Making Do With Simple Things for Children
There was a time when we devised all kinds of equipment out of simple objects. This was particularly so when camping and it was necessary to devise ways of making a table or for suspending saucepans over the camp fire. These days we buy a collapsible table, which we will use next time and our camp fire has given way to a primus stove. Much of the romance of camping has been lost in the quest for off the peg convenience.
The same applies to games for children. We buy all kinds of equipment that we could easily make ourselves. In fact I often think it is sometimes easier and less time-consuming to make something up rather than have the hassle of travelling to the shops. I was impressed when I saw some boys playing draughts with bottle tops. It was easy to find tops in two different colours and a chequered “board” could be scratched out of the sand. Of course with tops in plentiful supply it doesn’t matter if you lose one! It saves mother and father having to search for it.
We have pursued this theme for making various types of play equipment by using simple things like a plank of wood, poles and rope and even old car tyres. We prefer something that blends into the surroundings rather than metal contraptions that fill up so much of the garden. If you are concerned with keeping up with the neighbours then this may not be the thing for you. However you can devise many more varieties of play equipment than you can buy in the shop.
A tree is a particularly useful item to have in the garden. It does need a horizontal branch within reach of the ground, not only to help children to climb but also to support different equipment like a slide or swings of various kinds. The usual problem is that the branch is not horizontal enough and the swing twists due to the difference in the length of the ropes on each side. This can be prevented to some extent if the branch is flexible by moving the swing further out from the trunk until the branch bends sufficiently under the weight of the child. There is then the danger of the branch breaking but a rope from the end to another branch or further up the trunk can provide the reinforcement necessary to take the increased weight.
One of the advantages of constructing equipment is that you can work with your children and teach them the physical principles involved. They sometimes learn some physics as well! They will soon tell you if they get bored.