How I Transformed A Shed into an Active Play Area for My Family in Just 2 Days

published Nov 26, 2021
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Credit: Tidy Dad

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When our little family of five needs to escape the hustle and bustle of life in New York City, we enjoy retreating to our cottage in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. Last winter, during the height of the pandemic, we transformed the little 5’x7’ shed that is connected to our cottage into a multi-purpose workout and play space for the entire family. The girls were used to active play opportunities at our NYC playground, so they were in need of a space to swing, climb, and jump at the cottage!

I painted the ceiling, floor, and walls with leftover paint from other home projects. When you’re looking to update play spaces, see what leftover paint you have laying around — it’s an easy, budget-friendly way to give new life to a project (and it’s more sustainable than buying new paint for each project). Tip: label your paint cans clearly and with swatches, then organize according to color, so you never have to hunt too much for what you need. I attached five support hooks to the ceiling beams to hang swings and various climbing ladders (more on that below). The hooks allow us to reconfigure the multipurpose play area according to our girls’ preferences. In about eight hours, over the course of two days, I was able to transform the space into a kids gym that is perfect for active play all year round.

Whether you have a small shed like ours, or a basement, or small nook in your home, there are some simple items that you can bring into your space to help transform it into an active, multi-purpose play area for your kids. Here are some of our favorite play items that will help your kids burn some energy, especially during the cold winter months! 

Credit: Tidy Dad
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Fat Brain Toys
was $39.95

This cozy pillow swing is perfect for napping, reading, swinging, and spinning. The swing has a pillow seat and reinforced stitching and sides that keep kids securely in the seat. We added a hook to the center beam in our shed to hold the swing. My girls delightedly swing and spin one another and also use the seat as a cozy reading spot when the weather allows.

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This colorful 6-piece balance pod set encourages kids to jump, stretch, and improve balance and coordination skills. I also love them because they add a little more rigor to adult exercises such as squats and pushups. These balance pods have inspired our girls to play games such as “The Floor Is Lava” and “Follow the Leader.” There are so many possibilities for how to engage in active play with balance pods.

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Melissa & Doug

This 5-foot-long tunnel transforms our shed or living room into an active hide-and-go-seek and crawling play area. This tunnel is perfect for small space dwellers as it sets up quickly and folds flat for storage. I also love that this tunnel is made of durable wipe-clean materials.

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was $69.99

When we want our girls to burn some serious energy, we send them out to the shed to bounce and bounce and bounce their energy out! This fold and store trampoline is designed for children ages 3 and up. The center handlebar provides stability while jumping, and adjusts to accommodate for different heights and to grow with your child.

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My oldest two girls LOVE when I attach their large swing to the center hook in the shed and spin and push them. This Swing-A-Ring is 39 inches in diameter and has a thick canvas seat and a foam-covered steel tube ring. This swing can be hung outside in warm weather but can be attached to a ceiling beam for indoor winter play!

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This Knotted Climbing Rope is one of the most challenging active play items that we introduced in our shed. The climbing rope can be affixed to a ceiling beam with a hook and moves back and forth while the child climbs. My girls have learned to climb quickly and strategically in order to make it all the way to the top.

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My girls love using these peanut balls to bounce, roll, and pretend they are riding unicorns to far-off lands. While I originally ordered these to perform stretches and abdominal exercises, my girls quickly discovered that there were so many active ways to play with the peanut balls! They come in a variety of colors and sizes and are a joyful and purposeful addition to a multipurpose activity area.

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My girls love to climb, and this 5-step Triangle Rope Ladder adds a "twist" to a playset or activity area. This ladder hangs from a single hook, which causes the ladder to pivot as kids climb. I love that this ladder helps promote core strength and endurance, and is sure to wear out the littlest climbers.

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This large yoga mat measures 6’ wide and 9’ long and is 9mm thick — big enough for a couple of kids to sit on it. We have a slightly smaller version of this same mat in our shed and it is a soft and sturdy surface that also happens to be slip-resistant. Whether the girls are climbing and swinging, or whether we’re doing yoga as a family, this mat provides comfort and protection.