Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Creating a balcony playground

In the past few months, Mr Sociable has decided that the world is his playground - literally! Everything is there to be climbed on, jumped on and explored. At home, we have pretty limited space for climbing. I want to let him climb, have fun and burn up some energy. But, I don't want to spend my whole day asking him not to climb on the lounge, not to jump on the stairs, etc.

Climbing a cool scramble net at Darling Harbour
We decided to give the kids some more outside equipment for Christmas. We don't have a large backyard, so we talked about ways to put some equipment on our balcony. I've been working on the balcony as a play area for quite a while - adding kids stuff (such as a sandpit and chalkboard) and relocating the grown-up stuff (the comfy chairs and the BBQ). Last year I put some shade walls on the balcony, to make it into more of a room. For Christmas, we bought the kids a scramble net, a pirate telescope and a steering wheel.

Here it is! (before I added the foam mats on the floor)
I'll show you around...

The steering wheel
Both boys love using steering wheels at the park, so we thought it would be a good addition to our balcony playground. We bought this here, but I have recently seen them at Bunnings (cheaper).

Mr Fun is at just the right age for pretend driving!
The telescope
Mr Sociable is really into role-playing about pirates, so we bought him a pretend telescope (installed at his height - the ones at the park are often too tall!).

The scramble net
We bought this here. We bought it without a frame, so that Franky could build the right size frame to fit the space. It took a little longer than I had expected, but Franky now has a new toy too (a jig saw).

The chalk-board
We've had this for quite a while. I actually made it myself from an old piece of wood we had in the garage (the back of an old couch). I painted it with blackboard paint and used dynabolts to attach it to the wall.

Mr Fun is really into drawing at the moment - he just needs to
be reminded about appropriate places to draw ;)
The swing
Mr Sociable was given the swing for his first birthday. Neither of my boys have really enjoyed being strapped into the swing (unless food, toys or tickling were involved). But it's useful if I need to contain Mr Fun for a short time while I do something outside (eg. mow or seasol the lawn). It's also great when friends come over with little ones (the seat reclines for baby-use).

Mr Sociable in the swing, age 1 (note the comfy chairs in the background - gone now!)
Mr Fun in the swing, age 1
The sandpit
We have used the clam shell on the balcony since Mr Sociable was a baby. It has served as both a sand pit and a pool at various times. It is easy to sweep up the sand from the tiles (although I try to teach my kids to keep the sand in the sandpit) and we have two doormats (one inside the door and one outside), which keeps the house pretty sand-free.

Water play when Mr Sociable was a baby
Brothers using the sandpit together for the first time
The wind chime
Both boys (and lots of our visitors) love to make a big noise with the chimes! I have hung them so that the kids can reach the wooden wind catcher and give it a good hard gentle shake.

A jogging trampoline that was mine when I was in high school. It's not as bouncy as a big trampoline - but bouncy enough for kids this age.

Foam mats
I bought foam mats from Bunnings to make the floor a bit softer.

I only put the mats down the climbing end - not
near the sandpit/walkway through to the house.
One thing that I love about this area is that I can see a large part of it from the kitchen. The kids are able to play out there in the afternoon while I prepare dinner (with a few interruptions...).

What next?
I would like to install one shelf on the wall (out of toddler reach) that could house a bottle sunscreen, a box of baby wipes, a box of tissues, some bandaids, etc. I would also like to install a hat rack for all the sun-hats that currently live on the plant-hanger that the previous owners left here. Long term, I do have an idea about adding another climbing thing & attaching a fireman's pole to the brick wall... maybe next Christmas???

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