Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Play Day

I love natural playgrounds. I am crazy about them. They offer so many befits for kids and the environment. As a designer, I also love that they can blend into the landscape, which is perfect in my postage stamp back yard. Read after the jump to see how I transformed a corner of the yard into a natural playscape on the cheap.

I set out this spring with a goal to make the backyard more toddler friendly and add more fun-without spending a bunch of money. I really didn't want to loads of plastic toys or some monstrous play set anyhow. We have a swing already, and while it is not a swing set, it is fun to sit on together and smell the roses. (Here it is in all of it's half painted glory.) I built the sandbox last year and it is loosely based on the pottery barn sand box and some tutorials I found online. I love that it looks like a castle and that I could build it out of scrap lumber I had in the basement and leftover sunbrella fabric from my stash. Including the sand, I think the whole thing cost me about $40. The "ramp" is a pallet the Hubster brought home from work that just happened to fit. It is sturdy enough for the Personal Assistant and friends to dance on, and we use it as a cover when the sandbox is not in use.

A neighbor recently lost a hemlock and let me have my pick of the logs. I chose these because they were flat on one side and would not roll. I was jazzed that they were hemlock because it is not prone to rot. I tossed a few small ones in the sandbox for seating.

I dug out a section of the hill and used the material for grading in the slide. then I sized the hole to the two large logs and embeded them in the hill. the idea was to make a mini climbing wall for my personal assistant.

I had to over dig the hole, then fill it back in.

This one we grabbed just because it looked neat. The exposed textures from the crotch of the tree were swirly and nice to look at, and the whole piece is naturally smooth. I figured it would be a good table or "overlook", so I buried it in the hill with the flat side up.

Here is the finished climbing log hill. I love it. The plant beds are full of coreopsis and daisies. The grasses are prairie sunset switch grass and is greenish purple most of the summer, turning purple-burgundy in the fall. It is gorgeous and one of my favorite plants. I have planted a lot of seeds along the chain link fence so it should be covered with gourds, peas, flowers and squashes later in the season.


I had been searching Craig's list for a used slide I could convert into a hill slide for a while when I finally found this gem for $15. It doesn't look great now, but it will. In order to get it installed, I needed to dig out a bit at the bottom of the slope, and add some to the top and sides. This helped to anchor it and to make it part of the landscape.

The jarring yellow of the slide was not making me happy, so I got some spray paint and gave it a makeover for $6. I think the green is a lot nicer. I used two small logs for the entry to the slide.

So here it is! Our new natural mini natural playground!

I love the green on the slide. It looks fresh and new. Well, except for the chip out of it but whatever. I filed the sharp edges down before painting it, so it's not really a problem. Eventually I will need to add anchors to the top of the slide like you see on the bottom, but that can wait until fall at least.

I hemed and hawed and generally annoyed the Hubster about mulch vs. grass. I eventually settled on grass seed because it was easier to get home. If it doesn't fill in or I decide I don't like it, I can always mulch over it later. At the same time I was able to justify that I would have been buying it anyhow because we had some bald spots in the lawn that needed to be repaired. So I didn't blink at spending $50 for grass seed and fertilizer. Then I found a half bag of grass seed in the basement. Ugh. Some days are just like that I guess. Oh well. While I don't normally put chemicals on the lawn, the weeds have been over taking areas and it was time to do something drastic. I can only hand pull so much crabgrass. So if you count the lawn repair, the job cost me $111. If not, the total was $61 for a sandbox, hill slide and climbing wall. Not to shabby!Jen

*UPDATE: You should totally check out this great article on natural play for more great ideas. This article about the boy with no toys was fascinating to me as well.


1 comment:

  1. My son and I can vouch for the slide and sandbox. It was great! So much fun!