DIY Kids’ Backyard Construction Zone

Important lesson in parenting that I suspect most parents grasp a lot more quickly than I have: if you tell your preschooler that you’re going to build him a construction zone in the backyard “soon” you should make sure that you really mean soon….otherwise he’s going to ask you in an eager little voice every few weeks, “when are we going to make my construction zone?!”

We put off the construction zone for forever because we were busy, and because there was always some more urgent project to work on, and because we’re terrible parents who delight in disappointing small children, and because we couldn’t quite decide exactly how we wanted to do it.

It turns out, though, once we said, “okay! let’s figure this out and do it RIGHT NOW!” it wasn’t that hard to figure out. We had a week in between getting back from our big summer trip and Dave going back to work, and this project took up just a few hours of that week. If you’re Home Depot doesn’t mislead you and tell you they’re all out of sand, and if you don’t guess wrong about how much mulch you need, you could easily finish it in an afternoon.


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*tarp: we used an 8 by 10 or so tarp that we already had in the garage.

*pavers: however many you need to cover the edges of your tarp–for us it was 25

*sandbox: we found one for free on Craigslist, similar to this one

*play sand (we used 5 bags)

*rubber mulch: we used 9 bags

*rocks: we used 3 bags of  this kind (we considered pea gravel, but we wanted something that would be easy to get back out of the mulch when it all gets mixed together)

*assorted fun toys to play in the construction pit with and stuff to build with

What we did:

The thing that we kept getting stuck on when we were trying to plan out the construction zone was what to use for walls…to keep all the stuff from spreading all over the yard. So the other day when I decided we were going to finally get this thing done, I still had no idea what we were going to do about that part, but I decided to get on Craigslist and see what I could find for a sandbox to keep the sand part contained at least. And then, I figured, we could go from there.

I found a totally free sandbox that someone just a couple of miles away had listed earlier in the day. Dave took off immediately and it was still there!

And then we dragged it into the yard and just kind of….stood around staring at it for awhile until a plan came together. And what we eventually came up with is so simple that I’m a little embarrassed that it took us so long to get this done. I’d kind of been envisioning railroad ties around the edges or maybe actually constructing some kind of giant frame….but we ended up doing was just putting down a tarp that we already had and buying paver stones to go around the edges and hold it down/keep everything more or less contained.

We put it over next to the swingset and against the fence at the side of the yard. It’s in an area that gets shade for much of the day, and it’s also laid out so that it doesn’t get in the way of grass mowing much (this was a big concern of Dave’s).

I wanted different kinds of materials to expand the creative play possibilities, so we went with a sand area, a rubber mulch area, and a rock area (the sandbox has a lid. Important because cats. I’m counting on cats not thinking rubber mulch or rocks bear much resemblance to kitty litter). I’m not sure how the drainage will work with the mulch in particular when it rains. If it’s a problem we may need to make some drainage holes in the tarp or dig a little trench somewhere.

My in process pictures are terrible because of the glaring sun…but you can get the idea at least about the incredibly complicated process ;).

I suggest you wait until your kids are having a sleepover, so you’ll have an extra kid around to haul heavy stuff for you:

Here it is after we ran out of mulch and when we didn’t have sand yet; it was already fun even halfway finished!

I’ve been collecting plastic trucks at the thrift store for awhile now in anticipation of this project. We also added some old bricks that have been sitting under our deck for forever, and Dave cut up some old boards for Abe to build with. Eventually we’ll add more of that kind of thing, and we’re also thinking of buying some cheap boards and painting them to look like roads that he can put together however he wants.


diy backyard construction zone

And there you have it….a super easy weekend project to make your backyard way more fun!

We’re finally back home from our very long, very fabulous summer road trip. (you can read more about that if you go over to the travel blog). I have a few more cool old building posts to do from that trip here, but mostly I’m ready to get back to house projects. I have a half-written last post about deck construction that I need to finally finish, and then we’ll dig in on the fun part where we make the deck/porch pretty. Now I’m off to catch up on two months’ worth of blog reading!

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DIY Backyard kids' construction zone tutorial #backyard #playground #sandbox



DIY Kids’ Backyard Construction Zone — 4 Comments

  1. That looks excellent. Something about the bricks with rocks in the holes makes me want to play in it, stiff and creaky though I am.
    Yes, lids on sandboxes are Important!
    Do you think I could borrow Abe to nag me about the kitchen blinds? Although I fear he wouldn’t find them very exciting.

  2. Love this and I might have to steal the idea of extra child labor via a sleepover LOL. That’s just fantastic 😉

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