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How to build kids outdoor play equipment

Last Updated Nov 28, 2016 · Written by Rob Schneider

Kids love to play outdoors. They love it even more if they have play equipment to enjoy. You can buy plastic play equipment, but you can also build kids' play equipment. Here are some ideas to think about.


Think about the play equipment you want to build. Make a list of all the things you want to include in your backyard playground and work out the cost of everything. If you're building a large or elaborate structure, you may need to get council approval, so check with your local council before you begin.

  1. Safety and Play Equipment 

  2. Building a Play Area

  3. How to Build Kids Outdoor Play Equipment

  4. Inexpensive Play Equipment Ideas

Safety and Play Equipment

Keep in mind children's safety when you're choosing play equipment. You don't necessarily have to limit the play equipment you choose, but you do want to minimise the risk of injury:

  • You may want to install rubber mats to soften the blow if a child falls

  • Don't make a climbing wall too high

  • Children love zip lines, but they should be safe and not high enough to cause injuries

  • A pool shouldn't be over 300mm deep. If it is, you will need to install pool fencing

Even with safety restrictions, you can design a backyard play area the children will love:

  • Rubber mats come in all colours and shapes, so you can create a play area that also has a hopscotch or twister area.

  • You don't want to create a climbing wall that is dangerous, but you can make it wider and the children can work their way across their climbing wall. They'll have just as much fun, but won't be in danger.

  • A zip line only has to be high enough for children to be able to use it.

  • A shallow pool can be fun and refreshing if you install a water spout or two. Use non-slip tiles and even if it's ankle deep, the kids will love it.

Building a Play Area

The play area you build will probably be the basic structures that support your play equipment. Treated pine is inexpensive and you can paint it if you like to make your backyard playground more cheerful and appealing.


You will need a plan to work from. You may be able to buy plans for cubby houses or open air play equipment or you might find plans for free online. A plan will help you choose the right sized timber and use the right hardware for making sturdy play equipment.

Your structure doesn't have to be elaborate. For example, if you want to install a zip line, you may only have to install a platform for the kids to launch from. It can be just high enough to give them a launching pad and you might also want to install a slide or other play equipment around their platform.


It can get hot in the summer, so if you're installing a sand box or other play equipment the children will be using for a long time, think about ways to provide them with shade. You might want to install a sandbox under a tree or you can install a shade sail to cover the play area.


Also think about building a cubby house for the kids. Having their own cubby house gives them the opportunity to draw or play games in their own private space. If you also install play equipment around the cubby house, they can play inside and outside of their cubby house. Read Cubby Houses Kids Will Love for some ideas and more inspiration.


How to Build Kids Outdoor Play Equipment

You can purchase an entire backyard playground, but it might be a better idea to build some structures yourself and buy the play equipment separately. A play set can cost thousands of dollars. if you build the basic structures, you will save money and create a custom playground your kids will love.


What type of play equipment do you want to build? Do you want to build a swingset, a platform, a seesaw or something else? You have to take care when you build any elevated structure like swings or a platform:

  1. Use plans from a reputable source. Good plans will tell you how to make sturdy play equipment.

  2. When you buy treated pine, make sure you buy the right grade for your project. Any treated pine that comes in contact with the ground should be H5. For more information, read What You Need to Know About Treated Pine.

  3. After you cut posts to length, it's a good idea to treat the ends of the posts to make sure they don't rot.

  4. If you're using plywood, use waterproof plywood.

  5. Posts should be cemented into the ground. Use a posthole digger and make holes at least 300mm deep.

  6. Use bolts and screws designed for construction rather than nails. Only use nails for non-structural components such as cladding.

  7. Always use galvanized hardware. You don't want the hardware to rust.

Hardware suppliers sell dozens of inexpensive play equipment supplies you may not have thought of. You may have to build something to hang them from, but you can find everything from colourful climbing grips to swings, rope climbs, plastic tunnels and pirate steering wheels at a good hardware supplier. Have a look at what's available in your area and choose what you need before you build your structures.


Inexpensive Play Equipment Ideas

If you use your imagination, you can build play equipment you won't find in any shop. For example:

  • Create a blackboard using blackboard paint

  • Build a climbing wall out of plywood. Paint it a cheerful colour and purchase climbing holds from a good hardware supplier

  • Sand pits are easy to build and children love them

  • A water feature doesn't have to be elaborate. If the kids can play in it and get wet, they'll love using it

  • Children love throwing balls. Cut holes in a tarp, line the holes with different colours of duct tape and write point values for different sized holes


Your kids might come up with other ideas. Play equipment needs to be safe, but it doesn't have to be expensive:

  • Make oversized building blocks out of old cardboard boxes

  • Create a mini-golf course out of artificial turf and plastic cups

  • Use plastic bottles to create a sprinkler or hang them on the fence to make a waterfall

  • Make a rope ladder or rope swing

  • Use old tyres and logs to create an obstacle course

  • Make a swing out of an old tyre

A little paint goes a long way towards making play equipment more cheerful and inviting. Paint the cardboard boxes or tyres and the kids' outdoor playground will look better and be more fun to use. You'll appreciate having a more colourful playground, too.


Start small or plan a complete outdoor playground. You can always start with a cubby house or platform and add on over time. The kids will love their play equipment and adding on as you get the time will keep them coming back for more.












You might also like: Cubby Houses Kids Will Love

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