How to Turn Your Backyard into a Kid-Friendly Play Area
By Sarah Finazzo • November 20, 2023
If you're looking for ways to keep your kids entertained and active during the warmer months, there's no need to look further than your own backyard. With a little creativity and planning, you can transform your outdoor space into a fun-filled oasis for kids to play, explore, and learn.
Whether you have a large backyard or just a small patio, there are plenty of fun and exciting backyard ideas that can provide hours of entertainment for your children. In this blog, we'll explore some creative and easy backyard ideas that are sure to spark your child's imagination and get them excited about spending time outside. We've broken these ideas into two categories: permanent additions to your space and temporary that you can set up just for weekend entertainment.
Permanent Fun Backyard Ideas
Here are some kid friendly backyard ideas that are more permanent fixtures in your landscape. We've also included temporary weekend items below!
Outdoor Art Station
An outdoor art station is a sure way to get the creative juices flowing! Start by select a location in your backyard that is flat and preferably shaded. Add a sturdy outdoor table or an easel. If you don't have an outdoor table or easel, you can use an old picnic table or a piece of plywood on sawhorses.
Gather a variety of art supplies to stock the art station, such as washable paints, a chalkboard and chalkboard paint, markers, crayons, and drawing paper. Consider adding natural materials such as sticks and leaves to get the nature vibes flowing!
Add some outdoor seating such as chairs or benches around the station. Let your child add their own personal touch to the space by decorating the table, jars, or other storage containers. We're betting if you make the space cozy enough, you may even be inspired to get out there and dabble.
A sensory garden is a garden designed to stimulate all five senses and provide a sensory experience for visitors. To create a sensory garden for kids, you can incorporate a variety of elements that engage each of the senses. Here are some ideas for creating a sensory garden:
- Sight: Add colorful flowers, plants, and artwork to catch kids' attention. You can also use brightly colored garden decorations such as garden flags, wind chimes or colorful stepping stones.
- Smell: Plant fragrant flowers such as lavender, roses or honeysuckle to fill the garden with sweet scents. Add herbs such as mint, rosemary, and basil to the garden, which children can touch and smell.
- Touch: Incorporate different textures in the garden by planting a variety of plants, including soft and fuzzy plants, rough or spiky plants, and plants with interesting seed pods. Add garden features such as stepping stones or a path made of different textures such as smooth stones or gravel.
- Sound: Include features that make sounds, such as wind chimes or a water fountain. You can also plant rustling plants like bamboo or tall grasses that make sounds when they sway in the breeze.
- Taste: Add edible plants, such as strawberries, cherry tomatoes, or herbs, that children can pick and taste. Plant a variety of vegetables and fruits that can be harvested by kids.
- Interactive elements: Include elements in the garden that children can interact with, such as a butterfly house, a birdhouse, or a bee hotel.
- Seating: Add comfortable places to relax in the garden.
A sensory garden for kids should be designed to be interactive and engaging, providing opportunities for children to explore, play, and learn about nature through their senses.
Fun in the Sun & Sand
Bring the beach to your backyard and include a sandbox. This can be repurchased or DIY'd. First, choose a level and well-draining area in your backyard where you want to build the sandbox. Make sure it's away from any hazards and there is a clear path in and out of the box. Using a shovel, dig out the area inside the perimeter of the sandbox to a depth of about 6-8 inches. This will provide enough depth for the sand. You'll want to add a weed barrier and then pour in the sand. You can build a border and let your kids enjoy a tactile activity. Remember to add some shade overhead.
A pollinator garden is a fun and educational way to introduce kids to the wonders of nature. Children can learn about the important role of pollinators in our ecosystem, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Pollinator gardens can be filled with bright and colorful flowers, providing a visually stunning environment that will capture children's attention. Kids can observe the various pollinators as they visit the garden, learning about the different types of insects and animals that help pollinate plants. In addition to being an engaging outdoor activity, creating and caring for a pollinator garden can also teach children about responsibility and the importance of caring for the environment.
Backyard Fort or Treehouse
What's more fun than a backyard fort or treehouse for some imaginative play. This is a fun place your kids can spend hours. Let them take on the fun project of decorating. Just make sure the space is appropriate for your age child. While older kids may be able to handle a true tree house, little ones may be happier with a natural fort area on the ground filled with stumps and a small tree balance beam.
Home for the Animals
Create a backyard mini-farm with a vegetable garden, chicken coop, or bee hive. Or make it simpler and add bird houses around your yard. Grab a bird watching book for your area so you can check off the species you see!
Swing to the Clouds
Add a backyard swing set or a tire swing to your yard. This is a feature that can stand the test of time and be enjoyed by toddlers to teenagers!
We love those cute little mailbox libraries around some towns. Create one in your yard and add a good book for everyone in the family. Add a sweet play to read closely - whether it's a nice bench, a tree stump or a temporary pile of blankets and pillows - it can quickly become one of your favorite places to spend time. Make sure to add some shade for a hot day!
Composting is a natural process of decomposing organic materials such as food scraps, yard waste, and leaves, into nutrient-rich soil. It is an eco-friendly way to reduce waste and create a natural fertilizer for plants. To compost, you can keep a compost bin outside in a location that is convenient and accessible for you and the kids. The ideal spot should be in a shaded area with good drainage and ventilation. You can keep a small trash bin to collect scraps indoors and then have the kids transport it at the end of the day.
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Add a Vegetable Garden
Engaging kids with a vegetable garden in your yard can be a fun and educational activity. Here are some tips to help:
- Involve kids in the planning process: Start by involving your kids in the planning process. Let them help choose which vegetables (or herbs) to grow and where to plant them. This will give them a sense of ownership over the project and make them more invested in its success.
- Make it fun: Make gardening a fun activity by setting up a scavenger hunt for different types of seeds or letting kids decorate their own gardening tools. You can also turn it into a competition by seeing who can grow the tallest tomato plant or the most peas.
- Teach them about the plants: Take the time to teach kids about the plants they are growing. Explain how they grow, how to care for them, and how they can be used in cooking. You can also use the opportunity to teach them about healthy eating and nutrition.
- Encourage hands-on learning: Encourage kids to get their hands dirty by letting them help with planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. This hands-on learning will help them develop a sense of responsibility and a love for gardening.
- Use the harvest in cooking: Once the vegetables are ready to be harvested, involve kids in cooking and preparing meals using the fresh produce. This will give them a sense of pride in what they have grown and encourage healthy eating habits.
Your edible garden can start small in planters outside the backdoor, be in raised garden beds or any other method you chose.
Monkey Bars & Climbing Walls
Hang some rings between two trees and let the monkeys burn some energy! Instead of hanging from the rafters - they'll be hanging where you want them. Add some climbing wall mounts for the kid to present rock wall climb to reach the monkey bars for some added entertainment.
Temporary Weekend Backyard Entertainment
Here are some ideas you can set up just for a weekend if you are looking to entertain kids and have fun!
We're not thinking a plunge pool or something that will break the bank, but pulling out a kiddie pool on hot days will entertain most children for hours ~ and provide a great way to cool off! Other friendly backyard ideas are grabbing a splash pad or slip in slide.
Kid-Only Seating Area
Let your kiddos enjoy their own kid size picnic table or dining area for their very own al fresco meal. You never know, they may like it so much you may get a few minutes to yourself!
Create a play space under the stars to watch a favorite movie. Find a flat area in your yard or a space on the patio for a seating area. Put a white bedding sheet against the house or set up a screen somewhere in your backyard for the viewing. Grab a projector that is bright enough for the outdoors and arrange a seating area in front of it. Let the kids enjoy staying up late in the fresh air.
Build a backyard obstacle course with items like hula hoops, cones, and jump ropes. This can appeal to kids of all ages. Make it fun and challenging and cater to what interests your child. Maybe they love basketball - add that they have to make 5 free throws! Maybe they are a gymnast - they must do a 5 second headstand. This can be a fun game to get kids active and enjoy the outdoors.
Set up a backyard camping experience with a tent, sleeping bags, and a campfire or fire pit. Maybe they won't last the night (or even until dark), but they can have a great time playing sleepover or imagining they are camping in the wild!
Make a backyard mini-golf course with household items like cups and cardboard boxes. Set up obstacles and get creative with what you find in your own backyard. Sometimes the set up of an activity is the best part!
There are so many backyard ideas for kids - it just depends on the size of your backyard, age of your kids, and the budget you want to invest. From a zip line, nature science lab to an outdoor play kitchen, the opportunities are varied and never ending! Don't let kids have all the fun - make sure to program in some activities for the adults too!
One important thing to remember, when creating your outdoor play space is that kids love mischief and getting into what's not there's! Make sure you put dangerous gardening equipment or fertilizers away right after using it. Make sure paths are cleared and there are no tripping hazards. If you are close to a busy road, invest in a fence to keep kids inside your backyard. Additionally, it's important to regularly inspect your yard for any potential hazards such as fallen tree branches, broken fences, or loose paving stones. By being proactive in maintaining a safe yard, you can provide a secure and enjoyable kid friendly atmosphere for play and exploration.
If you liked this article, we have more ideas for kids broken down by age in this kid friendly activity post.
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