You and your tot will have tons of fun in the backyard with this affordable and easy-to-build DIY project!
To get started, you'll need tools and materials!
Step 1: Get a Bucket
I already had a 5-gallon bucket handy. It was a "Pickle Bucket" I got from a restaurant. Restaurants are great sources of #2 Food-Grade plastic 5-gallon buckets. They are very sturdy. You could also purchase a 5-gallon bucket from a home-improvement store.
If you will build this project with a used/recycled bucket, just make sure that it is in good condition (some plastics degrade in the sunlight outdoors and become brittle.) Wash out the bucket before building the swing.
You will also need some rope. Ideally, you would like something designed to hold up to the weather - wind, sun, and rain.
You will need a length of rope at least DOUBLE as long from your favorite tree-branch to the ground.
Once you have the bucket, remove the handle. If you look where the handle goes into the bucket, you can see how the wire makes a turn, it's then pretty easy to figure out which direction to twist to make the handle come right out. You don't HAVE to remove the handle, as the part of the bucket it is connected to will be cut off, but the bucket is easier to work WITHOUT the handle getting in the way.
Step 2: Leg Holes
For the 5-Gallon Bucket Swing, we will cut a similar shape.
To start with, lets cut the leg holes. In these photos, I used a black marker to show where to cut to make the directions easier to follow. For your project, you could use a pencil or other light markings, or simply freehand cut using my photos and drawings to work from.
The leg holes are two-part, a pair of "Mouse-Holes" in the front of the bucket, and cutting away part of the bottom of the bucket to match.
Please note that the distance from the back of the bucket to the bottom of the hole is the length of the child's rear-end and thigh. From the knee, the child's leg should hang straight down, with the front of the knee about even with the front of the bucket.
Step 3: Marking Cut Lines
You are going to cut the entire circumference of the bucket, but in a shape that turns it into a swing! (Don't do it yet, we're going to MARK it first, then drill some holes before we make the big cut!)
Basically, you will cut a curving, continuous line that is low in the front of the bucket, but high on the sides and back, with two small swooped-down "valleys" where the child's armpits will end up.
It makes more sense just to look at the photos.
Again, here I used a marker to show roughly where the cut will be made.
On this particular bucket-swing I did make the back-rest a little low. I recommend that you make your's a bit higher. Nearly as tall as the side tabs for the ropes seems to work well. You want the back-rest high enough to give plenty of support, and then have just enough of a swoop down on either side of it for the child to have his or her arms out to grab the ropes without rubbing on the bucket.
Step 4: Mark & Drill the Rope Holes
This project uses FOUR holes.
Two of them are what you would think of as typical for a swing; they hold up the weight on the left and right sides. These two holes are marked directly BELOW where the handle connected to the bucket.
The other two holes are lower and evenly spaced between the side-tabs and the center of the back of the bucket. These let the rope pass through to go to the outside of the bucket, AROUND the back of the swing, and back through the other set of holes.
Since the rope is on the back of the swing, it supports the bucket and prevents tipping backwards, but doesn't rub the child in the back.
When you know where you want the holes to go, drill them. I used a 3/4" spade bit. The large hole makes it easy to use any diameter rope and easily pass it through.
It seems to be easier to drill the holes BEFORE you cut off the top of the bucket, because the bucket holds its shape better.
While the bucket swing COULD be made with chain, cable, or some material OTHER than rope, rope is inexpensive, easy to work with, and doesn't pinch little fingers.
Step 5: Cut the Bucket
Once done, smooth off any rough edges of the cuts and the drilled holes. You could use some sandpaper or a sharp pocket-knife or razor-knife works very well to bevel the plastic.
Step 6: String It Up!
Again, the photos make this simple to visualize.
Then, tie the ropes to a tree branch. Keep in mind that a higher tree branch will create a longer arch than a lower one. It lets the swing go farther with every push, which makes it more fun.
Tie one end of the rope to the tree, and then make sure the swing faces the direction you want it to. Set the swing at the HEIGHT you would like it to be at. Tie the other end of the rope to the tree branch. If you tie the two ends of the ropes rather wide apart from each other, it prevents the swing from twisting.
Make sure the swing is properly secured and tested before putting your tot in there.
Step 7: Have Fun!
The leg holes should be large enough that the child's legs don't rub on them. The leg from the knee on down should be able to hang straight down. The back should give plenty of support, and the child's arms should clear the sides of the bucket to grab and hand onto the ropes.
This simple project can be made easily and quickly, using or re-using materials you already have. It only takes a few minutes to build a 5-Gallon Bucket Swing, but it's fun for the whole summer!
Now you build one! When you do, post a photo here. If you find any way to improve this design, please share!
Feel free to "swing-on-by" my personal blog at Ecoprojecteer.net to see this and other projects. You can also download a free PDF printable diagram to show all the steps to make the bucket swing on one page. Print it out and take it to your garage or workshop for reference while you work on this project.