4 Jul
10 of our Easiest & Cheapest Designs
Posted by Joanna Francis

This year, Playground Ideas turns ten, and we have hit the huge milestone of impacting one million children! To celebrate we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks some of our favourite designs and resources to help you create your own dream DIY playground, and will be encouraging you to donate $10 (or more!) to Playground Ideas so that we can continue to create and share free resources that anyone anywhere in the world can access.

To kick off our celebrations, we want to share with you 10 of our easiest and cheapest designs, all of them virtually indestructible. If you’re thinking about creating your own DIY playground using locally found and recycled materials, here’s the place to start! You can use these elements individually of course, but these 10 designs all go well together to create the ideal first playground for a novice builder. Each of these elements can be found with detailed step-by-step instructions on our website. Just create a free account and off you go!

1. Brick shops. Over the yen years of our existence, shops have been one of our most commonly built elements in playgrounds and are such a great way to get kids involved in imaginative play. In the past we built them out of timber but have found that wood sitting in the ground in many of the places we worked just wasn’t strong enough. So this super simple design takes the same idea and makes it virtually indestructible and gives you a great surface to paint shop fronts on or create chalkboards for kids to develop their own designs. There’s no reason you couldn’t create a steel or timber rooftop too. Or even a whole shop or cubby in the back. These work great in an environment where there’s a sandpit, leaves and sticks, loose parts or clay so that the kids can make their own money and goods to use with the shops.

2. Motorbikes. Our motorbikes are probably our most built element around the world. The idea originated out of a chair design which looked like such an awesome motorbike that we couldn’t help ourselves. This design really fits the bill in terms of being cheap, easy and indestructible. In most places you can find a few tires, a stick for a handlebar and then all you need are some bolts and you’re done. You can get as creative and crazy as you like with the painting! Here’s a couple of examples…

3. Half tire square. There is really no excuse not to build this element. There is no place we’ve ever been where we couldn’t find a few truck tires and a hoe or shovel. There’s no drilling, no bolting, and it can be as big or as small as you like. So why not build one today!

4. Hammock swings. Kids love these swings. Hanging under a cubby house or in the shade, one or two children will love the feeling of them, and they’re fantastic for kids who may be on the autism spectrum and need a gentle squeeze and subtle rocking motion to calm them down. If you’ve got a few of these lined up next to each other they can also be used as swinging ‘stepping stones’ for more boisterous active play. All you need is a sharp knife and a nylon reinforced truck tire (steel reinforced truck tires are great for many of our other elements but not this one) and you’re away.

5. Sandpit. If you interviewed every child in the world, building a sand castle may well just top the list of the best play activity. And we think that every playground should have a sandpit. The ability to build and construct their own world is really important and sand is the perfect medium for it. We offer lots of options for sandpits on our site but this one basically involves plonking down a few tires in any shape you like, placing down some plastic sheeting and throwing in some sand. If you’ve got a sharp knife and you want to be fancy, cutting the top side walls off the tires is a great way to create individual little sandpits for children to build in on their own.

6. Earth mound. Possibly the most prehistoric play thing and the simplest. One earth mound is great, many earth mounds are better. Kids can run and jump on them, they’re great for wheeled toys, are super low maintenance and last for ages. And they are the perfect accompaniment to tile slides, climbing frames and stepping stones.

7. Basket swing. Basket swings are our bigger newcomer. They’re great for little kids and anyone that has trouble sitting up on their own or holding on. It’s a true all abilities element, and you can put them in in any direction. They just can’t fall out! (unlike most swings in Western countries). They’re big enough for two kids and they can be hung from one point so they can swing in any direction, or from 2 points so you get a back and forth motion. Stay tuned for this to be up on our design library soon!

8. Empire pyramid. Drilling and bolting our original truck tire pyramids is not for the faint hearted. But the empire pyramid uses mostly side wall to side wall connections which makes them much easier to drill and reduces the cost of the bolts. For a 6 tire pyramid it also reduces the height a little, as for smaller children, climbing up a large truck tire is a little too challenging. We love building more than one of these in a cluster together and adding ropes or wooden planks between them.

9. Tire tunnel. Children have a primal urge to hide in caves or small spaces and seeing as caves may be hard to come by in your school, this is the perfect alternative! They’re also soft and springy like a trampoline on top. One tip: The amount of side wall you cut off will impact the tunnel’s ‘squishy-ness’ so you can decide how strong or trampoline-y to make it. These can be buried in the ground, or even better, can be left as elements that can be rolled around and used in different ways.

10. Bamboo grove and circle with sensory garden. Last century, playgrounds went through a very sad period of stark, industrialism but thank goodness for all of our sakes and for the ladybirds, nature is back with a vengeance. Children need green and these elements make it easy to bring the nature to their noses. Simply fill tires with soil and plant in some local shrubs or flowers, or why not even herbs and vegetables?

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!

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