Last month we looked at garden games you can play when the weather is bad, and most of the examples we used in that post can be played with what’s in the garden (such as puddles, leaves and stones for example) and a little imagination. But what if you wanted to get a little more ambitious? If you’ve got a little DIY know-how or you’re not afraid to give it a go, what about tackling a building project such as a playhouse or swing set?
When I was growing up, we had a neighbour whose dad built him an actual rollercoaster in his back garden; full metal track, little sit on car, the works. Now, I’m not for one second suggesting you go to that extreme, it filled their garden, however, there are some easy and fun to build DIY garden games projects that you, your children or grandchildren will definitely love.
The Lazy Susan team have come up up with our top 5 favourite DIY garden games projects. Of course, the type of project you tackle will very much depend on the space available in your garden and the level of DIY project you're prepared to take on... Don’t bite off more than you chew and go for something that will enhance your outdoor space is our advice!
We’ve tried to pick a good selection of different garden games projects to help get you inspired, start the process of thinking about what it would be best to build and hopefully help you find something you can have in the garden for the kids this summer!
Lazy Susan’s favourite DIY garden games projects you can make
1. Build a playhouse
Let’s start with an obvious one but something we know all younger kids are always going to love; a playhouse or treehouse. Of course, what exactly you build is very much dependent on space (and if you have a suitable tree in the garden if you go down that route). However, even if you’ve limited space, and a treehouse sounds a little too ambitious, then trust us, even just a little outdoor mud pie kitchen will keep them entertained for hours.
There are some great kits you can buy or you could even pay a professional, however, if you decide to do it yourself, then you can easily save a few hundred pounds, especially if you were thinking of hiring a professional to install it for you. Most of the cost is the labour and that will often cost you way more than you’d pay for the kit or raw materials.
The Big DIY chains such as B&Q have some great kits and advice on how to build a wooden playhouse, whilst Garden Buildings Direct have a great article that looks at the how and why of building your own.
If you need a little further inspiration, then our advice would be to have a look on YouTube. There are loads of great videos such as the one below from Tough Guys TV. It goes into the details and clearly explains what they did and what materials/tools they used to complete the project for their own kids:
If you want to build a garden kitchen, then Craig Phillips (yes, he of Big Brother fame) at Silverline Tools has produced this excellent video that shows you how to build one from low cost reclaimed pallet wood and scaffolding boards:
2. Garden board games
There’s a wide range of garden games that started life as indoor or tabletop games but have been adapted for the outdoors. Jenga, Connect 4 and Dominoes are all examples of games that have been reimagined in large format and weather-resistant materials for the garden.
Now, you can easily purchase most of these types of games, however, there are also many DIY versions with how-to’s online, For example, Iron & Wine have this great guide to making your own DIY lawn dominoes, while Creative Green Living has produced a great how-to for making your own giant garden Jenga set.
However, at Lazy Susan, one of our favourite DIY garden games projects has to be the patio chessboard. Chess is a great game to teach your kids, it’ll help improve their cognitive skills such as concentration, decision making, problem-solving, and much more. And if you’re going to tackle a garden chessboard, then for us it has to be this fab chessboard patio from Good Home Design (Pictured Below).
You can purchase the large outdoor chess pieces from Robert Dayas but if the stone/grass board isn’t for you then could go for a smaller tiled version as shown in the video below from DIYeasycrafts:
3. Back garden cinema
If your kids are a little older and into their teens, then this might be the project for you and them. There’s a wide range of outdoor projectors and, as with most tech products, what was once a £1000 plus, prices are falling and good outdoor projectors can be purchased for around the £300-£500 mark.
Take the BenQ GS2 (pictured above), not only does it look great, but this wireless portable LED projector is perfect for outdoor use. It is splash-proof and drop-proof and can also be used as a Bluetooth garden speaker. Featuring a hassle-free wireless setup with auto keystone and 15° tilt, it's compatible with Mac/iOS, Android, and PC, and is the ideal choice for creating your own back garden cinema.
If you want to save a little money, why not look at building your own garden cinema screen? The video below from the DIY Huntress shows you how she transformed her parent's back garden into an outdoor movie theatre with a DIY outdoor projection screen:
If you want to take it even further, this next video from ManShed shows how he transformed a boring garden shed into a seriously wow garden cinema:
4. Garden swing
Much like a playhouse, a garden swing (if you’ve got the space) is almost a rite of passage. Plus the options are endless, from a relaxing porch swing or a high-energy webbed basket swing to a classic full-bucket baby swing or tree hung tyre swing. Whatever the outdoor space you have, there’s an option for you. As with all the games on our list, there are of course sets or kits you can buy, however, if you want to go down the DIY route then you can really let your imagination run wild.
If you want to build a stylish porch swing that’ll appeal to both adults and children, then this video from This Old House is a great place to start. It shows you how to assemble the basic frame using 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 timbers, and to keep the cost down they repurpose an old baby mattress with waterproof shell for the seat padding:
If you want a more simple project, then this tree swing from Dave Wirth covers all the bases in terms of the safest materials to use and how to tackle the project:
If you want to up the DIY skill level, then this swing set from DIY Tyler is one serious playset. It has everything from slides and monkey bars to a bridge and different swing types, and whilst not necessarily complicated to build, it does have a lot of parts to tackle:
5. Back garden mini golf
Setting up a mini-style golf course in your own back garden is another of those projects that will guarantee hours of fun for the kids and big kids alike. You can keep it simple or look to do something a little more adventurous by adding in sandpits and crazy golf-style obstacles.
Daniel Cutting got bored during the lockdown and went to town with his back garden course in the video below:
You might not want to do as much as Daniel but he shares some great ideas to get you thinking about what you could do in your own garden.
If you want something a little more temporary/simple that can be put away when the kids have finished playing, then the next video from Lowe’s Home Improvement is a great alternative:
Or if you and/or your kids take your golf seriously, then a back garden putting green is maybe the project to tackle:
How to tackle DIY garden games projects the Lazy Susan way
Hopefully, our top 5 will give you a little food for thought. Of course, the options of what you can build are endless, but the logical choice is something you know your kids are going to love and play with regularly. However, as we touched on in our intro, you want this project to be fun. Something you can tackle in a weekend or two. You don’t want it to become a chore or something that will sit half-finished. Our advice when making the final decision is to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your level of DIY skill?
Be honest with yourself here. If you have a basic level of carpentry then you can easily build a simple wooden playhouse but don't take on DIY Tyler's swing set if you arent 100% sure you can do what's needed.
2. What is your budget?
You might have the DIY skills but do you have the budget to pay for the materials you’ll need? Could you repurpose the lumber from an old shed or construct it from old pallets for example? Set a budget and stick to it!
3. Do you have the right tools for the job?
Do you have the tools, or to put it correctly, the right type of tools for the job? If you need to purchase say a circular saw, then that needs to be added to the budget. However, you must be careful and comfortable when using, so safety first.
4. Do you have enough outdoor space?
How big is your garden? Once the playhouse, swing or whatever you build is in place will there still be enough room for you to use the garden? Can you safely build and allow space for it to be safely played with? Can you legally build whatever it is you want to build? Check with your local council/planning office before you commit.
5. Will your neighbours be impacted by what you build?
Following on from point 4, even if there are no planning restrictions, you need to be considerate to your neighbours. Our advice, be proactive and speak to them first. Nobody wants a treehouse overlooking their garden or patio!
6. How to choose what garden games to build?
As we’ve already mentioned, pick something the kids will want to play with but that you’re happy to have in your garden for the next 5 to 10 years. Do some research, watch the how-to video and, most importantly, get the kids involved in both the planning and building (where it's safe to do so).
7. How to choose what materials to use?
This isn't one many people think about at first but it's important to get materials that look good, you’re comfortable to work with, fit your budget and most importantly are safe to use on whatever project you tackle. Again, do your research and get the best your budget can afford.
If you are in any doubt about your DIY garden games projects, then ask a friend to help. Even if that friend has a similar level of DIY skills as you, it can still be a big help when building any larger structures or just to bounce ideas off. Failing that, hire a professional. It'll cost but if you don't think you can build something safe and sturdy, then leave it to those who can. If you do go DIY, always remember safety first!