Playtime Paradise: A Summer to Remember

June 1, 2019| by stephanie toews

photos by kristin hartzler

Spending time outdoors during Montana’s beautiful summer months is the definition of a dream come true. Those of us with kids know that having things for them to do outside is crucial. One local couple invites us into their backyard and shares the story of their outdoor playscape. 

To say Josh and Jenna Jones have their hands full would be an understatement. With four children, ranging in ages from 8 years old - 1 year old, leaving the house for fun is a large undertaking. In full embrace of this stage in their lives, the couple was inspired to create an outdoor space they could enjoy right outside their patio doors.

A Father’s Legacy~

The construction roots run deep in Josh’s family with his own father working in construction for his entire life. Josh, number five of seven children, says alone time with dad was a rarity. He started helping his dad on jobs at 9 years old as a “special cleanup helper paid in soda and lunch.” Josh recalls some of his favorite one-on-one memories with his dad were stopping at the gas station for snacks. The work ethic, wisdom, and confidence instilled in Josh by his father were life changing.

Long before technology was as advanced as it is today, his dad would tell him, “You have the technology.” He encouraged Josh saying, “We can figure out ANYTHING. You have brains, resources, and you can do anything.” Josh continues referencing this philosophy to this day. Now in his 70s, Josh’s dad still helps out when he can. 

Jenna grew up on 10 acres in Colorado in what became known as “Bellandi Land” by family, friends, and neighbors. Jenna fondly recalls a childhood filled with “horses, ATVs, snowmobiles, go-carts, trampoline, and an epic zip line!” She says, “We learned the hard way about safety through multiple renditions of the zip line.” At first, it stopped at a tree where they had to “jump off before hitting it.” Then was revamped to stop between two trees without anything to slow it down. After these experiments, her inventive father came up with the idea to use two garage springs at the end to “slow you down, but it still had a slingshot effect.”

Jenna’s dad was also #5 of 7 children, his was a childhood filled with a father who worked seven days a week and didn’t spend time with the kids. “He put a high value on making memories and spending time with his own kids.” This philosophy stuck with Josh and Jenna’s and is now part of their parenting philosophy. “We want to make fun memories at home with our kids.”

In honor of her dad, Jenna says, “We waited for my dad to come to visit before we put up the zip line.” Although he wasn’t sure the zip line was high or fast enough, “We reminded him of the ages of our kids.”

Helping Hands

At 6 years old, Judah (now 8) was involved in the construction of the first play structure, (arrow to above?) trying out the drill on the decks. On the second play structure, Judah helped with the railings and was proud to be included.

Tips from the Joneses

1. When talking to other families about backyard play spaces, the general consensus was that you have to give the kids something to do out there; they won’t play in it if it’s just an empty house. This is why the couple created stations in the playhouse. 

  • Mia loves serving snacks, lunch, and hosting friends for pretend parties in her shaded kitchen with a picnic table. 

Sandy Spot

  • “We pushed 200lbs of sand up that slide…no big deal!” This spot is a favorite of 3-year-old Aurora’s. Try out some colored sand for a pop of fun.

Zippity Do Da

  • Building your own zip line is easier than you think. A kit can be purchased on Amazon. “All you need is a start and end point (and nothing dangerous underneath).” 

2. Loads of free playground plans are available online. Typically, Jenna says she pins a bunch of ideas and resources on Pinterest and then Josh looks at them for inspiration and makes them better.

3. Remember to design a play space that will grow as the kids grow. 

4. If you build it, they will come. Backyard activities provide a great way to get to know the neighbors. Jenna recalls a line of 12 kids eager to try out the play space on the day of its completion. “Fun stuff at home makes it easier to stick close to home and enjoy those who live near you.”

Bring It Home: Backyard Bliss

Flying Fun
  • Zipline Kit
  • Amazon
Dining Alfresco
  • Kids Polywood Picnic Table
  • The Home Depot
Backyard Beach
  • Sand and Water Activity Table
  • Kohl’s
Swinging Saucer
  • Outdoor Saucer Swing
  • Amazon
Mud Pies
  • Charcoal Chef’s Kitchen
  • Melissa and Doug

Originally printed in the June 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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