How would you spend $100 to outfit a backyard for toddler outdoor play - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 04-07-2014, 09:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Our daughter is almost two, and we live in an area that is cold for at least half the year.  We are on a tight budget, but we'd like to take some advantage of the pleasant weather outdoors.  Of course, I know there are parks and other away-from-home activities, but I am also setting aside a small budget to fix up the backyard.  What we have is a small suburban backyard without much privacy on either side.  Our fences are low, and must be low according to local law.  Our neighbors are...right there...which is why we never used the backyard before we had a baby.  We keep the grass cut fairly low, but don't like chemicals so there are some weeds.  There are a couple of small trees, and an asphalt parking slab that takes up about a third of the backyard.  We have never used the slab;  in fact, there is now a fence blocking it from the street.

 

How would you spend $100 on backyard fun for a two year old, with items that will still be usable next year at age three?  Assume that we have nothing so far, which we practically don't.  Even an outdoor ball will come from that budget.

 

Also, we are not handy.  We cannot build our own swingset or anything similar.  If we put together a storebought swingset, we feel good about ourselves for having stretched our skills that far.

 

Our daughter loves slides, but has plenty of experience with large ones and probably would not be excited about a tiny one that we could buy with this budget.  She does not especially like swings.  I don't know if she would like a sandbox, but I am hoping she might and this, along with a ball, make up the bulk of what I might plan to do unless I find better ideas.  (We can use household items as sand toys, so this would help keep us within budget.)

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#2 of 19 Old 04-07-2014, 09:32 AM
 
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I don't have a lot of suggestions, but if you are looking to save money, my FIL made a small sand box with a large plastic bin. You could do the same for a kiddie pool to splash around in.
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#3 of 19 Old 04-07-2014, 11:36 AM
 
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A tricycle, a little tikes cozy coupe (every kid I have ever met has loved to ride in these)-these are both great for the concrete slab. A small sandbox, small kiddie pool. All this stuff can be bought used on craigslist. If you think your daughter might like a swing, hang one from the tree. My kids also love the push lawnmowers. Maybe start a small child's garden?

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#4 of 19 Old 04-07-2014, 01:30 PM
 
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Check out recycling outlets and charity shops rather than buy new. My toddler, 2, loves her scooter which cost $5 and is as new and has an old tent, also $5. A friend found Little Tikes climbing equipment for $10.  Start with a bat and ball and then see what you can find. Meanwhile check out below for some ideas that need not cost any money at all.

 

.  set up a digging spot and hide shells and interesting pebbles for her to find

. the digging spot can double as a muddy puddle for jumping, just add water!

. vegetable patch

. water play - use a baby bath or a basin

. feed the local birds

. use the fence for "painting with water"

. use a plank or inbed a length of wood for walking along

. makeshift a "goal" for aiming a ball

. provide cardboard boxes for imaginative play

. have picnics on a blanket

. lie on the grass and look at the clouds

. ask friends for cuttings and grow a "fairy garden"

. set up a tent/cubby with sheets

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#5 of 19 Old 04-07-2014, 02:07 PM
 
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This is a fun question!
My suggestion for the budget would be the following:

- Balls, hockey sticks, croquet set, child size basket ball hoop, hockey net; second hand if possible
- a garden hose, sprinkler, watering cans and child pool
- now is the time for planting a garden! Buy child friendly varieties, maybe sunflower seeds? Peas, strawberries, so many choices!
-may be consider buying some bamboo plants. It is easy to grow and can be used to create privacy by planting along fence lines.

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#6 of 19 Old 04-08-2014, 10:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I love these ideas!  Thanks.

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#7 of 19 Old 04-08-2014, 10:54 AM
 
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Sow a packet of wild flower seeds. Time to sow would be about now for a midsummer splash of glorious colour. Till a patch of earth, raking the tilth nice and fine and then scatter. I know this is a UK site, but look at the wild flower pictures!

 
Juniper has her own little meadow to play in. She's come to love flowers. I hope your little one does, too. :) Also you can press wild flowers and on drying, craft them onto lampshades. They look adorable.
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#8 of 19 Old 04-10-2014, 07:15 AM
 
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Things that seem to entertain my kids the most in the yard: digging, rocks/sticks/bugs, throwing balls, bird watching, water play, bubbles, gardening. The only things I've purchased are a few kid sized garden tools, a kiddie pool, a few balls, a magnifying glass, sidewalk chalk, and a couple of bird feeders. We live near several parks.
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#9 of 19 Old 04-10-2014, 08:18 AM
 
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Birdwatching is super fun. Kiddles are fascinated with wild birds, so you could build a simple bird table for your garden like I did. Building one is very simple and takes no time at all.

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#10 of 19 Old 04-10-2014, 09:33 AM
 
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Ohh good question.

 

I would defiantly look out for used items, we've ended up with most of our big items that way. You can get so much more for your money, and TBH the things we've had new look just the same after they have lived outdoors for a few months.

 

Mine have loved having some kind of den, whether it's a sheet over the washing line or a more permanent playhouse. We have a small pop up tent, one sold for camping rather than play. The play ones were a bit on the small side for both children to fit in.

 

We have a bucket of smaller toys, balls, bean bags (with wooden spoons for an egg & spoon race), bucket type stilts, chalk, bubbles and that sort of thing, As well as helping them tidy up they like to use the bucket to throw things into.

 

We also use the old baby bath for water play or anything which needs to be contained. The current favourite is a homemade "sand" made from flour & oil. http://www.creativeplayhouse.mumsinjersey.co.uk/2011/11/cloud-dough.html

 

We got quite a lot of use form the mini trampoline when they were small, got a lot of energy out in a small space. However it was outgrown in a couple of years

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#11 of 19 Old 04-10-2014, 05:44 PM
 
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The sandbox is our single most popular thing outside.  But you really want a big one.  Don't even consider those dumb turtle things.  Ours is a 6 ft. square made out of cedar 2x6, which is really not hard if you have any family members/friends with a saw and a drill, but otherwise you could just get a big kiddie pool and make big holes in the bottom for drainage, then fill it with sand.  Get a small tarp to cover it if you have cats in the neighborhood.  

 

Keep your eyes out for outdoor ride-on toys at yard sales or craigslist.  Look for kids consignment sales in your area.  A lot of cities have facebook "Mommy's Marketplace" pages or similar that you can post ISO ads on for play equipment.


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#12 of 19 Old 04-11-2014, 04:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I love these ideas!  A magnifying glass for looking at plants and bugs is a GREAT idea - oh, but I'd better make sure that we don't inadvertently burn the bugs, right?  That's something mean kids do on purpose, which is the only reason I have heard of this problem.  I'll get some non-toxic sidewalk chalk, too.

I've located a consignment sale being held nearby tomorrow.  I'm definitely looking for a ride-on vehicle, since my daughter is very interested in these.  You'd be shocked at the amount of time I've spent looking for made-in-the USA, PVC-free, outdoor balls.  At this point, I'm just going to get a toxic, Chinese ball at the Dollar Tree.  At least it will be practically free.  (Or maybe I'll find one at the consignment sale.)
 

Brambleberry, if you're still following, or if anyone else knows, why does a sandbox have to have drainage?  I can drill holes in an existing item;  that is about my level.

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#13 of 19 Old 04-13-2014, 06:33 PM
 
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MamaCB - if it doesn't drain it will totally fill up with water, which would be fun for a while, but messy, and then it will get stagnant (sort of rotten) and just not be cool.


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#14 of 19 Old 04-13-2014, 07:39 PM
 
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I would suggest getting her an actual soccer ball instead of the cheap ones. The cheap ones don't last long, and a soccer ball can be used for a long time.

My kids spend hours playing with rope. Just a long section of rope with a knot at each end.

If you.need a simple sandbox frame, both Lowe's and home depot will cut your boards for you for something like 50 cents a cut. Then, you will just have to screw the corners together. Sand is expensive, tho...

My kids also love forts, riding toys, big swings (from a tree...we also have a tire swing), bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, digging, and growing things.

Lots of water play, also.

Also, they love it when I make rooms outside. Every now and then, I will bring out a bunch of stuff, and set it up like we would have it inside. They love it when I bring out their little kitchen and utensils and give them a bucket of dry beans. We made a tepee out of big sticks, so they cooked and imagined all morning with their house, kitchen, and piles of blankets, baby dolls, and doll clothes.
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#15 of 19 Old 04-13-2014, 07:41 PM
 
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Oh, and It actually takes some skill to burn something with a magnifying glass. You have to focus it just right, and be patient enough to sit really still for a while...
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#16 of 19 Old 04-15-2014, 04:59 PM
 
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The cheapest place to get sand is in bulk at a quarry, concrete supply place, or landscaping supply (like a place that sells bulk mulch and compost, etc).  You do have to have a truck since it's not bagged.  But we're talking something like $10 for 1/2 a truck load vs.  $3 for a small bag.  And I would get concrete sand, not "play sand," because the concrete sand has a mix of different sizes of sand grains and small pebbles that are fun to sift out with colanders or other sifting toys.  Concrete sand is cheaper too, but it is a little dirtier/dustier.  If you want to go with play sand you can add a bag of pea gravel to make it more interesting.


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#17 of 19 Old 04-22-2014, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update: i bought a used ride-on car and a new, cheap ball, neither of which have been stellar hits. I also bought a magnifying glass and a large bubble wand that just arrived today. I also used some of the budget for an indoor toy that I couldn't turn down at the consignment sale. I have about sixty dollars left. My daughter says she would like me to buy her a toddler basketball hoop, but given that she barely plays with the balls I have bought, I think she is too young to know what she wants. Since I only want fancy, nontoxic sand, a sandbox is out, though it would otherwise be my choice. She says she is not interested, though again, ! think she just doesn't know since she hasn't tried it. The remaining money might be used on a kiddie pool or an outdoor bench for kids and adults alike.

Thanks again for all the help! This really is a great online community.
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#18 of 19 Old 05-01-2014, 01:02 PM
 
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:lurk

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#19 of 19 Old 05-01-2014, 01:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaCB View Post

 Since I only want fancy, nontoxic sand, a sandbox is out, though it would otherwise be my choice.

you could make a mini-sand box with a bucket or large bowl... add a few digging toys and I bet she would have some fun :)

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