A yard offers enough room for kids to explore and grow without being too far from supervision. Here are some ideas to make your yard a fun place for children, while maintaining safety.
The seven things to consider when designing a kid-friendly yard are: open play areas, containment, specialized play areas, a dramatic slope, hideaways, durability/safety and water.
Open Play Areas
A spacious, flat, grassy area that lends itself well to a wide range of sports and play activities is essential. Open play areas allow for games from badminton to tag. A few trees around the perimeter of the yard are a plus. Besides offering some shade, trees can serve as bases, hiding places and net supports.
Fences are the most common solution for keeping children in one area and discouraging strangers from entering your yard. If your neighborhood has restrictions on fencing, consider hedges and stone or brick walls as attractive alternatives. Fencing is essential around pools and other hazards if small children are regularly playing in the yard. Fencing can also help keep toys and bikes in one area, reducing the amount of wear and tear on plants and grass throughout your yard.
Specialized Play Areas
Specialized Play Areas can be built for relatively low costs. A wide, paved area can be made into a basketball court with the addition of a hoop. Masonry paint can convert a walkway into a shuffleboard or hopscotch court. One of the most valuable specialized play areas is also the simplest: a small patch of plain dirt. From playing with trucks and shovels, to making mud pies, plain old dirt can be the source of countless hours of creative fun. A sandbox is an alternative to a dirt patch. Though easier on clothes, it requires considerably more maintenance.
There is a wide variety of playground equipment with slides, swings, bars and ropes. Choose equipment that doesn’t require much maintenance. The more you spend, the more important it is to choose equipment that is compatible with the changing desires and needs of children as they progress from toddlers to pre-teens.
An option for older kids is to let them design and build wooden ramps for practicing stunts on in-line skates, skateboards or bikes.
A versatile and simple play feature is a hill. If you don’t have a slope or hill, you can easily have one graded in your yard. King-of-the hill, sledding, rolling and stargazing are just a few of the activities inspired by a simple hill.
Another spark for the natural creativity of children is a small, enclosed, room-like structure. While a formal playhouse is great, less elaborate structures can work just as well. A carport attic, tool shed, under deck area, garage or gazebo will do the job, though nothing quite beats a tree house for pure adventure!
Durability and Safety
Creating kid-happy spaces in your landscaping is pointless if your landscaping is filled with fragile, precious plants that you worry about being damaged. So if you want some delicate or valuable plants, isolate them from the play areas. Kids are rough on grass so, plant grass hearty enough to take the pounding. This may also mean extra watering, fertilizing and weed and pest control. Avoid the use of toxic chemicals and take precautions to minimize exposure to even supposedly safe chemicals.
From elaborate facilities such as in-ground swimming pools to simple lawn sprinklers, a little water makes the backyard appealing even during the hottest months of summer vacation. Temporary structures like inflatable pools and “slip and slides” offer portability and eliminate the challenges of protecting equipment from the ravages of winter.
There are dozens of ways to convert even the most modest yard into a healthy playground that will delight your children for years. All it takes is a little imagination and planning.