By Rachel Koning Beals
RISMEDIA, May 21, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Not all budgets or lots can accommodate large swing sets, zip lines, tree houses or swimming pools, but that shouldn’t limit backyard adventure.
Whether for a city or suburban dweller challenged by limited square footage, grandparents who share their yard with young people on a limited basis or anyone wanting to keep play components portable and temporary, there are options.
How about a classic: a rope swing dangling from a sturdy tree. Los Angeles landscape designer Tom Stout said it’s more important to assess the connection of the branch, not its thickness, in determining compatibility for a swing.
If a branch is connected at a 90-degree angle, it only needs to be the diameter of an adult leg to support a swing and the weight of its user, he said. Overlaying a piece of rubber garden hose around the section of rope that directly touches the tree can cut down on excessive wear on both the rope and the branch.
For preschool-age children, a few hundred dollars or less can add a play element to the yard or driveway, such as the chair-a-go-round seesaw and a snap-together monkey bar kit found on www.leapsandbounds.com. Earth-friendly choices might include the handcrafted recycled tire swings in the shape of an airplane, a kangaroo, a motorcycle, and more, which retail from around $79.95 up to $259.95, on www.abundantearth.com.
Stretch your imagination beyond what’s traditionally thought of as backyard play equipment.
Consider using cedar planking or another wood well suited to wear-and-tear to create a modest backyard stage for theatrical productions or summer evening concerts. The overall size can vary, but keep it portable and easily stored by using modular sections made by constructing a frame of 2-by-6 boards and topped with 5/4-by-6 boards for the decking surface.
Let your kids get away from it all with routine camping in the backyard. Include all the props to really add to the feeling of roughing it, even if still within the glow of a back porch light. In its third year, the National Wildlife Federation is hosting its program, the Great American Backyard Campout, on June 23. See www.nwf.org for more information.