Homeowners need homeowner insurance since lenders require this when you finance your home. Although as homeowners we assume we can do almost anything in our house or backyard, that's not always the case. While one of the benefits of owning a home and with kids involves backyard fun, your insurance requirements may limit your choice of activities. Homeowner insurance policies vary quite a bit, with many excluding structures or activities that are more prone to accidents. If you plan to add a pool, trampoline or other risky outdoor feature, make sure to check your homeowner insurance policy for coverage. This becomes even more important if your backyard is accessible to children other than your own.
Most people realize a swimming pool in the backyard requires special precautions like fencing. But there are a number of other backyard fun features you might consider that also need extra safety precautions or you can have needless accidents. Here are some of the backyard features worth researching to make sure you follow all safety guidelines and have the necessary insurance coverage.
Swimming Pool Safety a Priority for Backyard Fun
Most people realize a swimming pool in the backyard requires special precautions such as fencing. But there are other backyard fun features you might consider that also need extra safety precautions. Here are backyard features that need research to identify safety guidelines and insurance requirements.
- Swimming pools are the most restrictive. Check local zoning laws and talk to your insurance agent to make sure you cover all their requirements.
- Trampolines also pose higher homeowner risk. Surprisingly more than 80,000 people end up visiting an emergency room after playing on a trampoline. Here are some excellent guidelines for how to make your trampoline safer, along with an explanation of A Homeowner's Injury Liability for a Trampoline Accident.
- Tree houses are also considered a high-risk item and may be excluded from your homeowner's insurance policy. If you're planning one, take a few minutes to read Allstate.com's article, Building a Safe Tree House.
- Firepits need to follow any local building codes. They may be covered by your homeowners insurance but you'll want to make sure as they pose a structural fire hazard and/or may cause smoke damage when used improperly.
- An outdoor kitchen, or even a simple gas grill, is a nice addition to your backyard, but keep in mind that either of these could be a temptation to a child or even a teen who wants to experiment with cooking and thinks they are ready for the job. Look into your options to keep items like this either locked or otherwise inaccessible when you are not there to directly supervise.
- Swing sets have gotten bigger and fairly sophisticated over the years. They can provide hours of backyard fun for your children. Make sure to consider safety when installing them. (Read: Tips to Installing a Swing Set).
Ideas for Backyard Fun on a Budget
As you plan your backyard, remember that it's not how much money you spend but rather creating outdoor space for family members to relax and have fun. Think about your own childhood and your favorite outdoor activity. My favorites were tetherball and stick ball in the street, with kids from the neighborhood.
A sandbox is old-fashioned, but still a guaranteed source of enjoyment for toddlers and even grade-school children. With a package of plastic beach toys – an inexpensive purchase every spring, some unimportant toy trucks and cars and a few bags of sand, children can entertain themselves for hours. The main job you will have is hosing them off to keep sand out of your house when they are finished playing.
A garden is a fun and enriching addition to any backyard. Depending upon the prevalence of rabbits and deer, you may need fencing to protect your plants, but choosing seeds or small plants, weeding and watering, and picking your own vegetables or flowers is a rewarding experience for many families. Just like with a pet, be prepared to help, but the overall rewards of growing your own food, even on a small scale, can be worth the work. And children are often much more willing to eat vegetables if they've been involved in growing them. You might want to start small, with a few pots or a raised bed garden, and expand if your family continues to show interest. Old-fashioned heirloom seeds and plants are much more interesting and tasty than standard varieties, and worth the extra effort.
Whatever additional child-friendly features you decide upon, it's your job as a parent to discuss safety and responsible behavior. From the number of children allowed on the trampoline at one time to what you can and cannot bring from the house to play with in the sandbox – yes to a plastic dump truck, no to the iPad – you need to set parameters and consequences. Yes, it matters because of homeowner's insurance, but it's more important than that. Backyard play should be about fun, not trips to the emergency room. Accidents will happen, but our goal is to minimize the risks and maximize the enjoyment!
Want more ideas for your backyard?
- Turning Your Backyard Ideas Into Reality
- Backyard Lighting for Relaxing Nights
- Great Outdoor Play Spaces for Kids & Their Imagination
- Backyard Fun is More Than a Swing Set
- 5 Activities for Relaxed Outdoor Living