In the age of the internet, it seems like kids spend most of their waking lives in front of a device. As a parent, it’s up to you to create appealing alternatives to this sedentary lifestyle. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard that’s large enough to play in, then you’re already ahead of the game. But why stop there? With a bit of effort and a healthy dose of whimsy, you can transform your backyard into a haven that will create memories for your kids to cherish for years to come.
What child hasn’t dreamed of having a treehouse? Not only do they provide kids with a unique hideout, but there’s something about being able to look down on the world from above that fires the imagination. Sure, you can get fancy with custom-made ones, but building a treehouse is half the fun — especially for mom and dad. Choose a good, sturdy tree with thick branches that will be able to support the weight of your miniature arboreal abode. Take time to inspect the tree for signs of damage or disease. If everything looks good and healthy, then you can start building.
Bear in mind that a tree is a living thing; you’ll need to make adjustments to ensure that the structure will be able to withstand the growth that will occur throughout the years. When building the platform, it’s also important to distribute the weight evenly to avoid causing harm to the tree.
Sheds for Playtime
A typical storage shed doesn’t just have to be used for storage and can have all sorts of purposes. Sheds can be more than just handy spaces for storing the lawn mower and gardening tools. If you already have one on the property, try transforming it into a detached playroom. This is an especially good idea if your kids enjoy messy art projects — a storage shed makes an ideal space for an easel or a potter’s wheel. For older children, you can install a couple of bunk beds for slumber parties. Just be sure that all potentially harmful implements and pesticides have been removed before turning little ones loose in it.
If you don’t already own a garden shed but you have the space to accommodate one, then consider having one built or installed. In this case, you can get fancy with custom-made ones, and no one will be the wiser.
A well-tended garden area provides kids with a cool place to play and myriad activities to keep them occupied. They’re never too young to start getting involved in gardening whether you grow flowers, vegetables, herbs, or a mixture of all three.
To make the space more appealing to youngsters, place vibrant-colored planters and interesting garden sculptures in strategic areas. Creative lighting can make an ordinary flower patch look like something out of a fairy tale when evening rolls around. In season, add gardening duties to the list of weekly chores so that the whole family will feel connected to this patch of life they’ve helped to cultivate. You can also use this to educate your children about different uses for plants. Some flowers, like marigolds and chrysanthemums, do double duty as pest control and gorgeous flowers. If you grow vegetables and herbs, make sure everyone knows when an ingredient from the harvest makes it onto the dinner plate.
You don’t have to create a full-scale English maze or sophisticated topiary menagerie to add oomph and definition to the yard. Even a small row of hedges is enough to spark the imagination; they can be used as prime spots for hide-and-seek, double as fortresses during snowball fights, or provide a shady spot for tucking in with a book on a hot afternoon.
Should you opt to plant a row of hedges along the property boundaries, they can provide you with a little bit of privacy from the neighbors. This will also help you give children a clear-cut set of instructions to follow if they’re meant to stay in the yard.
No self-respecting backyard should be without a swing set. Fortunately, the world has come a long way from the days of cheap metal and plastic amusement sets. Today, you have the option of purchasing a veritable creative playground for your backyard — assuming you have the means and available space to do so.
Choose a swing set that fits in well with your landscaping and lawn décor. The set should look like a natural extension of the environment and not as if it was merely plunked there by accident. Don’t forget to take your child’s interests into account when picking out a model. If he or she is always making a beeline for the monkey bars or the merry-go-round on trips to the park, for example, then try to find a set that includes comparable features.
A climbing wall provides a great way for kids to test their strength and problem-solving skills. They’re addictive enough that mom and dad will probably be tempted to give it a try as well.
If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of trees in your yard, don’t let this be a hindrance. Instead, use the leafy canopy to your advantage by building the climbing feature directly into the tree trunks. Not only will this be less expensive and easier to install, it should serve as a sweet conversation starter for the tweens and teens in your crew.
Outdoor Fire Pits
Kids of all ages tend to be big fans of campfires, so why not bring some of that magic into your own backyard? Wood-burning models are ideal for toasting marshmallows and hosting sing-alongs, but even units that run on gas or propane can be a cozy addition to the landscape. Add in comfortable outdoor furniture and you have the perfect nighttime retreat for kids and adults alike.
While the whole family can have a great time around the fire pit, it’s important to stress that the feature is not a toy. Make it clear that fires should never be started without adult supervision.
Your backyard isn’t just a patch of land; it’s a canvas, awaiting whatever unique touches you can add to make it truly your own. One day, your kids will thank you for providing them with such a fabulous space in which to create their memories — and in the meantime, they’re sure to be the envy of the neighborhood.