Staycation in the Ukrainian countryside – DIY playground almost for free

A John Lennon quote goes something like this: “Life is what is happening to you while you are busy making other plans”. In 2020 in the Covid-19 time this is truer than ever. I think a lot of us had plans for 2020 that had to be modified one way or another. For me and my family this definitely was the case. Not just did the Covid-19 change my work life. No more going to the office, instead all work was carried out remotely, but also the amount of work dropped dramatically. But my wife’s grandmother broke her leg and now requires help 24/7 so my wife, our almost 2-year-old daughter moved in with grandmother in her house in a Ukrainian village where life is very different from the life we are used to in town.

I could write a lot about life here (and I might do it at a time) but this blog post will be about how to keep you and your child busy when you find yourself in a place with no playground or no real area for outdoor leisure time.

My wife’s grandmother is very impressed about all the time and energy I spend building stuff for my daughter but let’s be honest – I probably have almost as much fun building it as she has playing on it – not to mention my proud feelings when I can see that she enjoys playing on something that I build 😊

So without no further ado, here is inspiration to how to build a playground almost for free:

The first structure I build was this one:

The ramp is not for sliding (it is not steep enough and it would also hurt your bu…. If you tried 😊 ). The structure is built out of an old pallet plus some wood from and old shed that constructions workers on a nearby construction site left laying on my parking lot in the city for weeks before I picked it up. The ladder is made of branches from trees on the land here in the village. It is not very beautiful but my daughter thinks it is funny to climb the ladder and walk down the ramp. Cost: virtually nothing, a few screws and a bit of wire.


The second thing I build is this:

It is very, very simple – but it was hard work because I cut the trunk in both ends with a handsaw. It was meant to train the balance and my daughter also use it for that but mostly she thinks that we should just sit on it and relax.


The third thing on our little playground I didn’t build because we already had it:

A swing – probably my daughters favorite. This model here is a bit difficult to build yourself but something similar can either be build or purchased. Cost – It really depends but a few bucks for the cord is the absolute minimum.


The fourth thing is not just for my daughter it is for the entire family. It is a swing bench.

It is made out of the third bench seat in my Volkswagen bus (the two others are still in the bus). I cut off the original frame that is was connected to and welded a new one by using parts from the original frame. So while this one also didn’t cost me anything (expect for the bright orange strap that it is hanging from) I realize that most people don’t have an extra Volkswagen bench seat laying around and maybe also don’t have access to a welder so for this one I have provided an alternative: The pallet bench made out of one pallet:

In the DIY pallet furniture universe (this universe exists – just look at Pinterest) the pallet bench seems to be the most popular piece of furniture but this one that I created is the simplest (and roughest) version I have seen. But throw some pillows or an old mattress on it and you have a very comfortable place to sit (I am writing this sitting on it)


The fifth thing is this seesaw:

I only made one end completely since we don’t have any playmates here and the unfinished end is always used by an adult. I got the little barrel gifted from a friend and the handle is welded by parts from the Volkswagen bench seat that is covered with a piece of water hose. Here I have to admit that the wood used is bought and not recycled like in the other cases.


The sixth thing is this bench:

It was supposed to be with 3 platforms for my daughter to crawl on. But during the construction phase I just thought that this looks like a be a bench 😊 The wood comes from two pallets.


This is not supposed to be a complete guide to how to build a playground. It is more supposed to be an inspiration and to show that you and your child can have a lot of fun without having to spend a lot of money. 

As a disclaimer, should you try to copy some of the designs then don’t let you child play unattended.