We build our own beach

For years now, our play area has looked like this:

play area 1

But as the girls have gotten older, I’ve thought about what type of “older kid” play area would get the most use.  In the end, I decided on a “beach area,” next to our pool – a sand pit and net for volleyball and badminton, a fire pit for marshmallow roasts and warming up following after-dark swims, and swings.

play area 2
The girls goofing off after a particularly contentious game of parents vs kids badminton

Inspired by a pin on Pinterest, I conceptualized stand-up swings made from skateboards (without the wheels, of course!)  Actually, one is a long board, closely resembling a surfboard, so the girls call them the “surfboard swing” and “skateboard swing.”

play area 3
Alia gets the surfboard swing rockin’

We got rid of the play structure easily enough – a “come get it for free” posting on Craigs List resulted in over a dozen requests in just 15 minutes!  My friend Casey did all of the heavy lifting for the construction project, bringing in his excavation equipment to dig out the cedar chips, then building the stone wall around the site and filling it in with four dump truck loads of beach sand.  We used the same stone to hollow out and build the fire pit, and set the net poles in cement in tires, so that the next could be moved around if we wanted.

play area 4
roasting marshmallows on July 4th

We initially thought that we’d set the trampoline in the grass that bordered the sand pit, but when we decided to locate the swings there, we moved it behind the sand pit, off to the side of the new gravel parking area we put in for easier access to the swimming pool when we had groups come to swim or hosted parties.

play area 5

Casey engineered the entire skateboard swing structure, beginning with 3-foot holes, filled with tubing and rebar and then 6″ square posts set in concrete.  Next, he used a man-lift to set a HUGE glue-lam as the top cross-bar, and had iron brackets fabricated for the post tops and corners.  Finally, he wrapped the 6″ posts in cedar for a finished look.  The structure sways a little when adults use the swings (not that it’s going anywhere, but it still makes me nervous!) but it’s rock-solid when the kids are swinging.

play area 6

Next, Casey found skateboard tops and drilled holes in them, then ran through climbers’ rope, up through two wooden dowels for handles, and up to climbing carabiners that attached to the cross-bar.

play area 7

I’ve found that adults have a little trouble getting the swings going, but the kids can get them flying . . . not to mention all of their amazing tricks!

play area 8





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5 comments on “We build our own beach

  1. Wow, it’s great to see the finished project. I had seen it in May when it was just getting started. Those swings look cool and the “swinger” looks good at it. Will you girls teach me how to when I’m there in Sept.?

  2. Thanks for the idea of the surfboard swing.
    She looks very good at ‘working’ it.
    I built one for my grandson .
    Are there any tricks to the person getting started on it?
    I tried it myself and found it to be very awkward to get it going smoothly?
    Perhaps kid are better at it.
    Any hints?

    • I have the same experience, but the kids seem to get the hang of it a lot more quickly – my daughters either run and jump on, and their momentum gets them swinging, or they use one foot to push off the ground until they get going, and then they kind of twist their hips to keep it swinging. In fact, they can get it going so high that it makes me nervous and I tell them to dial it back a bit!

  3. Where did you get the skateboards from?

    • We just bought skateboard skins from a local skate shop, although another good place to look would be a second-hand outdoor supplies store (used skateboards would work just fine!)

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