Two summers ago I was visiting a friend for the 4th of July.  She’d had her 2nd son a few months before and had decided that, rather than go on vacation with a toddler and a newborn, they’d make they’re yard an awesome place to be.  They bought an inflatable pool with a climbing wall and slide, like this one, and it was a truly awesome play area.

I started thinking of how we could make our yard equally cool.  We’re water people, but I knew we’d want more variety in our yard.  I started looking around for stuff to buy.

After a bit of searching I quickly discovered that buying everything wasn’t going to be possible.  So my next stop was, of course, Pinterest!  I found a bunch of cool ideas and started putting ideas together


The first thing I put together was the sandbox.  We had one of those little turtle sandboxes, but Miss O was quickly outgrowing it… and what’s a play area without a sandbox?!  You can find the original post on how I built the sandbox here.  Cost: $125 (most of that was sand)

Next up was the climbing tires.  Miss O loves to climb anything and everything.  And more than that, she loves to jump off whatever she climbs.  These tires were super easy and cheap.  In fact, if I’d left them black, they would’ve been free.  The instructions for climbing tires can be found here.  Cost: $18


The last thing I added in the first year was the pool.  I got a Intex Snapset pool for $19 and an outdoor rug for $135 to go under it.  The pool is only 18″ deep – safe for a beginner swimmer – and 8′ around so we can all get in.  I chose a snapset as opposed to an inflatable because I didn’t want to have to deal with inflating the pool all the time.  The rug wasn’t completely necessary, and if you’re trying to save money you can skip it, but it helps keep junk out of the pool because we’re not going straight from grass or mulch into the pool.  Cost: $154

This year I decided to go a step further and build a level area in our yard for the pool.  It was simple enough to do and it makes a difference to have a truly flat space for the pool.  Also, since our area is very rocky, laying new topsoil makes it so we don’t have rocks poking through the rug and pool bottom.  (This is another reason we put down a rug – it’s an extra layer to prevent rocks from making holes in the pool bottom.)  You can find the step-by-step instructions on making a level space in your yard here.  Cost: $57 ($27 for wood and screws, $30 for topsoil)


The last major addition to the play area came this year.  The swingset!  We were lucky enough to get this from family for free, but if you search Craigslist or Freecycle you can probably find plenty available in your area, too.  What we didn’t want to do was install it ourselves.  There was some wood rot and some of the screws broke when we were taking it down, so we wanted someone more experienced to make sure it was safe.  Our handyman did it for us for $200.

We also restained it with some leftover stain from when we did our deck last year, so all it cost us was time.  Cost: $200


Some other touches we added – that are completely unnecessary – were the mini fence (about $35 for a 12 pack), the planters I got on clearance for $5 each, and the solar lights that were $1 each on sale.

The mulch was free since we just used the chippings from the tree work we had done last year.  I bought a couple of adirondack chairs and moved a plastic table set over to the space for Miss O to use.


We ended up with a great space that’s functional and looks great, too.  So far we’ve used it almost every day.  There’s space for friends to come over, we can all enjoy the pool, and there’s an open space so if I find another too-cool project, I can add it in.

For everything in the play area, just the way we did it, we paid $615.  Which is pretty impressive considering how much use we’ll get out of it and that it looks like a designed space.  And there are lots of ways to save more if you wanted to.  Just taking out the decorative touches would save $61.  Put the pool on grass and naturally flat ground to save an additional $192.  Save another $40 by not painting the sandbox and climbing tires.  And if you’re handy, you could save $200 by setting up the swingset yourself.

Using all those saving points, this space can be done for about $120!