My Personal Assistant loves all things construction. (It might have something to do with the number of site visits I take him on, but every parent drags their kid to work at some point right?) Diggers, dump trucks, skid steers, flat beds, transporters, front end loaders, steam rollers, tractors, cranes...you name it, he loves it. Oatmeal is not oatmeal any more, it is "construction zone oatmeal". Nothing is picked up with our hands, only with our "crane hands". We even have a scripted conversation about diggers that we have every time we get in the car. The script must not vary, this is not improv. This is serious.
Him: "Can we see some diggers today?"
Me: "Perhaps, if we keep our eyes open."
I got the idea that perhaps he needed a construction zone of his own.
The build was simple. I just lined the area next to the sandbox (where we killed the grass-oops) with weed block, trenched in some bricks and stones we had laying around, and filled the area with 4 bags of gravel in various sizes. The total cost was under $15, the stone was about $3.20 per bag, and everything else I scrounged from around the yard. (The weed block is not necessary unless you need to kill existing grass or, like us, have a plague of spiky weeds that randomly show up. I used it because it was on hand. Otherwise, you could use newspaper or cardboard, or skip it all together.)
Here's a close up. Some of the rocks are "urban rocks", aka chunks of concrete that turn up inexplicably in the yard from time to time. They make great "hills" in the construction zone.
I feel I should say here, as a professional, that this in no way conforms to ATSM safety standards for playground design. However, in a private back yard, well away from any fall zones, I personally think it is fine, and totally fun. You will obviously need to supervise play in this area, but if you hang back and let them explore, you will get to see real magic happen
I moved one of the stump seats from the sand box out to the construction zone and tossed in a bunch of cut up branches and some bark.
It has been a hit. He chooses which trucks to take out each day, and he plays in it FOR HOURS while I putter around the yard. We are both loving it.
Here he is with a building we constructed with the bark and sticks. He called it the "steamworks" and all of the trucks had a turn being towed in for repairs.
Ah, the glory of imaginative, open ended play outside! Really, is there anything better?