Monday, June 30, 2014

DIY Ball Run for Kids: Building with Loose Parts in the Backyard

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Grab some loose parts and try making an outdoor DIY ball run with your kids!

We like to keep a variety of loose parts handy for the kids to play with in our backyard. Things like paving stones and scrap wood. Basically, materials that can be used for building all sorts of things and inspiring creative thinking along the way. Besides, there's lots of benefits to loose parts play for kids.

In the past, we have made an elaborate balance beam obstacle course, DIY ramps for toy cars, outdoor play roads, and a big rainbow just to name a few. The latest creation, which you see here, was inspired by marble runs and marble mazes. 

Some of the loose parts that we have in our backyard are some old, yet slightly damaged, colorful bocce balls. They were water filled bocce balls that unfortunately were left out in the cold. So they cracked. Regardless, my boys still love to play with them.

One particular day, my boys were rolling the bocce balls down some scrap pieces of wood.  My husband joined in and soon the three of them were building a giant outdoor ball run together.

So let's take a closer look at the DIY ball run that they created and how you can make your own ball run too!

DIY ball run for kids using loose parts in the backyard

Outdoor DIY Ball Run for Kids: What You'll Need

Here's what we used to build our DIY outdoor ball run:

  • Bocce balls or any similar small or medium sized ball should work - You might need different size balls depending on what materials you have and use
  • Scrap pieces of wooden handrails (they have built in grooves) - You could use scrap pieces of gutters. Basically, anything with a lip that will contain a ball. These wood pieces are the same ones we used for these toy car ramps.
  • Paving stones - These were used to prop up the wood pieces and to make walls to keep the ball contained. You could also use pieces of scrap wood, cardboard boxes, or whatever else you think might work.
  • Sidewalk chalk (optional) - In case your kids want to decorate the ball run in any way

Time to Build an Epic Ball Run!

It took a little bit of tinkering to get the bocce balls to run down the course (and stay on) properly. The paving stones were used to prop up the scrap wood, as well as make little walls to keep the balls on course.  Like I said, a lot of tinkering was involved. The final design of the outdoor ball run looked like this:

Child playing with wooden ball runs in the backyard

My oldest son J requested a start line and a finish line to complete the outdoor ball run. So, armed with some sidewalk chalk, my husband kindly obliged. The kids also decorated the scrap wood with some sidewalk chalk

Drawing a start line for an outdoor ball run

Finish line for outdoor wooden ball runs for kids

Now that our unique ball run was all set up and properly decorated, it was finally time for some proper ball races. Let the good times roll, I guess. Yes, I'm so witty, aren't I?  

Toddler holding a ball on a backyard ball run made from scrap wood and loose parts

Child playing with DIY outdoor ball run made from loose parts and scrap wood

Lots of turn taking was involved here. Eventually J and K worked out a plan to only roll a specific color of bocce ball down this ball run. Look at them building important social skills and problem solving skills!

Kids playing with their own DIY ball run in the backyard

Kids playing with a homemade backyard ball run

Naturally, there were lots of other shenanigans that went on during the course of this ball run play, including lining up all the balls to create a bocce ball train to roll down the course.

My kids definitely had a lot of fun with this backyard DIY ball run!

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DIY outdoor ball run for kids: find out how to make a ball run with loose parts and scrap wood in the backyard