Kids need plenty of space to run and play, and lots of ways to spark their imagination. The more options they've got to be creative, the more fun they'll have. Outdoor play spaces can be so much more than just a swing set. And with a little imagination, you can give them lots of reasons never to say, “I'm bored!” again (read Great Outdoor Play Spaces for Kids and Their Imagination).
The good news is you don't need a big budget to create something safe and fun outdoors for your kids. There are plenty of prefabricated toys and jungle gyms on the market, but you don't need any of those either. The trick here is to think like a kid. It might even be a smart idea to ask them what they want. They'll take pride in something they help build, so put your heads together and see what you can design for your own backyard.
Tree Houses Make Outdoor Play Spaces Come Alive
Kids love to climb. And with a tree house, you're creating more square footage for play than you've got on the ground alone. You can design a tree house all on your own, or think about building one with a theme. Do they love pirate adventures? Why not build a ship in a tree? For many parents, it's also your chance to relive your childhood because … didn't you want a tree house when you were growing up? And if you want more ideas, check out our tree house board on Pinterest (more than 200 pins).
Safety is critical with tree houses. You'll need a strong and sturdy platform and rails all the way around so no one can accidentally fall out. And steps are much safer than a ladder, especially for younger kids.
If you don't have trees on your property, not to worry. A playhouse on the ground is just as fun as a treehouse. If you have the room, think about both. A playhouse in the backyard is great for younger kids, and a treehouse helps them stay active once they get a little older.
Develop a Nature Area for Scientific Exploration
Play doesn't necessarily need to be crafted as a game or activity. Kids love science too, and they love to explore.
You can design a nature spot in the backyard where kids can experiment with planting seeds and attracting wildlife such as butterflies, frogs, and even earthworms. It might be a small plot no larger than 10 feet square, or make a larger area with rocks and even a shallow pond. The more they have to investigate, the more fun they'll have.
Safety is a concern with nature spots in the yard. Be sure any water feature is shallow enough so no one can get hurt if they fall in. Watch out for spiders, too, and move rocks around frequently to discourage any dangerous creatures, such as snakes and poisonous spiders, from setting up a homestead.
Don't Forget About Spaces for Sports Outdoors
With all of your plans to create imaginative play areas outside, remember that kids also need room to kick a ball with friends and siblings. If you've filled the yard with playhouses, jungle gyms and other structures, there might not be enough space left.
The older your kids get, the more room they might want for sports activities. So a flat, level lawn with soft grass and no dangerous obstacles in the way lets them run and squeal to their heart's delight.
Designing outdoor play areas is similar to planning the layout for a room in your home. You'll need to plan the flow, and leave space for everyone to move around without obstacles in the way.
If you think about the times from your childhood when you had the most fun, chances are those memories aren't from any play dates at an amusement center or through structured activities (read Backyard Fun is More than a Swing Set). Kids thrive when they can use their own imagination and create their own games. Talk with your kids and find out what they want. Together, you can create a fun, safe place to play. They might even decide that home is more fun than anywhere else.
Thinking about creating an outdoor place area for your kids? We invite you to share your stories here, to inspire other homeowners to build their own outdoor play spaces.