Aim for safety first. Clear the space of hazards. Remove garden tools, unused toys, and chemicals. Define boundaries with a gate, fence, trees, hedges, or the end of a driveway.
Carve out a shady spot or two—try a big old tree, an outdoor umbrella, or a covered patio. Make sure your kids wear sunscreen, too. Then check out the following suggestions—and fine-tune your yard from time to time, based on your children’s interests. Opt for open-ended and versatile ideas so kids can create their own fun, play or invent games, solve problems, and turn a patch of grass into a space for learning or dreaming.
5 Ways to Create the Yard Kids Want to Hang Out In
You don’t have to invest in a built-in or above-ground pool to make your backyard incredible. A sprinkler, garden hose, or Slip ‘N Slide will do—they’re ideal for warm-weather action. Kids can run, jump, or cool off in any of them, spray or squirt, fill water balloons and buckets. Water (plus kids) practically guarantees imaginative play and physical activity.
Provide a place for space
Kids need a private spot to call their own, so consider a clubhouse (for secret meetings), an out-of-the-way location for reading or coloring, or a pretend-play locale like a fort, submarine, or a castle for climbing and making up games. Help kids carve out a place to chill under a tree, or create private quarters with tarps, rocks, wood planks, or whatever you have available. Even a hammock can be a sweet spot for kids to hang out but still stay close to the family.
An outdoor table or deck is creativity central! It’s the perfect place for arts and crafts activities, from tie-dyeing to painting to beading (use a tray to corral tiny materials). Kids can use it to play board games or spread out and manage their collections of rocks, leaves, and bugs. Encourage science experiments—the messier, the better! A washable surface lets kids eat meals outside, too—and not just lunch; breakfast alfresco kicks off a day of outdoor play.
Grow a garden
While you might not be able to rely on them to keep your landscaping weed-free, many kids enjoy planting their own little garden plot. Fast-growing flowers or veggies (like peas and beans) are ideal so kids can see the fruits of their labor quickly. If you don’t have a good spot for a garden bed, containers take up very little space and are perfect for introducing kids to planting. They’ll still get to dig, water, and get their hands dirty—and you’ll have fewer issues with weeds and hungry neighborhood rabbits.
Toss in some toys
You could drop a bundle of cash on climbers, trampolines, and ziplines—all of which are, admittedly, super fun. But don’t forget that a log can be a balance beam and a tree stump is great for a modified DIY parkour course. A rope swing can be just as fun on its own as it is when part of a fancy playset. You can attach inexpensive grips to tree trunks or walls for climbing. And all you need for tons of backyard games is simply open space: think tag, capture the flag, kickball, and more. Invest in a few toys that kids can use in many ways (balls, buckets, jump ropes, Hula-Hoops, bubble wands, water squirters) and you’ll have the most fun backyard around.