Kids learn best when they are involved in a project. Build a backyard project this weekend, and let them help. You’ll spend time with your kids, have fun, teach them something and be the role model that you as a parent really are. You can forage the neighborhood for project materials with the kids and build the project in the backyard in a few hours.
1. Build a Fort
A fort is a classic ingredient of childhood. The kids can run and play in, out and around it. They can play at being kings and queens with dungeons and dragons. They can pursue military strategies of elaborate detail. The fort can be a clubhouse for sharing stories and experiences.
It doesn’t have to be a tree fort, though that’s a great way to go. A simple box or shed makes for a perfectly defensible stronghold.
You can build a backyard fort in a few hours. Assemble some lumber, frame it up, nail on the cross pieces and join the walls together. The roof can be open, so you have more of a stockade. You can add a flat roof with a hole for a skylight. Hinging the roof makes access easier. A more permanent pitched or lean-to roof stands up awell against the elements.
This Old House posted a good, straightforward set of instructions for a backyard fort made with fence posts. Follow the easy steps, or use them as a launchpad for your own version of the project. A fort can be as simple or elaborate as you and your kids care to make it.
2. Erect a Teepee
A teepee starts with poles. If you’ve got pine woods or other straight trees locally, take your kids out to collect poles. You can also use pvc piping cut to size at your local lumberyard.
Standing the poles up and wrapping them in fabric produces an instant teepee. If you have a sewing machine, you can stitch up a longer lasting, circular cover, complete with sleeves to fit the poles. DIY Network has a layout and instructions for such a project.
Another way is to create a Living Teepee a unique way of letting nature create an arbor in which to play. Assemble the teepee poles. Then plant beans and peas. As the vines grow, they climb the poles and produce leaves, flowers and pods. Your kids will have a grotto that they’ve helped nurture from scratch.
3. Create a Water Park
You don’t need giant water slides to thrill the kids. In their own backyard, a sprinkler is enough. The kids supply the imagination and energy for hours of fun.
A more extreme backyard water park would be a fun weekend project, though. A more advanced version of a sprinkler system is a misting scaffolding to run or bicycle through. Instructables shows you how to build a rectangular gateway or tunnel from lengths of pvc piping that have holes drilled along their length. Assemble them using elbows. Insert a garden hose at one end, and turn on the water. If you’re not going to glue the pvc pieces together, turn the water pressure up slowly to keep the structure from flying apart.
Add a slip and slide to your water park. All you need is a clear plastic tarp, the garden hose and a flat area of lawn. An incline is good, but a level area also allows for skidding across the wet plastic. Just position the hose so it keeps the maximum area of plastic under water.
4. Set Up a Cafe/Kitchen
Outdoor dining is never more outrageously fun than when the kids handle it. Little kids can serve imaginary tea in tiny china sets. Older children can get progressively more involved in creating food and drink to serve al fresco.
Start with a seating arrangement of outdoor chairs and table. A wood bench, or a shelf built onto a fence or wall, makes a working counter. Make sure the garden hose is within reach. Assemble pots and pans, bowls and dishes, utensils and linens. Let the kids create their favorite dishes.
5. Set Up a Nature Observatory
What goes on in the natural habitat around you? Who visits your backyard? What grows there? And what happens, as the seasons progress? Start the kids on the path of observing nature, and they’ll gain awareness and respect for all living things.
You can start by watching birds. Researching what to feed them,keeping count of the different species that visit, and recording their habits will fill a journal. Research the local birds and what they eat. Build bird houses to suit. A feeder can be as simple as a plastic soda bottle with dowels stuck through or as elaborate as a wood house in miniature, complete with a feeding tray. National Geographic and the National Wildlife Federation are just two of the many online sources for information.