Activities aimed at development of gross motor skills are very important for small children.
First, they help your kid to be strong and confident in her body. Second, they serve as a basis for an active lifestyle and good physical health. Third, they create numerous opportunities for children to communicate and help each other.
Even if your backyard is small, or you don’t have enough funds to install a full-size jungle gym, you can still construct your own climbing frame using nothing but cedar or pine blocks. Designed by Thoughtbarn, an architecture studio from East Austin, Texas, the PlayHive is a large conical structure that is ideal for climbing and exploring. The studio prepared a detailed PDF instruction on how to construct the PlayHive: it is absolutely free and can be downloaded here. This DIY project is not very complex: any parent who has a way with a saw and a drill will be able to complete it in a day or two.
The base of the PlayHive is a wide six-foot circle; the playscape gets narrower at the top. Wood is a totally eco-friendly material, so there are no risks of exposing your kids to potentially harmful plastics and other polymers. Wooden blocks need to be smoothed; the designer also proposes to color protruding blocks so that they can be easily seen. You can go as far as to color the entire climbing frame to make it look joyful and appealing.
There are many ways to play with the PlayHive. First, your kid might simply climb it trying to find the fastest route to the top and back. Second, you can make her task a bit more difficult by putting small treats on various ledges and inviting her to collect them all. Third, a group of children can use the PlayHive to have a race or to find out who is the best climber. Fourth, you can cover the PlayHive with large wooden planks and turn its top into an excellent vantage point for your kid to stand guard at. Fifth, you can equip the hive with small boxes so that you kids can store their treasures there. Some parents might also want to construct several hives and join them with long planks. Kids will have the time of their lives trying to get from one structure to another: this exercise will help them to improve their balance and coordination skills.
To construct the PlayHive you will need:
- Fifty 2 x 4 x 8’ pieces of lumber
- Six 2 x 12 x 8’ pieces of lumber
- A lot of 2’’ screws
- Paint (optional)
The designer recommends using either cedar (more expensive, but more durable) or pine (it is cheaper, and you can treat it for better lastingness). A miter saw or a circular saw should be used to cut the blocks, a drill or an impact driver to join blocks together, and a sander or router to make them smooth. As you can see, this project can hardly blow a hole in your budget and, what’s more, your kids will adore it!