Time for a little Crafty Chaos with my bestie Erin!
Summer is officially upon us, and with three little boys, that means lots of outside time! For the past several years, our backyard was a sad and slightly dangerous place for little boys to be running around, so this spring I was determined to create a little boy paradise out back! I wanted to share with you some of our inexpensive outdoor play spaces, as well as some tricks I’ve learned along the way!
So here’s the thing about little boys. They are into EVERYTHING at all times. They are CONSTANTLY moving, moving, moving, spending 15 seconds here, 30 seconds there, always exploring. Knowing these attributes, I knew that I wanted to create “spaces” around the backyard and on the porch. I wanted to incorporate lots of physical places to play (because, hello, boys), but also introduce sensory and creative play. Finally? I didn’t have a lot of money to work with, so I wanted to work with a lot of stuff we had. So come on over, and let’s take a tour, shall we? All these spaces are also Little Crafter and One Artsy Mama approved 😉
Our porch sees the most action at the moment. One tip? Grab a large outdoor rug. It’s great for little feet, it’s easy to hose off, and it adds a little style and warmth. We got ours at Lowes =) The porch is used for bubble play and pizza dinners in the evenings, but during the day it’s alive with activity!
Water and Sand Play
We had a sand box that we used to use as a baby pool, but as the boys grew older, they’ve grown out of the pool, and it was time to introduce sand! I keep it on the porch because animals are less likely to visit, and it’s super easy to just sweep off the sand during clean up. We have a strict “throw sand at each other or out of the box, you go into the house” policy, and it’s worked pretty well. From time to time, I add a bucket or two of water so they can mold and shape the sand too!
The water table is also a favorite with the boys during these hot days, as well as a draw for all their buddies. Water play is such a great sensory experience as well as a great learning tool, so any form of a water table, container, bucket, etc. is always a great addition. Our table is on the porch because I was very tired of soggy grass and it can easily be filled by the hose or drained over the floor boards. I drain it nightly, because of mosquitoes!
I always had an issue with the water toys going everywhere, and then not drying very well. I easily solved this issue by grabbing a couple 1 dollar buckets at Target and then used some hooks to hang them. I didn’t want the toys to sit in water (in case it rained) so I grabbed the drill and added a few holes to the bottom of the buckets. The boys are now able to reach the toys easily, as well as clean up on their own, and the toys have survived several giant storms!
For some reason, my boys still tend to get “bored” with their play spaces, and every day I create a sensory experience for them on the porch. I switch it out each day so it’s always exciting and new, and it just adds another kid space for the boys to move to and fro from. I use an old sand table that we received for free. It’s easy to wash out, has a drain plug, and it’s at a great height for the kids. I also have sensory bins inside that I can just bring out, throw the “ingredients” on the table, and let them have at it! Little Crafter was in love with the volcano we created, and my boys’ favorites are water beads and dino “mud”!
Like all boys, mine love rocks, and roads, and trucks, and ramps, so instead of a flower bed at the base of our porch, I created a “construction area”. I used an idea I saw from Lowes and other Pinterest ideas, and ran with it. With some inexpensive pvc pipes, gravel, and bricks, I created a little work zone for budding construction workers! This space also allows the boys to practice some role playing and imaginative play, as well as fine motor practice!
Outdoor Chalkboard and Pirate Wheel
I wanted to create another space for the boys to practice some creativity and role playing, and an outdoor chalkboard seemed to fit the bill. I saw a lot of tutorials for how to make them, which included a lot of sawing or painting, and I just really didn’t feel like doing all that. Instead, I found a cheap and easy alternative at Home Depot. They sell ready-made chalkboards for 10 bucks, that are also outdoor friendly! Sold! We used a couple screws to mount it on the fence, and it was ready to go. It has already been through many storms, and looks as good as new =)
I used pavers on the ground, because not only are they easy to stand on, they are also PERFECT to draw on as well! I grabbed another bucket for the chalk, and it’s easy for the boys to grab, as well as bring it into the house if needed.
Another quick and easy thing to add? That captain’s wheel! Under 20 bucks (we got ours at Home Depot), and you can put it anywhere, you don’t have to have a playhouse. Another great chance for creative play!
Gross Motor Areas
We don’t have a lot of space in our backyard, which is why creating kid spaces is so important. We didn’t have room for a playground and our yard has a lot of patchy grass, but we knew growing boys needed a chance to flex their gross motor muscles. We decided to go with a large mulched in area for a climber, and had some space left over for a balance beam because the eldest is into “look at me I’m balancing” at the moment.
We do have some awesome plans for that space behind the mulched in area (towards the fence) but that’s another blog post 😉 And honestly? Yep, the fence is half painted. We built the fence last year. Husband wanted to test the paint this year and figure out how much we’d need. Now we know, and just have to buy it!
The balance beam was yet another super easy, super cheap addition. I grabbed some leftover pavers and an unused board from our yard, and well, there ya go.
I hoped you enjoyed the tour of our backyard and some of the easy kid-friendly spaces that can liven up any porch or backyard, no matter how big or small your area is. I will warn you though, you might start hosting a lot more play dates. Just ask Amy. And because Aunt Amy can’t get enough of her Squishy, I’ll leave you with our youngest enjoying the porch!
I think he likes it.
This scene is really AWESOME! Makes me want to get out and play in it!
Sheila West says
We have the same sandbox/picnic table. How do you keep bugs and water out of the sand? Our lid only sits on top and doesn’t have a tight closure.
Erin Kerst says
Ours actually has stayed really well, and has been through some monster summer storms. We also have used bungee cords to strap it down (which we will probably do this winter, as well as a tarp). The newer ones have latches now, but it’s definitely a design flaw in these older models!
Where did you find the grey climbing structure for the play yard? Loved your ideas!
Erin Kerst says
We LOVE that climbing mountain! It’s called the Step 2 Skyward Summit, and can be found many places online such as Walmart, Amazon, and Toys R Us, plus the Step 2 website! It has been such a great investment for us =)
Thanks for the info on the Skyway Summit….as much as I have searched for toys I have never seen this…..my grandson will LOVE it.