Drôle House Blog

Simple Monkey Bar

I hate toys. No, that's not entirely true. I just wish they magically put themselves away, or repaired themselves when broken, or changed into something different once the kids got bored, or at the very least didn't scatter throughout the house like dandelion seeds. There are a few exceptions of course, but toys are generally two per cent useful and ninety eight percent clean-up. I wish there was a way to design them to invisibly blend into the background of the home. 

This is a simple monkey bar prototype inspired by website requests. Though chin up bars similar to this can be found pretty cheaply online, this prototype has three sets of cradles can be placed at any height along a wooden door frame to accommodate many users, from aged two to adult. Adjustable bars like this one, that can be put together in an afternoon, dismantled and stored in a jiffy, that even a young child can easily use and change, well, that is something worth trying out. 

This simple monkey bar is made of a cut galvanized steel fence post, anchored into it's plywood cradle with simple nut and bolt hardware. A stopper installed directly above the bar can be turned to 'lock' and 'unlock' it from it's cradle for added safety. The plywood cradle and latch are of 3/4" plywood, screwed through to the door studs. The bar can be stored away out of sight atop the door trim, where two drilled holes are concealed. 

If you'd like to know more, comment below! 



Handrail Surprise

Flights of stairs make parents nervous. We worry about falls, kids tripping up or down the steps, we scramble to block the landings with chairs to bar explorative crawlers, or install cumbersome gates that need to be pried open with one-hand-whilst-balancing-a-baby-on-the-hip. Even though I installed gates above and below each flight of stairs in our home, each of my three kids still managed to have some sort of fall at one time or another. There are a few years of young childhood when flights of stairs are just plain iffy and need close supervision as kids practice using them safely.

What if we could redesign common house stairs to make them safer for children? Even the most narrow stairway has at least enough width to accommodate a child’s height handrail. Functional? Yes. Is there a hidden opportunity for play here? Oh yeah. 


Enter the handrail surprise. It's a useable child’s handrail that folds down to become a stair slide. Tadaaa! For the more...adventurous families. This idea has been buzzing in my mind for years. During cold, snow-sparse winters like we can get here in Toronto, we inevitably spend a lot of time indoors. It’s hard to play at the park before it gets dark. We are tired, someone needs to pee, the baby’s heavy, ‘my hands are freeeezing’. Like most families, we hunker down and wrack our brains for physical indoor activities to do.  Balled-up sock fights, mattress ramps and couch forts happen in rotation. Even still, I’m always on the lookout for active and exciting things to do indoors that will expend kids’ energy. 

It's awfully fun. This handrail surprise prototype was built using only materials available at a regular hardware store. It’s designed to be divided into three sections for scaling the length of the slide to the age and capability of a child. 

Please share this post and comment below to let me know you want to learn more about how to accomplish this on your own stairs! If you'd like to get a heads up about new projects, manuals and home renovation resources, remember to subscribe here!



{Hammock/Nest} - A Drôle House Prototype

When kids share a bedroom, it is inevitable that one will utter "this side is MINE!" and attempt to negotiate a masking tape divider to mark their territory. While that certainly is one way to awknowledge a child's need for personal/sacred space, there are other possibilities. The vertical space of a room is generally underused, and that's right where this prototype fits in. Part hammock, part nest perched in the upper corner, it lends itself to multiple uses including night light, toy storage, reading nook, hiding space, lookout and tantrum tamer. It's made to hold one little body, so it's off limits to adults and group play. 

The two examples shown here hang from three i-hooks screwed up into the ceiling joists (very important!). One is reached from a wooden ladder tucked into the small space between interior wall and fireplace (fixed to ceiling and floor), the other has wooden holds drilled into a plaster-atop-brick party wall. Each climbing setup can be customized to keep very small children out. Easily put together, easily cleaned, easily dismantled. Appropriate for ages 3-8.