We’re in the middle of re-vamping our backyard and building a newer, better outdoor classroom. But that doesn’t mean we’re ditching all our old stuff. We had a ball area in our old outdoor classroom, but there was room for improvement.
All together the balls area is simply a DIY basketball hoop, a DIY ball drop, and a DIY pulley.
The basketball hoop is a super easy, super cheap DIY that I highly recommend.
All you need is a round plastic laundry basket and a utility knife. Cut the bottom out of the laundry basket, go slow so you don’t crack the plastic and mind the fingers.
I made the basketball hoop pictured above 3 years ago for our old apartment patio and it still gets its fair share of play time every week; we like to play horse with LittleMan’s spelling words.
The ball drop was free to make using scrap wood and recyclable materials.
We started with a wooden pallet that was salvaged for free from the scrap pile, which we then painted with some white paint we had left over from another project. We then cut the tops and bottoms off of 10 empty soda bottles and screwed the middle portion of the bottles to the wall.
When the children drop the balls through the top, they can watch the balls fall through the clear bottles and land somewhere else. This is really more of an activity for the toddlers, but it sure does keep them busy.
We made the ball drop last year and it has held up really well in all weather situations thus far.
The pulley has been so popular that I had to put a second one up in another area of our backyard.
Originally it was made out of $1 plastic Easter bucket but the kids loved on it a little too much and the bucket ended up cracked. I up-graded to a tougher 1-gallon plastic paint bucket which has thicker plastic and a sturdier handle and that seems to be standing up to the use much better than the last one.
To make this toy all you need is a length of rope and a bucket. Tie the rope to the bucket handle, throw the bucket over a branch, tie the other end of the bucket to a brick or tree or something else secure and low to the ground.
Kids of all ages love filling the bucket with balls and other odd items, then pulling on the rope to haul the bucket up high and lower it back down.
Sometimes I can catch 3 or 4 kids at a time working together to haul the bucket up.
Sometimes they find something heavy to tie the rope down and keep the bucket suspended in the air.
I’ve even observed them playing a game they made up which seems to be a cross between basketball and breaking open a pinata.
We used to store the balls in a five gallon bucket with a lid, however the lid was too difficult for the children to take off by themselves and sometimes they’d leave the lid off so the bucket would fill with rain water.
To fix this problem we’ve switched to a laundry basket with holes in the bottom. There is nothing for the children to have to worry about opening or closing properly. The rain water drains right out the bottom and the balls dry quickly. We put a large rock at the bottom of the laundry basket to prevent it from being blown away. So far it works really well, much better than the old bucket did.