How We Prepared to Transform
Our Backyard for Cheap
My house is neither Martha Stewart nor Children’s Garden material BUT I can still create a fun and engaging environment for my children for pennies. You just have to think outside the box and be a little creative and ingenious.
We have a decent set-up on our front porch with Little Tikes Picnic table, toddler swing, bikes, and sandbox, and our veggie garden in the side yard. We recently had new renters move in on our block. These new people have already demonstrated that they have unpredictable behavior that is influenced often by altered states of mind. So while I am normally fine sending my children (age 10, 8 1/2, and 3) out front by themselves that may not be the case this Summer. I am pregnant and do not want to put myself, baby, or children in harm’s way. SO that is why I am so pushing for the backyard to be turned into an Educational Oasis!
Have you really looked at your backyard as an extension of your learning space? I know that our yard will be more diverse in activities with children ranging from newborn to age 10 with brothers and a sister. Take a quick inventory of what you have, what you like, what your children like, and what you could do quickly and easily!
Yes, I realize narrowing it down can be very difficult with so many wonderful ideas. I have the advantage of a very small budget so my choice are influenced by what I can find from family and friend’s, ask for on freecycle, or keep a look out for around our neighborhood or on trash days! Yes, I did say trash days,lol. I try to ask the owner’s even if something is put on the curb if the item is substantial. (We recently got a nice tv for our daughter’s room by asking the owner’s if it worked!) And since our city has recently changed it’s trash picking ordinance it’s better to be safe than sorry.
What I did to prepare to transform our Backyard for Cheap:
1. Take a quick inventory of what you have and like-
We already have a full-sized wooden and full-sized plastic picnic tables. We have a fire pit built-in a square to help make it easier to mow around. We have a 2nd sandbox, playhouse, 8-in-1 climber, and Little Tikes Cube to climb on. ( let you in on a little secret: I only spent $75 for all those items! YEP, more than 90% off! The playhouse was being thrown out at a house put up for sale, the sandbox was in the trash across the street, and the climber cube was at another house!)
We own a tent big enough for kids and a parent to sleep in. We purchased last year at Aldi for $25. We also have a garden swing we got from a friend since the seam ripped when her teenagers sat on it. We will need to sew it with fishing line to help the stitching last longer than one season and sew a new canopy cover to keep the sun out of our eyes!
2. Create a list of areas for improvement-
We have a black lab that thinks he’s a chicken and digs himself nice cool dirt holes. So we will need to get some fill dirt and try to grow grass before those holes get out of control. He likes to run along the fence line which creates a mud path when it rains. I will have my kids help me dig up decorative grass from out front to plant in these areas since it spreads nicely and is harder to kill than regular grass!
Our backyard has some stubborn invasive species plants/bushes that need to be taken care of by my husband, dad, or brother-in-law. We also can spray them if we keep the dog away from them which will make them easier to dig up and remove.
Fill in holes where tent will go to level the ground. Purchase an air mattress so mom and dad can enjoy sleeping in tent without hurting our backs! (We found a queen size air mattress for $25 from Aldi!)
We need to extend the “patio” around the playhouse so a kids table and chair will fit in order to create a restaurant area. (My husband’s boss is giving us some bricks and we already have the landscaping fabric for underneath.) We also need to bring some plastic food, pans, and maybe a chef’s apron to hang inside the house.
3. Think about what activities your children enjoy indoors-
Do your children enjoy dinosaurs, building, painting, getting messy, dressing up or playing restaurant? What about fairy houses, gardening, or creating soothing areas to relax? What can you do to create similar, fun, learning places outside? Have you thought about an outdoor art area or mud pie kitchen? (Click on the pictures below for more ideas of how to create these fun spaces!)
4. Create a list of what you could do quickly and easily-
Get those stubborn weeds pulled. Plant grass seed, bulbs, perennials NOW so you can enjoy them all year-long!
We need to get some more bricks for free from some friends for the playhouse patio. We need to figure out where to place our paver stones for hopscotch that we got last year from freecycle.
5. Make a list of projects you’d like and supplies needed-
Have you figured out a couple really good projects that would be good for your children? Do you know of anyone that is getting rid of those materials? Maybe you know someone who has some extra items just sitting there waiting to be asked to be used!
(i.e. I asked across our alley last year and got decorative garden bed edgers to use as the finishing touch for the playhouse patio. Just the other week we saw 4 more laid out and hauled them over which was perfect for extending our patio!)
I just noticed our neighbor across the street has cinder blocks out back and plan to catch up with him to ask if they are all concrete filled or not. If not I want to get 5-7 in order to make an herb garden or dozens to create seating like this :
I hope I got your creative juices flowing and helped you to realize you do not have to have a budget that only the Rockefeller’s could afford or take out a 2nd mortgage on your house to create a great backyard for your children.
This is just the beginning of How we Prepared to Transform Our Backyard for Cheap. You might want to check out our Upcycled Realtor Sign into Magnet Board for a quick project. I will share with you our top 10 Projects to Transform Your Yard into an Educational Oasis next week.