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Recently I shared one of my goals and objectives for 2013 was to live “The Organised Life”.

I call them goals, not resolutions, as they’re more aspirational and are broader in nature, reduced to words or phrases. Added to the list is the phrase, “Play More”.

I’m a work from home Dad, freelancing where I can, but sometimes I get so caught up in my work that I forget to enjoy moments hanging with the kids, the reason I made this career shift to begin with.

Earlier this week I blew off work for a trip to the local park with Nathan leading the way on his push bike, following in tow with a mug of coffee. We got lost for an hour, it was magical.

Nathan LOVES being outdoors, and chances are when you look back at your own childhood your memories were probably of those times.

We are BLESSED to have 3 great parks, all walking distance from our home, but sometimes it isn’t always practical to visit them with Olivia being on a different schedule and so I started to think about how I could bring the park to us.

The outcome is our own little jungle gym (play gym for foreign readers). Inspired by Isabelle’s Gymnastic Rings I added a climbing rope (there wasn’t enough space to include the rings), a cargo net, slide and boxed up the frame to integrate a small sand pit.

Yesterday he spent over an hour playing with his spade, bucket and digger while Kathy and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon outdoors, spectators to his antics.

It’s just a start, but I hope to create more opportunities to “Play More” in 2013.

Here are my top 5 tips for designing your own jungle gym

1. Plan ahead, building a jungle gym can be costly, the larger the gym, the more expensive, as with most building projects. In the same breath you want to make sure that you don’t build something that can’t grow with your kids, likewise if you have younger ones try accommodate them as well by building something that caters for their needs.

2. Build with longevity in mind, if you decide to use wood look at using a naturally hard wearing, pest resistant timber like cedar. Ours is made of treated bluegum that has been sealed with a wax based oil that should last for 60+ yrs with annual treatment. Untreated soft woods are vulnerable to wood rot and wood born insects.

3. Less is more, there is a tendency to want to add everything you can to a jungle gym, but understand while children develop, less is more. Fewer options allow them to express their creativity through imagination, a slide soon becomes a banister that makes for a quick getaway from a fire breathing dragon.

4. Get dirty, as parents we can be a little over protective of our kids and the thought of building sand castles in the back yard may freak you out, but it’s all part of early learning development. If you are worried about contamination in the sandpit, cover it, failing that add in some coarse salt, it will keep the neighbourhood cats away and if you use a porous landscaping mesh to line the pit it will help excess rain water drain off into the water table.

5. Just add water, many of us live on small properties and owning a pool is not an option, never-mind the risk it may pose to younger children, but adding a simple lawn sprinkler into the mix unleashes all kinds adventure. Sand is great, mud is better.

Have you recently built your own jungle gym? What features have you added?

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5 Responses to “Play More: Planning And Building A Jungle Gym”

  1. Rachel

    We didn’t build a jungle gym, but we built a rock pit equipped with a sit on excavator. Skye loves it and all the kids fight over who gets to sit on the excavator. Its a blast!

  2. Matt

    Hi Rachel, that’s brilliant! I spotted a local company that makes minimalist excavators out of powder coated steel and was very tempted, though I know that Nathan will use it to dig up half the lawn… I’m still VERY tempted!

  3. Tara

    We had a jungle gym that my Grandfather built. It was a steel cube with various cross bars making different play areas. It was passed through the family, cousin to cousin as one set out grew it. It was, at various times, a ship, a fort, covered in an old canvas tent to make a “secret” hideout. Eventually we got big enough to tip it over, thereby making a whole new shape.

    Man I loved it. I wish I knew what had happened to it.

  4. Matt

    Hey Tara, yes, those were the days! We didn’t have a jungle gym per say, but trees, tree houses and forts which we protected with our lives. My wish is that Nathan has the same privilege to grow up in a world of imagination and exploration.

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