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Get into the swing of things (and make a tree-swing)

No more waiting to have a turn on the swing at the park. A home-made swing is surprisingly easy to make. By the afternoon, you'd be surprised to find that the kids will actually turn off that device and spend some good old summertime fun outdoors. Ready to get started?

How to make a tree-swing
How to make a tree-swing
J. Fresques
Get into the swing of things (and make a tree-swing)
Theda Fresques

What you need:
2”x8” smooth Yellow Pine plank
Outdoor enamel paint/s (your choice of color)
Paint brush/brushes (unless a single color of spray paint is used)
Twine (to measure tree limb circumference and swing length)
Two 5/8” washers
5/8” Braided poly rope
Two 1/4” Steel or galvanized chains (cut to length at hardware store)
Two 1-1/4” clear vinyl tubing (cut to length at hardware store)
Two 5/16” anchor shackles
Drill (5/8” bit)
Tape measure
Dremmel tool (optional)

1. Pick a tree limb that is clear of obstructions around it and long so you can hang the swing at least 3' to 4' away from the trunk. Also, be sure that it is not too high, as the higher the tree limb, the farther the swing can go and may be dangerous for kids.

2. With a ladder, take twine and wrap once around the tree limb. Mark and lay measured/marked twine flat on a measuring tape. Add 1” - 2 “. This will be the length of your chain and clear vinyl tubing. Note it down. You will need two separate pieces of chain with this total length cut for you at the hardware store. You will also need two of the same length of clear vinyl tubing.

3. From the ladder, measure from the bottom of the tree limb to the ground. Note this length down and add 2' - 3'. You will need twice this total length of rope cut for you at the hardware store.

4. Select the shortest length of 2”x8” smooth Yellow Pine (8'). Ask an associate to trim a 20” length from the plank you selected (or more 20” segments if you are making more than one swing. Otherwise, have them cut at least for ease in transporting a long plank home. You can get four 20” lengths out of the plank.)

TIP: There is usually a remnant bin by the cutting area and if you're lucky, you might find at least at 20” of yellow pine in there, just watch out for splinters. If you do score a freebie, just let them know you found it in the scrap bin when you check out the rest of your stuff.

5. Once home, sand all edges of plank until smooth. This will be the swing seat.

6. Measure 1” in from the sides of the seat, then the middle point from front to back of seat. Mark and drill with 5/8” drill bit.

7a. Have your child sketch a drawing on the seat which you will then carve with a dremmel then paint two coats letting dry between coats. No dremmel? No problem. Use Step 7b instead.

7b. Paint seat with 2 coats of selected paint, letting dry between coats. Try to paint the drilled hole as well. Once background solid color is dry, let your child paint his or her design and let dry. You can also let them use stamps and stencils. Paint the washers as well and set everything aside to dry.

8. Working with one end of your rope at a time, make about a 6” - 8” loop. Take loop and tie into a regular figure eight knot. You should now have a knot and loop at each end. Set aside.

9. Slip each chain into a clear tubing as you would into a sleeve, then wrap around the tree limb. Hang the rope loop into the shackle, then thread the screw pin through last chain links and secure. The other chain assembly should be 20” away from the first one.

10. Once both chains are secured on tree limb, the middle point of the rope will touch the ground. Find the middle point of the rope and cut with a blade. Tug on ropes to tighten knots at the shackle.

11. Thread free ends of rope through drilled seat holes from the top down. Follow with washer underneath the seat and secure with another knot, but don't tighten just yet. Use a small level on the seat. Adjust and tighten knots once seat is level.

Is your child hootin' and hollerin' on that swing yet? Go make a large pitcher of lemonade and grab a book (no twitter or facebook for you either) because you'll have some free time. The laundry can wait. While you're being super-mom or super-dad having just made them an awesome swing, but most importantly, having taken them away from their electronics, make a list of fun things that we, pre-app kids used to do to have fun. Tell them:

...that we played games with friends, in the flesh, not virtually then take them to a well-loved Austin institution, Peter Pan Minigolf. You can't miss the giant green statue from Lamar and Barton Springs Road. Click here for their address, hours, and rates.

...sure we liked to sleep-in too, but we also thrived on adventure. Plan a very doable hike up Mount Bonnell Park. They're open from 5 am to 10 pm. Take flashlights or headlamps on your hike to the peak for fun. Park, hike, sit, then watch the sunrise (or sunset if you really can't get them out of bed that early.) Click here to find out how to get there.

...that we actually hung out with the family. Take them to Blue StarliteTheater and experience an honest-to-goodness drive-in movie theater. Click here to see a list of upcoming shows (the age-appropriate ones), buy tickets and how to get one of those nostalgic speakers.

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