DIY Enchanted Children's Garden for Under $250

These warm Chicago weekends bring out all the "do-it-yourselfers". If you don't have a picnic or graduation party to attend this weekend, chances are you are planting, painting, or sprucing up your outdoor space in preparation for the Chicago summer. This week's DIY is a project I completed the other weekend - creating an enchanted garden/play area on a dime for my son and daughter.

We have a few different areas around our house that could use some love, one of which is an awkward area between our house and detached garage. It is no more than 7 ft x 10 ft and is mostly shaded. When we moved in, there was some ground cover, an overgrown bush and a small "troll bridge" as my husband and I called it. It was a little wooden bridge that was literally built for someone the size of a troll. Since we didn't really know what to do with it, we just left it there....for 9 years.

Before: The area is a dumping ground for random toys.

Now that the troll bridge is just the right size for my two little ones, I've decided to re-purpose this area as a garden and creative play space for them. As a kid, I always sought out the nooks and crannies of our Palos Heights backyard for my creative play. A shaded spot under the big purple maple, a grassy hideaway between the bushes and the shed. This is where I created my enchanted gardens.

My main goals for my children's garden area were to make something cute and quick while inspiring their creativity...an oh yes, budget conscious. I also wanted minimal to no construction. I am the queen of half-ass when it comes to hanging, mounting, and constructing things so needed to stay away from hammers and nails as much as possible.

While there was a slight bit of construction (think building IKEA-like furniture), this entire project was done in one weekend (a day and a half, really) and with under $250 in materials from Menard's. The outcome is an enchanted garden that my son and daughter love, complete with outdoor art canvas, pebble pathway, flower garden, sandbox, tool bench, reading "nook", wishing pond, and of course, troll bridge.

The verdict? My son: "You really did it mommy. This used to be lame." My daughter: "Now I can make a wish everyday!"

DIY Garden Sign to Welcome Friends
After: DIY Enchanted Children's Play Area

Supplies Needed

  • 1 trellis arbor - 50% off at Menard's these past two weeks
  • large plastic bucket/flower pot
  • 2 fake, floating lily pads
  • water pump
  • vinyl tubing
  • decorative water spout (we are partial to frogs and toads around here)
  • garden fencing
  • flat shaded annuals, plants of your choice
  • turtle sandbox, several bags of play sand
  • plastic children's furniture
  • old bench
  • paver stones (interlocking - your choice)
  • several bags of pea gravel
  • several bags of mulch
  • 1 sheet peg board
  • 1 small bench
  • Several cans of spray paint (black chalkboard, your choice of colors - pink, yellow, brown)
  • metal pegs (for hanging garden implements)
  • 2 plastic black shutters
  • 1 large canvas (18 x 24) with large plastic frame

Wishing Pond

Dig a large hole to partially submerge your large flower pot or bucket. This will become your pond. Fill bucket with water and submerge water pump. Attach vinyl tubing to water spout and arrange shady plants or ferns around the pond. Add fake lily pads and you are ready to go! We call it our "wishing pond" and drop a coin in and make a wish each day.

DIY wishing pond using a flower pot.

Tool Bench

For the tool bench, I took a large piece of pegboard (spray painted black) and mounted it behind an old bench (also spray painted black). I hung hooks into the peg board for all of the kids' garden implements. I used an old flower pot for holding their rakes, garden hoes, and shovels.

DIY Tool Bench for Kids' Garden Supplies

Reading "Nook" with Shutters

I love shutters. I am always drawn to old shutters artfully hung on a wall or used in a creative way. I had a pair of black plastic shutters that we collecting dust from an art show years ago, so I dug them out, stuck them in the ground, and created a little reading nook for the kids. My daughter loves to sit and read her books, so why not do it in her garden? I hung two little pots with hooks for a touch of green. One pot holds lavender and the other, thyme. The chair is a simple, plastic kids' chair that I spray painted a cheery yellow.

DIY Reading Nook with Shutters

Outdoor Art Canvas

In addition to shutters, I also love chalkboard paint. It has a thousand and one uses. For this area, I spray painted a canvas with black chalkboard paint, then framed it and mounted it on the wall. We store the sidewalk chalk in the tool bench and let the kids have at it, creating an outdoor work of art.

DIY Outdoor Art Canvas using Chalkboard Paint

Got any ideas for creative spaces for kids? Send a comment and share!

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