Kid-friendly Backyard Planning

We had our first snow over the weekend, so, naturally, I bought Emilia her first swing set. As we head into winter here in New England, it might seem counterintuitive to buy it now, but the fact is, it’s long overdue. We fully intend to set it up as soon as it arrives, too, because we know Emilia will LOSE HER MIND. She LOVES the playground asks to go now matter the weather. Plus, with the mild winter we’re predicted to have, thanks to La Niña, I feel pretty confident that we’ll get a lot of use out of it this winter.

The picture above isn’t a swing set obviously, but it was discovered while I did some swing set reconnaissance, and it might have inspired an entirely new direction for our ongoing yard rehab project this summer. But more on that later.

For a while now, I’ve had it in my head that we needed to grade (level) our backyard because it’s actually pretty uneven all over. Since our first summer in the new place, it’s been on our To Do list to grade and re-seed the lawn. We had a few hurdles to get past before we could even tackle it though — like grinding the stump just past our patio and chopping down a very overgrown and messy looking hemlock.

The next step SHOULD be repairing our fence (we have a few poles leaning into our yard), grading, and seeding, but I just can’t deprive my child of a “playground” any longer. The poor kid points to every swing set we pass on our walks in the stroller and sadly says: Mama, I want one of those. It’s heart shattering I tell you.

I started to really look for “the set” around Thanksgiving, after many months of stalking Craigslist for a deal on one of those wooden sets. Specifically, a cedar one. But then after a lot of soul searching — and even wrangling my brother in to pick up the pieces of one— I realized that those wood sets with the little club houses just aren’t used as hard as the plain old metal swing sets.

My mom gave me that advice early on in my search and remembering back to when my two siblings and I were growing up, we had a set with two swings, a glider and a little two seater deal… and it was awesome. That really helped focus my search. I want the set to be something Emilia can enjoy right now, but I also want it to be something she can grow into, too.  Right now, the only things she likes to use at the playground are the swings and the see-saw.

After reading through hundreds of reviews, I was a bit surprised to find a really affordable one by Sportspower. I’d assumed a good set would be at least $800 or $900, but the majority of reviewers for this set which is under $500, confirm that although it’s incredibly difficult to assemble and there were a few issues with missing pieces, nearly all of them lead with: My son or daughter LOVES this set. I can stomach the risk, but I’ll just be incredibly careful with who we purchase from and we will just be meticulous as we unpack the boxes. There is a great variety — multiple swings, a glider which seats two, plus a saucer swing which I’ve NEVER seen before AND the trampoline which we know she’ll just go nuts over.

I added a bucket swing for Caroline although Emilia technically does still favor them. Hoping a swing set in the backyard will encourage her to branch out!

outdoor chalk
Anyways, all this backyard planning has reminded me to revisit my ongoing quest to solve the problem of: how to make all the backyard “kid” stuff look a little more presentable. This lead to my looking for backyard inspiration, which resulted in my finding about 10 other backyard projects I now want to take on, not limited to the above AWESOME outdoor chalk board, the tree fort I added at the very start of this post, and finally, the mud pie making station below.

mud pie kitchen

I’d wanted to set this up for her last summer actually but I’d just had Caroline and couldn’t get it together before summer ended. I should mention that Emilia comes from a long line of mud pie-making women. Her Nana was quite the mud pie baker and used to feed them to her German Shepherd. I love the design of the station above. I bet it would be really fun sourcing all of the pots and pans and “supplies” for her to use too — think, rocks and acorns and different leaves and grasses for all her creations. I can’t wait!

Will keep you posted on the setup of the swing set. The reviewers suggested we purchase the anchoring kit, but I didn’t after once civil engineer’s comments to try an alternate option. Going to Home Depot to investigate that soon. Wish us luck! And I’d love to hear what you have for your kids in your backyard.



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