How to Build a Playground Out of Recycled Tires

Learn how to build a playground out of recycled tires with Paul Hogan's list of creative tire ideas including a tire swing, tire tunnel, and tire sandbox.


| July/August 1979



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The tire-to-tire connection technique using bolts, washers, nuts and a drain hole.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on sterile, mass-produced recreational equipment. Take Paul Hogan's advice instead

You could hardly do the tykes and teens in your community a better service than to provide them with a joyful place to sport and cavort. A playground needn't require scads of expensive prefabricated equipment, either, because you can build a better recreation set than commercial manufacturers offer . . . using discarded auto and truck tires! Millions of the worn-out "road riders" become junked giveaways every year . . . so why not work with your fun-loving youngsters (and recycle a bit of America's trash in the bargain) to construct your own super-fantastic, whale-of-a-time, free playground?

Please note that I just said you should work WITH the children. I started designing "outdoor rumpus rooms" years ago, and have since helped over 250 communities — from Ottawa to Tennessee — create their own playgrounds. The successes and failures I've experienced in these projects have taught me one vitally important lesson: Never build playgrounds without the total involvement of the children who will be using them!

There are several good reasons for "employing" youthful design and construction crews. For one thing, young people should be allowed to help develop their own play space. After all, most adults enjoy laying out a vegetable patch or redesigning their own homes . . . and young folks can have a lot of fun helping to shape their own "environments", as well. (Remember, too, that one meaning of the word recreation is "the act of building anew".)

In addition, your pre- and post-pubescent planners will make sure the finished structure is built to "scale", and that it includes playthings the children themselves will want to use. All too many professionally designed playgrounds go un-enjoyed because they simply don't appeal to young'uns!

More important, though . . . "offspring architects" may be necessary for a playground's survival. When outdoor fun sites are designed and put up by adults, children will often "re-create" the parks in the only way they can . . . by destroying them! If these same individuals have their hands in the planning and development of the game ground, however, the juveniles will want to maintain — maybe improve — their structures . . . rather than damage them.

bheby
2/26/2016 7:32:38 AM

Hello! We are interested in using tires on our school playground be we have read that some of the chemicals in or on the tires might not be good for children. There are reports of links to cancers and infertility. I am sure this is still being researched, but looks like many places are even opting for mulch instead of the rubber mulch because of health concerns. Do you have any information on that? Or is there something to put on the tires to make them safer? I know they should be cleaned, but sometimes getting oil or other chemicals off them is not easy. And kids can touch them and then put their hands in their mouth. Thank you for your help. Our school is a charter school so we don't have much money and were hoping this would be a good option. Thank you, Barbara


natascha zurstrassen
2/27/2013 4:42:31 PM

I would love to see some pictures of your tire tipi or other playground fun stuff you've built for kids over the years.. I've tried to find an example of the tire tipi on google, without succes though. Thanks for letting me know. Natascha






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