We are almost all looking for ways to keep our kids active in the summer and a playground is an excellent way to do it. If you aren’t close to one or if your kids are too young to go alone, your alternative is a playscape. A playscape is a great solution and there are a lot of good ones on the market, the problem is that they can be very pricey.
One day while driving by a local factory, I saw a pile of shipping crates and pallets waiting to be disposed of and the light bulb came on. That pile of pallets looked to me like a mostly assembled, modular playscape just waiting for a home. Most plants either pay to have non-returnable pallets and crates taken away or they give them away. I spoke with the shipping manager at this plant and they were happy to let me haul them away.
I had some 2” x 4”s and 4” x4”s left over from another project, along with screws and lag bolts, so I started watching Craigslist and the local FreeCycle pages. Soon enough there was an older small playscape that someone wanted to get rid of and now I had everything that I needed to get started.
The first thing I did was tear apart the old playset to salvage what I could and I ended up getting the hardware I needed for the swings, the monkey bars, along with the slide and quite a bit of good lumber.
After playing with some different layouts with the three crates I had, I finally had a design that would work for the kids as they are young but would still be something they could grow into. The main section is the tallest, with the monkey bars off one side of the shipping crate and the swings off the other.
With some of the salvaged lumber I reinforced the sides of the shipping crate and added slats so that you couldn’t fall through as this section would be about 8’ in the air.
I removed the slats from one side to create an opening that the ladder would attach to. I cut 4 of the 2” x 4”s down about a foot then screwed a full length one to each shorter section. This gave me the legs that I attached to the shipping crate, with the short section under the base of the crate and the long board screwed to side of the crate to give it plenty of strength.
I cut more 2” x 4”s down to make braces for the legs to keep the whole thing from swaying too much.
The area underneath the top section is about a 4’ square that will make a nice little sandbox that will be easy to cover to keep rain and animals out of it when the kids aren’t playing. I also plan to put a climbing wall on the back side as they get a little older – rock climbing is a great way to build overall fitness and coordination, along with self-confidence.
The next section I tackled was the middle level where the slide would come off from. Here I used 4” x 4” posts from a bunk bed and lag bolted them to the side of the crate. This lower level wouldn’t see as much torque as the top level, plus it is attached to the top level for additional strength. Again, using salvaged lumber I reinforced two sides and opened up the other two for the slide and ladder.
The last section was the easiest, as it sits on the ground and just acts as a landing for the ladder and to give the slide section some added strength. After that I attached the monkey bars from the old set to one side and the swings to the other and turned the kids loose on it. All I have left is to take down some of the rough edges on the pallets so that it’s more bare feet friendly and paint it. We haven’t settled on a color yet, my preference is something natural, while the kids have their hearts set on blue, orange and green.
The great thing about a home built playset like this (aside from the price – which is very low) is that it can be sized to fit your yard and you can add to it as your kids grow. My total out of pocket for this project amounted to 12 8’ 2” x 4”s. Everything else was either salvaged from the old play set or leftover from other projects.
Raquel is a stay at home mom with an extensive background in interior home design. She loves cooking new and unique recipes, designing and decorating on a budget, creating upcycled projects, and making kid and grown up crafts. You can follow Raquel on her blog, Faith, Flour, Cream and Sugar.
Elizabeth Lampman is a coffee-fuelled Mom of 2 girls and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoys travelling, developing easy recipes, crafting, taking on diy projects, travelling and saving money!