First, think about the interests of the different people in the family. Mom may need a potting bench and Dad a cabinet for his grilling supplies, but are the kids going to get excited about helping with these projects? Your kids are only around for a few short years, so make the most of that time by joining with them to create something that is just for them.
A great and inexpensive project is to build a raised garden bed. Even if you have a larger garden, a raised bed can be a perfectly sized addition for little ones or those with physical limitations. If make-it-from-scratch is not your forte, consider purchasing a cedar 2-foot-by-6-foot kit for around $75. Add about $25 or less of bulk planting soil, and you’re set.
The beauty of the elevated garden is that it greatly ups the success factor for the plot. Plant kid-friendly veggies, such as a yellow pear or Juliet tomato plants. They bear prolifically, and are perfectly sized for little fingers. The same goes for peppers – try a miniature chocolate pepper or red bell for pop-in-your-mouth-deliciousness. Kids love having a few snapdragons so they can manipulate the tiny “jaws” and make them “roar”, too!
On the kid-friendly spectrum, gnome or fairy gardens are a delight. A big, well-drained pot is a good starting point. Decide if the pot will be on a shaded porch or along a sunny sidewalk, so you can choose the best plants to add. Adorable miniature castles and other small items can be purchased inexpensively anywhere aquarium supplies are sold, and miniature houses, gnomes, fairies, buckets, fences and watering cans are usually best priced at a discount dollar-type store or as flea market finds. Tiny kids toys can be overlooked gems, so keep a watchful eye. Take a little time and look for bargains together. For large pots, some foam packing ‘peanuts’ may be a good idea to place in the bottom of a deep planter to reduce weight. Add a generous depth of good soil, fertilizer, some moss scavenged from the woods, colored glass or natural stones, and let the kids (with fun loving grown-ups!) create a fantasy world where gnomes lean on fences and fairies peek over rocks. Plant a few tiny flowering plants, and the kids can have fun rearranging and playing with the tiny figures all summer long! (Psst... Mom and Dad have been known to do a little playing themselves, too!)
One clever re-purposing project is to take a look at that children’s wooden play set and tower in the backyard. If little ones are now pre-teens and have outgrown it, that doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness. Create a cool and airy reading nook out of the former playhouse area by picking up a package of sturdy metal shower curtain S-style hooks. These can be gently bent to fit down over the boards. Space them evenly around the upper perimeter. Cut lengths of airy, washable fabric to drape down all sides of the playhouse, and then knot the fabric onto the S-hooks. Add a plush rug, and voila! A place to dream or read away a summer’s afternoon.
Consider building a versatile lemonade stand/play store to boost kids’ entrepreneurial spirits or double as a puppet stage. (Hint: Mom or Dad can re-purpose it to hold garden or barbecue supplies in a few years!) Use a slotted construction template (http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/static/pdf/family-projects/lemonade-stand.pdf) for easy take-apart storage. Kids can get involved with sanding and painting, while adults handle the power tools.
Kids and parents can create wonderful memories creating summer fun opportunities together.
Published: June 12, 2012