For families with children, there aren’t many DIY projects that can beat a backyard playground in terms of value and fun. When planned and built properly, they can provide endless hours of outdoor fun, while staying within easy reach of the comforts of your home.
Convenient fun isn’t the only benefit of a backyard playground though—experts agree that outdoor playtime can help kids stay active and promote physical development and well being. There’s also plenty of evidence that proves that playground activities help kids learn to be independent as well as capable of working with others (particularly when several children play together).
We know that providing safe, healthy fun for kids is high on every parent’s list of priorities, so we’ve created a guide that will teach you how to design and build your own backyard playground. If you have kids (or are a child at heart), get your DIY spirit ready and read on!
Before making any attempt to design a backyard playground, it’s important to decide on exactly where it will be built. The size of the space is dependent on the property itself, but there are a number of other factors that must be considered as well. The chosen location should be:
- A safe distance from roads or driveways
- Within easy view of the home (from inside through windows, as well)
- Free of dangers like electrical wiring, low hanging trees or hard surfaces
- On level ground
If your backyard features a spot that meets these requirements, you’ll want to measure it to make sure you know how much space you have to work with. Different playground features require different amounts of space, so finding a combination that will fit will be determined by the size of the available space.
When approaching the task of deciding which features to include in your backyard playground, consider these general size requirements:
- An average three-swing set has a footprint of 12 ft x 10.5 ft and requires a buffer zone of approximately 6 ft in all directions for safety
- A sandbox can be anywhere from 4 ft x 4 ft (perfect for one, small child) and up to 8 ft x 8 ft (for group play)
- Slide length will vary based on the height of the deck you construct. As with swings, a 6-ft buffer zone is required. To determine the footprint, follow this formula: Slide length is double the height of the deck. Reach (footprint) is equal to 0.866 X slide length.
It is always better to err on the side of safety when choosing an appropriate combination of features. If an element barely fits, it’s better to leave it out to avoid play accidents. Also, it’s a good idea to take the age of the children into account when choosing which elements to include. Sandboxes are great for younger children while swings, climbing walls and high slides will see continued use as they grow older.
Using the Correct Materials
The next crucial aspect of planning and building a backyard playground is to choose materials that are suitable for the outdoors and exposure to the elements. In general, remember that all metal parts should be galvanized or painted so they will not rust or wear out prematurely. Wooden parts should be made of lumber rated for outdoor use. Cedar, redwood and pine make excellent choices for playgrounds. If choosing pressure treated lumber, be sure it is rated for residential use and wasn’t treated with CCA.
It is also very important to choose an appropriate kind of ground cover to provide protection from injury in the event of a fall. One common and popular choice is rubber mulch. It is soft and durable and provides a decent weed barrier to keep the playground neat and usable. It will, however, require maintenance such as raking and refilling over time. Another popular alternative is rubber tiles or poured rubber. This option, while more expensive, will last longer and require far less maintenance. Be sure to choose whichever option works best for the space so that the playground will remain safe for years of fun.
Solid, Safe Design
Once the elements and materials for your playground have been chosen, it’s time to turn to creating a build plan. The keyword for this part of the process is “solid.” Every part of the playground equipment must be designed with this in mind. That will help to make sure that the equipment stands the test of time and won’t pose a safety hazard to the kids that use it. For inspiration, check out this list of free DIY swing set designs. Remember that it is possible to mix and match design elements from any of them, so don’t feel limited to these preexisting plans.
The best part of building a DIY backyard playground comes when it’s finished! All the hard work will pay off when your yard is filled with the sounds of happy kids playing to their hearts’ content. And we’re sure that those who are ambitious enough to “go big” with their backyard playground will soon become the hero of their neighborhood. If you’re ready to tackle this DIY crowd-pleaser, visit any of our locations. Our knowledgeable staff will help you with every phase of your project. From planning to execution, we’ve got the materials and know-how you need!