Tag Archives: kids

Building a Sandbox

Building a Sandbox - Emma in play zone

After seeing how much our kids loved playing in the sand at the beach this summer, we decided to take the plunge and build them a sandbox. At first I was worried that there would be sand everywhere because of it, but seeing how long they both played happily in it convinced me we should go for it anyway. We briefly considered making a rock box instead but went back to play sand because we thought the kids would enjoy being able to build with it as well as dig.

We looked at a few sandbox designs for inspiration (from here and here) and Dan combined our favourite elements and drew up a design of what we wanted.

Building a Sandbox - Design

We ended up with a simple box made of 2″ x 8″ with a barn doorish lid made of wood slats to keep the leaves and animals out and strong enough to stand up to the weather and the kids walking on it (because we knew that was the first thing Brendan was going to want to do.)

Building a Sandbox - Design with lid open

After playing around with the wood to get an idea of size we decided to make the sandbox 5′ x 5′. Big enough for both of them to have a good amount of room to play, without it being too big for our space.

Building a Sandbox - Deciding the size

Dan cut the 2″ x 8″ with a mitered edge at each corner and added 4″ x 4″ post in the corners for support. He screwed heavy duty lag bolts through the 2″ x 8″ into the posts to attached the corners together.

Building a Sandbox - Cutting the boards

Then we were ready to put together the lid. Dan picked up some cedar 2″ x 4″s for the cross pieces and 5′ cedar fence boards for the slats. He cut the 2″ x 4″ top and bottom pieces and mitered the top edges so the outside edge wouldn’t get in the way of the sandbox lid opening fully.

Building a Sandbox - Screwing the lid together

Then we attached the deck boards to the top and bottom pieces, spacing and screwing them in from the back. Dan ripped down two of the deck boards to fit the smaller space left in the middle of both of the doors. The sandbox was really starting to come together!

Building a Sandbox - Attached lid

We measured where we wanted the hinges and chiseled out a little pocket for them in the top of the 2″ x 8″ before screwing them in place, so the lid would sit flush on top of the box when closed.

Building a Sandbox - Putting on the hinges

Then Dan measured and attached the diagonal pieces between the top and bottom 2″ x 4″s to add more support and create more of a barn door look.

Building a Sandbox - Finished building

All that was left to do was finish it off with some weather protecting stain and attach the handles. So we brought a few test pots home and tried them out on a few different wood scraps and settled on a brown-gray semi-transparent stain from Behr called Boot Hill Grey (we’d love to also stain the play set the same colour down the road). I brushed the stain on one evening after supper and got it finished just before dark.

Building a Sandbox - Stain colour

A couple days later, Dan and the kids picked up a load of play sand from our local Home Hardware and filled up the sandbox with the wheel barrow.

Building a Sandbox - Sandbox beside playset

The kids love it just as much as we hoped! I still can’t get over how long they will play together in there.

Building a Sandbox - Kids building in the sand

The sand also seems to keep enough moisture in it that it’s great for building. It makes bucket sandcastles beautifully. And the lid holds up well to our little climber.

Building a Sandbox - Brendan walking on the lid

So far my worry about having sand in the house all the time has been kept at bay by keeping a small hand broom by the back door of the garage and brushing them off before they come in.

Building a Sandbox - Kids playing in the sand

We fit this project in between family vacations and a few other home projects but the actual time to put this together wasn’t all that much. We spent one evening building the box, another evening putting together the lid and a third evening to stain it before we were ready for sand. So its definitely a doable project and so much fun for the kids. I love that it’s one of those things that can grow with them.

Building a Sandbox - The play zone


Organizing Toys To Encourage Play

With two cute growing kiddos, our toys collection just seems to keep growing along with them. Every six months or so, I like to do a purge of the extra ones and then figure out a system to keep their favourite ones in order and easy to find. I’m finding that as our family grows and changes, so do our needs.

Organizing Toys

Currently, we keep most of the toys in the living room and the kids bedroom which works out well. But the past couple of months as Brendan is nearing two years old, I’ve noticed that the baskets of miscellaneous toys in the living room don’t work to keep his attention as they used to. When he was younger he used to love sitting in front of a basket of toys and digging through it to find something new. But recently they were just getting dumped and then passed over for something else.

Organizing Toys - Before

Now that Brendan’s old enough that he and Emma play together for more extended periods of time, they’re both engaged much longer in an activity if it’s something they can do and use their imaginations with (like building a castle or racing cars around). Certain toys I’ve always kept separate because it made sense, like the wooden blocks and mega blocks, but now I decided to take the two miscellaneous baskets full of toys and do the same.

Organizing Toys - Shelf close up

So one became for their toy animals and farm and the other for their cars and fire station. The others hold their wooden blocks, train set and play tools. While I was at it I tidied up and sorted through the rest of the shelves and gave away some things we weren’t using or loving anymore.

Organizing Toys - Kids playing

And you know what? It worked! The kids are so much more ready to go and play on their own now that they can really see and find what they have to play with. Instead of just a jumble of toys there are more actual activities together for them to use their imagination with to create something fun. It’s also so much easier for me to redirect them to something to do, when there’s a variety of ideas together for them to play with. We might need to change things up again in the future to suit them better but right now, at the ages of four and almost two, this suits them perfectly.

Organizing Toys - Kids building

Now I’m on the hunt to find the perfect dresser to makeover for their bedroom to corral all the play food and dishes beside their kitchen, and make the doll clothes and dress up more accessible.

What about you? How do you organize your kid’s toys? Do you find yourself having to change things up as they get older?

A Playset For The Kids

I love spending a good portion of our summer days outside. Now that we have this, even more so.

Building a Playset

Last fall, my brother-in-law had a neighbour who was passing on their old playset so he picked it up and brought it up for us, soon after we moved. With unpacking and getting settled in we didn’t have a chance to assemble it before the snow came. So this spring, the kids were so excited to get their playset put together and I was so excited to turn the pile of wood by our backdoor into something useful and fun.

We decided to place it in the back corner of our lot as it can be seen from anywhere in the back yard there, as well as from our big side yard and back french doors where we hope to have a deck someday. It was a bit of a puzzle at first as Dan spread it all out and figured out what went where and what wood we might still need. He ended up buying four pressure treated 4 x 4 posts for the supports and then we were ready to start assembling.

Building a Playset - Deck and railing

We worked on it off and on in the evenings, first digging the holes for the posts and getting them in the ground. The platform was all in one piece so we just had to attach it to the posts using spare wood as cross pieces and some heavy duty lag bolts to anchor them. Next we added the railing, which was already in three sections so we played around with them a bit and cut them to size so we could attach them between the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the slide and ladder

Then we were ready to put the ladder and slide on the front. I freshened up the slide by spray painting it with Krylon’s Fusion for Plastic in a bright yellow. It took three bottles to do two good coats and although it didn’t have perfect coverage, it did really help brighten it up so it doesn’t look so faded anymore.

The kids were so happy about this step because it meant that they could finally start playing on it! That slide got a lot of use and Brendan loved being able to look out and wave from the top. Emma loved it so much she asked if she could sleep out there at night (which is really saying something coming from the girl who doesn’t like to sleep alone at night).

Building a Playset - Brendan climbing down ladder

When we had a free Saturday morning, Dan added the monkey bars and swing set under them, which came together pretty fast compared to the first part. The pieces were all there and we didn’t have to do much fiddling around to get it to fit together, which was nice.

At this point we debated between leaving it as it was as more of a fort, or adding a roof for more of a house look and a little shade from the sun. We were both leaning more towards adding a roof so we decided to go for it. Dan built the frame with leftover wood and I held it up as he attached it to the posts.

Building a Playset - Adding the roof

This proved a whole lot harder then it sounds as that thing was heavy and a little awkward. It also got a little cockeyed during the first installation so we had to take it down, secure it better and then get it back up there again. Our wood clamps ended up saving the day for us as they helped me hold it in place as Dan secured it and we finally got it up there and looking good. Dan bought fence boards for the roof and nailed them on the frame the next evening, overlapping the ends.

The roof is my favourite part. It makes we want to play house and make some mud pies (am I the only one who did that?). The kids have spent hours out here. They love it! Emma has learned how to pump all by herself on the swing and Brendan loves climbing all over it.

Building a Playset - Emma on the swing

Emma and I have great plans for adding some kind of flag and I’d love to stain it someday to unify the old and new wood, but I’ll have to wait until at least the fall so the new pressure treated wood can weather first. We’re also looking forward to adding a sandbox to the mix!

Do you have a play area in your yard for your kids? Where was your favourite place to play as a child?

Strawberry Picking

We love getting in the strawberry patch every summer. It’s such a fun thing to do with the kids and we usually pick enough to put away some for the winter too.

Picking Strawberries - Family picture

This year we went on a Saturday morning to a local u-pick farm and met up with my mother-in-law at the patch. She goes out picking every year too, so it was nice that we could do it together.

Picking Strawberries - Dan and Brendan

Emma was so excited to go strawberry picking this year and she did a great job. She picked about two baskets all by herself.

Picking Strawberries - Emma

Brendan had a ton of fun running up and down the rows, but I think more strawberries ended up in his mouth then in his basket. He rarely had more then one strawberry in his basket at a time, but he was pretty happy carrying it around.

Picking Strawberries - Brendan

It was so much fun watching these two follow each other around the patch.

Picking Strawberries - Kids

We picked sixteen quarts all together, which went pretty fast. The berries were so good this year too. Perfectly ripe.

Picking Strawberries - Getting more baskets

After we got home we washed and hulled the berries and put them away in the freezer. We enjoy them on pancakes and in crisps all year long. And of course, quite a few of them get eaten fresh too. There’s nothing quite like fresh strawberries.

Picking Strawberries - Emma tasting

Are you picking berries this summer? What do you like to do with yours?