Creating an outdoor play area for your children in the back garden is a great way to let them get some fresh air and burn off that youthful energy before bedtime. For you it means peace of mind as you can be sure that they are safe and nearby. And lets face it, with the kids out the back, you home is at least temporarily safe from destruction. Depending on the age and sex of your children, you may wish to theme their play area. Some classic themes are the Wendy house, the tree house and the pirates’ lair. Using the helpful guide below, you will find that tackling a play pit for your little monkeys is surprisingly simple and doesn’t have to cost the earth.
The first thing to do is hold serious talks with your miniature lodgers to make sure you have a good understanding of their likes and dislikes and hopes for the project. Setting some boundaries right from the beginning will avoid tears and tantrums. Rather than include favourite cartoon characters- which would endanger your efforts of receiving only short lived acclaim as kid’s heroes change like the weather- instead ask about favourite colours they may have or any, hobbies, interests, activities or sports they enjoy. Is it a private hideaway for them alone, a place where they can store their gems and treasures or is it play area for them and their friends?
When creating a den, remember that essentially, besides the cosmetic decoration which determines whether it is a Wendy house, pirates lair of a tree house, the basic structure is exactly the same- a wooden box made out of planks screwed together so don’t get too worried by the details just yet, just make sure the box is sturdy and safe using support planks which run at right angles to the ones which make up the body. Once you have your box you are ready to personalise it to whatever has been decided during your meetings.
A Wendy house should be as pretty as possible so cover the wooden structure with some patterned waterproof fabric. As it is meant to be a miniature home you may also wish to add a pitched roof and chimney, if so, paint in brightly coloured gloss once finished to waterproof the timber. Inside, add some lino or carpet off cuts or cheap rugs to create a cosy space and set up some fun child seating and plastic tea set.
Any self respecting pirates’ lair should have a flag complete with skull and cross bones insignia to ward off treasure thieves, so the first thing to do is construct one out of some black fabric and white paint. Next you will want to make your gleaming new shed look a little more ramshackle. Do this by watering down some dark brown wood stain and roughly applying it to both the interior and exterior of the lair. Once dry, take some rough grain sandpaper to it to create an aged and worn look. Inside the lair you will need a treasure chest for your centrepiece. Either construct your own or have a look online or in a local antique shop.
For maximum effect, fill the chest with a mixture of sea shells collected from the beach and lots of chocolate coins and fake money. A few battered old wooden chairs and a selection of pirate hats and bandanas should have the lair looking shipshape in next to no time. A pirates lair is actually a cunning way to encourage your children to eat more fruit, a few sea shanties about scurvy will have them heading for the oranges before you can say Davey Jones!
For a tree house, you will need to set it higher up using stilts. For safety reasons do not use a tree as support, as long as the box is set off the ground, and set amongst the trees, the kids should be happy, use ropes to tie the structure to branches set much higher up in the tree to create the illusion that the house is hanging from it- this is only for superficial reasons, never use ropes without the stilts. A tree house is your children’s first experience of independence, so allow them decorate in any manner they choose, whether it is with paint or posters- show respect for somebody else’s home! For added safety, build a sand pit around the base of the tree house and add either bars or Perspex to any windows.