Monday, June 7, 2010
Belle's Castle...Part 1
For those of you who heard we built a castle and immediately started picturing turets and drawbridges, I'm afraid that you are probably feeling a bit disappointed right now. But in Belle's eyes this is the most amazing castle ever!
Belle truly believes that she is a princess...and NO, I am not the one who gave her that impression. I don't have anything against princesses, I just don't like them. I hike, paint, run, sew, read, and garden. I like to get my hands dirty and even haul my own mulch. I'm happiest in jeans and live for paddling in our family canoe. And my daughter, of all children, thinks that a sparkly blue dress and glittery tiara are normal attire to wear for all occassions. Oh well, maybe Bee will see fashion a little more like her Mama...
So when Belle asked her Daddy to build her a castle, we put a lot of thought in to how to do so in such a way that the structure would grow with both Belle and Bee. We wanted to capture the tower aspect of a fairy tale castle, but also ensure that when Belle (hopefully) outgrows the princess obsession, the structure could serve other purposes as well. We setlled on a basic two-level tower design and then began to plan the embellishments that would make it unique to our girls.
So how did we do it and what are our future plans?
Construction Process: All lumber is pressure-treated. We used outdoor screws and bolts for all construction. All corners were mitred unless otherwise noted.
We framed the tower using 4"x4"x8' posts for each corner. The posts were set on top of concrete blocks and then tied together with 2x6 boards placed at the height of the first-level floor. Another set of 2x6 boards were attached at the second-level floor. We added a 2x6 cross beam across the middle of each level and then decked both levels with 1x6 decking boards.
We then decided on the placement of the slide, climbing wall, and ladder. We purchased the slide and rocks for the climbing wall at our local home improvement store.
We attached 2x4 boards for rails on both the top and bottom levels (leaving openings for the ladder, slide, and climbing wall), then used 1x4 boards as the slats for the rails. We made sure that our slats were close together so that little heads can't get stuck between them.
My husband built the ladder in a pretty complicated, but incredibly strong manner. He used 2x6 boards as the stringers. He notched the stringers at each rung and inserted 2x4 rungs into the stringers.
He replicated the stringers for the climbing wall, but attached 1x4 boards side by side all the way up the wall. Then he bolted the rocks to the wall at appropriate distances for Belle to be able to climb it easily. [The rock wall is on the back side so you can't see it in this post. I will be sure to add pictures of it in Part 2.]
We attached the slide, as well as a steering wheel and spy scope (both from the local home improvement store) following the package directions for each. We added a flag printed with Belle's artwork that we purchased from a preschool fundraiser. The colorful bunting was hung for Belle's birthday party, and is now stored with our other party supplies.
And at the last minute we decided to top each deck rail with a 1x6 board for Mommy's comfort when she is leaning on the rail:)
At this point the basic construction is finished and Belle can climb and play all day. But the castle is far from finished in our eyes. We still have lots of ideas to try!
Our next step will be to build and attach a bench to the outside on the right. This will serve as my seat when I'm playing with the girls, but it can also be the diner counter, seating for a puppet show audience, or the railroad ticket counter.
Other embellishments we plan to add include outdoor curtains (probably made from shower curtains), a homemade wind chime for one of the windows, flower boxes, a slate chalkboard, and a natural tic tac toe board. In addition to castle embellishments, we are also planning to devote more of our yard to gross motor development. We are considering a human game board made from stepping stones, a kid-friendly rope course, and possibly a rope bridge.
And how could I forget the castle garden??? While we were waiting for HOA approval for our castle construction, we built a super quick castle garden using landscaping timbers. We cut two 8 foot long timbers into 2 foot sections. These were stacked and screwed together in a tiny square and filled with soil. We took Belle to a local nursery and let her pick out a basket full of annuals to plant. The garden is a few feet to the right of the castle and we are hoping to put in a little path between the two eventually. I'll be sure to include pics of the garden in Part 2 also.
If you want more info or to see specific construction pics in Part 2, let me know...otherwise Part 2 will be all about the fun stuff (curtains, chimes, etc.):)