Fun DIY Backyard Ideas for Kids of All Ages
By Axis Fuksman-Kumpa • May 22, 2020
Classic landscaping is beautiful, but even the world’s most prestigious rose garden wouldn’t offer much to a kiddo who just wants to run wild and burn some energy in the backyard. When you’re designing a landscape for the whole family, you should think about how everyone is going to use the space—from ages 1-100.
While the grownups in the family probably have plenty of big ideas of what they want in their dream backyard renovation, it’s important to plan a space for your kids too so that they can feel just as included in your outdoor living space as they are in your indoor living space.
When prioritizing your backyard space, make sure you include features that will light a spark in them and fire up their desire to be outside. When considering your investment, think about your family and how these spaces will grow with them over time. A tiny playhouse might be cute for your 4-year-old, but what happens when his head hits the ceiling at age 7?
With the hard questions out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun part: looking at cool backyard ideas for kids! We’ve included kid-friendly backyard ideas for every age group, and as an added bonus for the handy folks out there, many of these plans are DIY-able. Pull out your toolbox and get your trainee carpenters (ahem, your kids) to help with install! (Or get some expert assistance from our team, we love designing kid friendly spaces!)
Backyard Ideas for Toddlers
If you’re looking for backyard playground ideas for toddlers, you can’t go wrong with a classic swing! Swings offer a shared activity for little kids and a play partner to push them, and can help them develop body coordination as they learn to swing by themselves. You can hang a toddler swing from the branch of a mature tree or get a free-standing swing set. Best of all, swings can grow with your kiddo if you swap out a toddler seat for big kid options as they mature (see some of those options below).
It’s important for kids to have opportunities for artistic expression, but trying to scrub paint off the table gets old fast. Bring their artistic side outside with an outdoor chalkboard! This is an easy-to-install DIY outdoor kid’s project. Either mount a premade chalkboard or create your own by painting the side of a shed or fence with chalkboard paint—hand your little one a paintbrush and they can get in on the fun. This can fit on the side of your fence, shed or in a small side yard!
Tactile play is essential for kids, and that makes a sandbox the perfect backyard play area idea for toddlers. From building sandcastles to digging for buried treasure, sandboxes offer a wealth of activities for every child and every play style. Pro tip: get a cover for your sandbox for when it’s not in use so it doesn’t become a play area (or litter box) for neighborhood animals.
Natural Play Space
You don’t have to cart in a pre-built playset for your kids to have fun in your backyard—you can use what nature gave you! A little creativity can reimagine natural elements of your landscape as a playground. Your kids will be hopping from stump to stump, tip-toeing across a log balance beam, and climbing up big rocks like a pro rock climber without needing to be told twice.
Place to Dig in the Dirt
Let’s be real—sometimes the most appealing part of the backyard for toddlers is the dirt. Whether they’re dying to get in on your weekend gardening or they can’t resist turning mud puddles into magic potions, having a designated, parent-approved area for your kids to dig their hands into the dirt can alleviate stress for both of you.
Backyard Ideas for Kids
Big Kid Swing
Let’s take those swing ideas for toddlers and turn them up a notch! As kids get older and their coordination gets better, they can make the leap to more advanced types of play. You can stick to classics with a tire swing or let your aspiring X Games athletes take their boards to the sky with a Swurfer. Hang them from a tree or swap out your swingset’s baby seats for these big kid-friendly options.
Ninja Warrior Course
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably gotten sucked into an afternoon (or twelve) of watching American Ninja Warrior. And if your kids are anything like our kids, they probably started hanging off every tree in the backyard pretending they were tackling the Log Grip. Let them live their dreams by installing a few obstacles in your own backyard! You don’t have to build a full Warped Wall—start small with an obstacle-packed slackline that will hang between any two trees in your yard.
Continuing in the theme of more high-octane backyard fun for kids, consider installing a zip line! A modest zip line can be little kid-friendly if it’s low to the ground and has a low slope—meaning a slow ride. On the other hand, a longer line stretched down a big hill or from a tree house to the ground can be a high-speed thrillride for bigger kids. Make sure you opt for a high-quality kit with expert guidance for installation to make sure things stay safe if you’re DIYing this one!
Another great backyard kid’s play area idea is to add a climbing wall. Climbing offers a great way to develop coordination and confidence as kids very literally reach new heights. You can opt for a pre-built climbing wall or a pack of climbing holds that you can install on any free wall or tree in your backyard. Your kid might just dedicate their first book to you after they become their generation’s Alex Honnold…
Backyard Ideas for Teens
Backyard Movie Theater
Backyard entertainment for kids isn’t all about running wild—sometimes kicking back and relaxing is just as much fun. An outdoor movie night is a fun activity for the whole family or a way to level up a sleepover night for your kid and their crew! You can opt for fancy equipment if you’re feeling ambitious, but a simple white sheet hung up on the side of the house or strung between two trees makes a perfect movie screen for any projector on a dark night.
Hook & Ring Game
This deceptively simple game has become a fast favorite for all the competitive members of our families! The goal is to swing a rope with a ring at the end and snag it on a hook—but that takes considerable coordination and usually a lot of tries. Get a premade version or easily DIY your own with fixtures from the hardware store.
Bocce Ball Court
If you’re looking for fun backyard ideas for kids that can grow with them into adulthood, a bocce ball court is the way to go. This Italian game is a classic test of skill—which can also induce a lot of chaos as you knock your competitors’ bocce balls out of the way. Tilly spoke with The Manual about how to install a backyard bocce court if you’re looking for DIY directions (and some cocktail pairings if you’re taking over the court for an adults-only happy hour).
Backyard Ideas for the Whole Family
Sometimes the things that make an awesome backyard for kids also make an awesome backyard for adults—like a cozy fire pit. Comfy chairs around a roaring fire create the perfect spot for roasting marshmallows in the fresh air and extending the outdoor living season by keeping you warm well into the autumn. You can keep things simple with a small, portable fire pit, or embark on a bigger project with a dramatic outdoor fireplace. Whatever your style, we’ve fire pit inspiration for you.
We’ve all wished for a space where we can get away from it all and just clear our heads, and your backyard can offer just that. Think about what kind of space would be comforting to you and your family members—a bench under an arbor, a meditation area by a water feature, or a comfy hammock to cuddle up in. You might find that your kids will enjoy having a space to rest and reset just as much as you do.
If there’s one rallying cry that unites every age group from babies to grandparents, it’s “Look at that cute animal!” Installing a bird feeder in your backyard will bring in a whole range of native bird species that your kids can try to identify—and probably a healthy number of squirrels too. Building your own feeder can be a great backyard project for kids, and we have plenty of other eco-friendly backyard ideas for nature-loving families.
Are your kids eager to help with your gardening but a little too rough with delicate plants? Do they complain that you grow way too much kale? The fix might just be creating a garden for your kids. Provide their own patch of soil and let them direct the ideas for the kids’ garden! They can choose their favorite fruits, veggies, herbs, or flowers to grow (with a little parental guidance on what will successfully grow in your climate) and will get to feel accomplished when their first harvest makes it to the dinner table (if they don’t eat it all themselves first).
Most of all, have fun and encourage your kiddos to get outside!
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