The perfect backyard playground
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The perfect backyard playground

Creating the Perfect Backyard Playground

by Mandy Self on 04/09/10

 Since my daughter loved the swings and slide so much at the park, my father-in-law bought her a beautiful swing set for her first birthday. It was perfect, three swings, a slide, a little clubhouse, monkey bars, a sandbox, etc.

The first problem although I knew about where I wanted to put the swing set, there was no where very level to put it.  I wanted it close enough to the house but far enough away that the kids could do kid things.  The solution was actually pretty easy. The guys came in and built an area out of 6x6 timbers. The area was large enough so that the kids could come off the slide and hop off the swings without going over the edge. Then the guys filled the area in with fill dirt. They assembled the swing set (that is entirely different blog :D ). Although this part of the process was going pretty smooth, I was anxious about the ground cover.

 I debated about mulch, pine needles and pea gravel. I decided, no she loves putting things in her mouth and they are not the best for walking barefoot in. Sand is way too messy. I loved the synthetic stuff at the park, then I priced it out (can you say mortgage payment- ouch). So, I went with sod.  I honestly thought it would be temporary until I could think of something else.  Now what kind of sod should I use? I went with Zoysia. I do not always make good decisions, but that was one of the best decisions I have made!


The zoysia sod does not require a lot of maintenance and it did very well during the drought.  I was initially concerned about ruining the sod by playing on it during the winter when it was dormant. I assumed I would just have to replace a few pieces each year, like at the bottom of the slide and under the swings.  Surprisingly, it has held up very well. The only pieces I have had to replace have been pieces that we have left the sand box on too long.  Also, people warned me that all of my fescue would eventually be taken over by the Zoysia. It did not creep to other places (although, I actually wanted it to).



So the next year, we traveled to Michigan to visit my Aunt. She has a clubhouse in her yard. My then 2 year old daughter would trek through the snow to freeze; I mean play, in the clubhouse for hours. So, upon hearing about this story, guess what my father-in-law gets her for her third birthday. Yep, a club house. It is perfect. She loves to entertain her guests in her house. She will take their order thru the drive-in window (maybe one too many road trips for us) and then serve them, their requested pizza with ice cream on top, as they are playing on the swing set. 


We did have a problem with the dogs trying to play with the kids. So we enclosed the kid compound with some leftover aluminum fencing material we had. We did landscape around the fence to keep the kids from playing on the fence and that has worked so far.  We also added lighting so they can play at night.


We discovered that the sand box never lasted long.  The kiddos always dug down into the beautiful Carolina Clay that we have here in Charlotte. Yuck. On another trip to Michigan, I noticed my cousin uses an actual Rubbermaid box with sand in it. We have put our treasures from the beach and the mountains in there. Then the kids can sift through the sand and re-discover the treasures. Then it gets covered up and slid under the slide area.


So, we now have a wonderful, self contained children area at the house. I actually have a neighbor who comes over and plays even when we are not home. She says the playground is better than the park!


I hope some of my ideas help you create the ultimate playground for your family. Happy playing!



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