site

We haven't gotten a chance to start building in our backyard, but I thought the page at will be great for when we do. They seem pretty clear and the site is free. It does recommend pressure treated lumber, but I recommend against it as the chemicals in the wood are not healthy for your children. Happy Building!
Ve in Mass.

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Resources for the Handy and the Not-So-Handy Alike

My dad's hobby is carpentry, and he has been able to find many free, quality plans on the Web that are posted by tool suppliers. There are also a lot of webrings where both professional and amateur carpenters post plans, but you need to be careful. The dimensions aren't always correct and sometimes the instructions are unclear. Here are some promising sites I found by searching for "woodworking."

I found the site that has reviews of some useful books. I've actually seen some of these books at the library, so you don't need to buy anything. Just request them at your local branch. I would also try for similar book ideas and reviews.

One last idea, if you're not handy, is to price a small shed. When you add up the cost of pressure treated wood, quality bolts, tools, time, etc., a shed might actually be more economical. There are many designs available, and it's a current trend for people to add a fancy shed in their backyard as a guest house or office. Some can be wired with electricity and come with porches, windows, and window boxes.

Offset in a corner of your property with a small barrier/lattice/fence to give it a sense of secrecy from the "adult world." Even the simplest shed can give your kids a place to hang out, dream, play and roam. With some paint, some dumpster-dive furniture and a bit of imagination, they can make it their very own. Kids don't need anything fancy. They just need a place they can go and pretend they didn't hear their parents calling them to take out the trash.

Reviewed July 2017

Take the Next Step:

  • How about an outdoor area for the adults, too? Use these tips to make an outdoor room on a budget.
  • Don't allow debt to prevent you from providing for your family the way you would like. Find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle. Start today so you can give your family a better tomorrow.
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