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The freedom and joy of childhood cannot be programmed into a video game or saved on TiVo. It takes real-life play, preferably outdoors. But to get kids off the couch, and keep them off it, you need to provide something that is active and exciting—and maybe even feels a little bit dangerous. What follows are three DIY projects that can turn a backyard into a place of adventure, where parents can keep an eye on the fun and (we hope) join in on it.
The first project: a climbing wall. Commercial walls are towering structures requiring ropes and harnesses, but a shorter bouldering wall can be just as challenging, and it doesn''ll need to attach it to a strong existing support structure. Jon Popham, of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, constructed this bouldering wall for his 10-year-old son, Kye, using the side of his recently renovated garage. This gave him a 12-ft.-high face to work with, but he still had to plan around an existing air conditioning unit. The size of your wall will depend on the age and abilities of your resident climbers, but making it some multiple of a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of plywood is the most efficient use of materials. As a general rule, don''t be overbuilt. Opt for beefy framing members and heavy bolts and deck screws rather than nails, and use galvanized framing connectors for strong joints. Popham secured four 12-ft.-long horizontal ledgers through the building''s layout as his son''background-image:url("");''s interests. "" he says.

A simple half-pipe design consists of two quarter-pipe ramps connected by a flat base and is typically made out of a wooden frame covered with plywood sheathing. Dahlen made each of his curved ramps out of two upright plywood support panels, which he tied together with 2 x 4s. The flat base was made by securing decking to a framework built of closely spaced 2 x 4s.

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To construct the frame, Dahlen marked and cut the curved plywood supports with a jigsaw, using the first as a template for the other three, before screwing the joists to the supports.

For the skating surface, he used a layer of 3/4-in. exterior-grade plywood for the flat base and the platforms at the top of the ramps. For the curved surfaces, he needed a more flexible material, and opted for two layers of 38-in. plywood. He secured these surface layers to the cross joists using 2-in. galvanized wood screws placed 6 to 8 in. apart.

To ensure decent drainage, Dahlen set the ramp on a gravel bed. To keep the sound of wheels screeching along plywood from annoying the neighbors, Dahlen suggests filling the interior of the ramp with sound-muffling spray foam.

CONTINUED: Build a BMX Jump >>>

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3. BMX Jump

Dirty Work

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for The 2008 Olympics are the first to feature BMX racing, in which bikers vie for position over bumpy off-road tracks. So a backyard bike course could be viewed as an investment in a future medal. Because the jumps are made out of little more than packed dirt, this is the perfect project the 1 last update 2020/06/05 for the carpentry-averse.The 2008 Olympics are the first to feature BMX racing, in which bikers vie for position over bumpy off-road tracks. So a backyard bike course could be viewed as an investment in a future medal. Because the jumps are made out of little more than packed dirt, this is the perfect project for the carpentry-averse.

Peter Weiss gave up a half acre of his 5 1/2 acre property in Sarasota, Fla., to construct a BMX course for his 17-year-old son Eli, who has been riding BMX since he was 4 years old. He built the course with four friends. "" the elder Weiss says.

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Just about any dirt will do for constructing jumps, but the National Bicycle League suggests a mix of 80 percent clay and 20 percent sand for an easy-to-pack mound. The material needs to be free of debris. And while it's possible to move the dirt with a wheelbarrow, renting a small Bobcat makes the job easier. For his course, Weiss used a wheelbarrow and a borrowed dump truck.

Each jump has two slopes: a launch ramp and a landing ramp. A good beginner jump could be 18 in. high, with a 2-ft.-long launch side, a 4-ft.-long landing ramp and at least 6 ft. of packed dirt between. A launch ramp with a 30 to 40 percent slope will give a rider maximum distance, while a steeper incline adds airtime and height.

The slope is smooth right up to the lip; the top of the mound is flat. Once the jumps were packed, Weiss and his crew wet and repeatedly tamped down the dirt as it dried, to make sure it was solidly packed.

RELATED STORIES

DIY RALLY: 10 Coolest Backyard Inventions of 2008

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for • 3D WORKSHOP: Over a Dozen Animated Woodworking Plans!

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