A Natural Playground

Don't buy metal swing set or some other such eyesore. Build these four toys yourself for a natural playground.

| August/September 1991

  • 127NaturalPlayground02PlayingPlatform.jpg
    Build a play platform on top of old tree stumps.
  • 127NaturalPlayground01HorseSwing.jpg
    The first item on your natural playground: a swing made from a curved tree trunk.
  • 127NaturalPlayground03WaterCourse.jpg
    Set up long strips of bark as a watercourse.
  • 127NaturalPlayground04BarkBoats.jpg
    Make bark boats and sail them in puddles or ponds.

  • 127NaturalPlayground02PlayingPlatform.jpg
  • 127NaturalPlayground01HorseSwing.jpg
  • 127NaturalPlayground03WaterCourse.jpg
  • 127NaturalPlayground04BarkBoats.jpg

By the middle of summer, the kids have swung on the backyard tire enough times to qualify for frequent flier miles, and the wading pool toys you bought have mysteriously disappeared into the pool's own Bermuda Triangle. And somehow the treehouse you promised them last winter just seems a little daunting, not to mention stressful (12 feet is a long way down for a six-year-old; your nerves aren't that good). What to do? Toys these days are outrageously expensive, easily broken, and unnecessarily complicated. With a month remaining until school starts, a Sunday afternoon's investment in time can yield a natural playground with one or more of these outdoor playthings, saving you lots of money—and perhaps your sanity.

A Horse Swing

Check your wooded property for a young locust or some other tree with a beautiful curve at its base. The bottom of the trunk will make a sturdy and graceful swing.

To convert the trunk to a swing, first cut it and carry it to your shed. Strip off the bark—quite an easy task while the wood is green. Then, using a brace fitted with a one-inch bit, bore two parallel holes through the swing-to-be's side, one at each end of the trunk.

Next, saw a pair of one-inch diameter lengths, each about eight inches longer than the width of the log, from a straight hardwood branch. With the bark removed, blunt the ends. The stubs should fit snugly in the holes with an end protruding on either side of the log. Ropes are then attached to the ends of the crosspieces to suspend the swing.

The hanging horse can be safely used by any child old enough to hold himself or herself in place on it, and the height of the swing steed can be easily adjusted to suit the length of the young rider's legs by letting out or taking up the rope it hangs by.

A Playing Platform

The next time you have to cut down trees near your house, you might leave a little more stump than you ordinarily would. These will make sturdy foundations on which you can build playing platforms.

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