Here are 18 ways to build or add on to your kids’ at-home playground in a way that will entice them to move from the couch in front of the TV to the great outdoors where they can exercise and socialize.
1. Add the unexpected, like rock walls, rope ladders and tunnels.
2. Go a little high-tech. Trick out a play set with everything from an intercom to solar panels to a telescopes.
3. Give them shelter. A structure with a roof or canvas awning allows kids to play outside even during a light rainfall. Stock the shelter with chalkboards and games so there’s plenty to do. Add solar-powered or low-voltage lighting, and the play house will be usable in the evenings, too.
4. Cover up. Likewise, placing an awning or a shade sail over the swing set and jungle gym will protect your children from sunburn. Even a big umbrella offers kids a place to cool off and get out of the sun for a while.
5. Revise the slide. Look for sliding boards with waves, scoops and spirals for an updated take on the original.
6. Consider the age of the children who will use your homemade playground. Toddlers love slides, while older kids like more challenging equipment, like monkey bars. Avoid equipment with openings that are just big enough for your child to squeeze through but might be difficult to escape, or with moving parts that could catch a child’s little fingers.
7. Mix it up. Including a variety of equipment, from slides to see-saws to ladders to open spaces for ball games, will keep kids engaged as they get older.
8. Don’t skimp on cost. The cheapest playground equipment probably won’t be the most durable or the safest. Play sets made from lightweight materials, smaller bolts and cheap accessories won’t endure constant use or the added weight your kids naturally put on as they get older.
9. Consider chemical-free. Redwood, for example, naturally resists insects and rot.
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