Outdoor Chalk Boards

An outdoor chalkboard is another project I have had on my to-do list for a while. I love the idea of children having lots of writing and drawing opportunities outdoors.  I often find that writing naturally flows outside without the pressure of a classroom environment or the constraints of A4 paper.  Chalk is inviting too, because of its non-permanent nature and its accessibility for little hands. (In fact, Mr 2 drew his first “people” pictures on the chalk board! See bottom left picture.)

Since adding basket storage to our fences, I have seen the potential in using fences to enhance the playspace rather than merely marking the garden’s boundaries.  So, we attached the large blackboard directly to the fence!  I also made a couple of extra smaller blackboards which can be moved around and used as needed.  One is a menu board in the dirt kitchen, the other is waiting for playful inspiration…

Purchasing large chalk boards can be expensive. Making them yourself isn’t!  We bought marine ply for our boards so that they would withstand the outdoor conditions.  The cost was less than $15.  We then gave the plywood two coats of chalkboard paint.  The paint was under $20 and we still have a LOT left over for future projects.

Oh, and an old teacher-tip for you: to make chalk drawings semi-permanent, soak the chalk in a strong solution of sugar and water before using.  I drew the leaves in a corner of the large board, and the word Menu on one of the smaller boards in sugar-soaked chalk.  The kids can rub over them, and they won’t rub off!  This trick lasts a long time inside, but a good soaking rain will still wash it away outside.  (We used to do this to draw the blue-and-white handwriting lines on the classroom blackboards to save ruling them up every day).

outdoor play blackboard chalk board

What do you think? Anyone else want to try this easy project?

16 thoughts on “Outdoor Chalk Boards

  1. Oh Squigglemum! I was just outside with the boys at the sandpit dreaming of attaching things to the fence (inspired by your dirt kitchen) and this blackboard idea is wonderful. My boys haven’t been wanting to play outside much lately… so anything to make outside play more appealing to them! :)

  2. I love this and it too is also on my to do list. I have discovered a DIY chalk paint. Which enables you to have coloured chalk paint. Bit more exciting than the boring old black lol
    Found a good recipe on the Martha Stewart website – http://www.marthastewart.com/271574/custom-color-chalkboard-paint

    1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.

    2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.

    3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust.

    4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge.

  3. What a great project Cath, I don’t know any kids who don’t love chalk!

    And I love the idea of using the fence… not just for keeping the dog in!

    Thanks for your ongoing inspiration… grace

  4. Wow! Thanks for the chalkboard tutorial and more-permanent chalk ideas. This looks so inexpensive and easy, we will have to do it!

    I think I would drill holes in the board, so you could tie it on the fence, and move it easily without leaving holes. I wonder if you could put a layer of magnetic paint under the chalkboard paint, so you could use magnets?

  5. This is as great idea as the warmer weather starts to appear…sort of (I am in Melbourne!). I do have a tin of blackboard paint that I used to paint the top of one of the children’s old wooden tables. As you take it off your list I will add it to mine.

  6. What a super great idea Im going to make this for my son for Christmas , How much ply did you buy ? Did you get it from the hardware shop ? Thanks

  7. I must be on the same wavelength as you Catherine. I literally just bought some marine ply for an outdoor chalkboard. Sadly as I was reading your blog I was alerted to the fact that I forgot to pick it up! Tomorrow… BTW I love Genevieve’s idea but has anyone tried it? It’s a bit more work than I anticipated but am willing to do it if I know it works!

  8. We had an outside chalkboard for my twins when they were 2 and they loved it. We renovated and it disappeared! Time to bring it back- I struggle to get them outside nowadays! Thanks

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