Playground Animal Sculptures

Here are a few ideas for playground animal sculptures you can build yourself or with children.

| September/October 1980

Now that the youngsters are going back to school, it might be time to get together with other area parents and spruce up the local learning center's playground ... with imaginative and useful animal sculptures.

Over the past few years, I've built about 100 such recreational creatures. At first my creations were all horses, but lately I've begun constructing every manner of strange beast, both real and imagined. My latest project involved building a replica of the Loch Ness monster at the Devon (Pennsylvania) Elementary School. During that job, many of the local children and parents joined in ... forming a build-a-playground-in-one-day party that rivaled—in spirit, at least—the old-time barn raisings.

The Anatomy of a Horse

It's best to start out building a simple horse, and then work your way up to constructing a giraffe, an alligator, a sea serpent, or whatever beast suits your fancy. To make a playground animal, you'll need a chain saw (and the skill to use it well and safely), along with a few basic garden tools ... such as a shovel, a posthole digger, and perhaps a six-foot-long digging bar. A heavy-duty electric drill can come in handy for the project, too, but I've successfully built a lot of animals without one.

You'll also need some short sections of utility pole. These are generally easy to come by, because most scroungers want full 20-foot lengths ... so, while electric companies are often fresh out of the big ones, the firms always seem to have a pile of smaller pieces just waiting to be hauled away. (Be sure, though, that this recycled wood isn't supersaturated with creosote, as that tar-like preservative can irritate children's skin ... to say nothing of the damage it'll do to their clothes!)

Obtain four pole pieces, 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Two of these should be about 4 feet long (to form the back leg and the body) ... a third needs to be a foot or so longer (it will become a combination foreleg and neck), and the fourth (the animal's head) should be about 18 inches in length.

My horses usually have only a single pair of legs: one limb up front and one in the rear. I've found the beasts to be easier to construct and stronger when they rest on just two supports, but if you want to add a few more uprights, that's OK, too. (You might very well wind up being the first person on your block with a six-legged horse!)

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