When I was a kid one of my most favorite places in the whole world was our backyard. Now my parents didn’t have much money back then so we never had a big fancy swing set but we did have a lot of “old fashioned” homemade stuff like a tire swing, a tree house made of old barn wood and even a big sandbox filled with sand from the creek at my Grandparents farm. All of which didn’t cost my parents much more than a little time. As an adult looking back at that backyard and all the stuff my brother and I played on for hours on end it doesn’t seem like much but at the time it was all we could ever want and more. Now fast forward about twenty five years to the present day. I now have my own backyard and two young sons that love playing there. Now I am by no stretch of the imagination a wealthy man but luckily I am a little better off than my parents were when I was my kid’s age. So when it can time to transform our backyard into a personal playground for our kids I could afford to buy some stuff but being the tightwad I am I didn’t get too crazy. Besides there is nothing wrong with some of those good old fashioned playground activities.
My wife and I are pretty much homebodies and would usually rather stay home than go out. So we spend lots of time in our backyard all year round. Because of this we are always on the look out for new ideas to incorporate into our yard especially things that can be enjoyed by the whole family. If you are looking for a few good backyard ideas yourself you’re in luck, below you will find a list of some of our favorites.
Backyard Ideas for Kids and Parents Alike
- Swing Set – One of the main ingredients for a great backyard is a swing set. They come in all shapes and sizes and can cost as little as $150, so most people no matter their financial situation can afford one. Some people go all out when buying a swing set and to be honest it can be very easy to do just look at some of the sets at these popular swing set builders www.rainbowplay.com and www.cedarworks.com. Being the heart of our backyard it took us quite a bit of searching before we found a set that fit our wants and our wallets. For a short time we even considered building our own set from scratch to save money but after some rough pricing decided it wasn’t worth it. What we ended up with was a middle of the road set that ended up costing us about $1,500 and we still had to build it. Part of what made our set cost so much was that we wanted an enclosed slide so that we didn’t have to worry about anyone falling from the top of the slide. What was nice about the set we bought was that with a little thought it could be modified. For example it came with monkey bars but we decided that we would not attach that part until both of our boys where big enough to play on them. In the end we are super happy with our set and most importantly the kids love it. When it comes time for you to buy your own set I suggest look at everything you can find online like the two sites mentioned above then go to your local home improvement store like Lowes, Home Depot or Menards and checkout the displays. We took our kids with us to see what accessories seemed to attract them the most.
- Club House/Tree House – Having a clubhouse in your backyard is a close runner up to a swing set. A good club house is the perfect place for your kids to play and use their imaginations. The ideas that can come from such a place are endless. And the best part is it can be used through all stages of childhood. Like swing sets clubhouses also come in many forms. They can easily be designed and built by an everyday DIY’er or can be bought as a kit. The options are truly endless and who says that a clubhouse has to be permanent. For example last fall we decided to buy some straw bales to use as decoration around the house. When we went to pickup the straw we decided to buy about ten extra bales which cost about $35. We used the extra bales to build a straw house out of for the kids. They absolutely loved it! That is all they wanted to do for days was play in their new clubhouse. After a few weeks when they straw started looking rough and the kids had lost interest we simply spread some of the straw in the garden and sowed some grass with the rest. In the end it was well worth the $35 dollars. Lord knows I’ve spent more on dumber things. So as you can see all it takes is a little imagination on your part to find the perfect clubhouse.
- Sandbox – Here is another place that imaginations can run wild and so can the kids. If you decide a sandbox is a suitable addition to your backyard paradise there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost is how you are going to keep the neighborhood cats out of the sand. If you have never had a sandbox or didn’t play in one much as a kid you might not know that to cats a sandbox is just a huge litter box. So your best bet is to buy or build a sandbox with a lid. There are many different types of sandboxes sold some plastic and some wood. At first glance the plastic ones might seem nice but kids can quickly out grow these because they are typically very small. So wood is probably going to be better for the long haul. Or if prefer to build your own acquire some landscape timbers or old railroad ties. Then build a nice large sandbox maybe 8’x8’ and maybe 18” deep. You can then either buy one of the tarp like covers that are commercially available, build a removable wooden top or attach some type of fencing to the outside of the box. All of which should work very good.
- Trampoline – Now not everyone likes the idea of a trampoline because they can be very dangerous but man are they fun. And it is a sure fire way to get your kids outside and active. If you are on the fence about owning a trampoline it is worth mentioning that there is a new installation method that is becoming very popular, the ground level trampoline. You literally dig a whole and bury the trampoline which makes for a very clean look. It also reduces the risk of you trampoline from blowing away or being damaged by the wind which is a very common occurrence with above ground trampolines even when they are anchored correctly. For more information on in ground installation and trampoline safety you can visit Trampoline safety.com.
- Swings (Tire Swings, Rope Swings) – The way I feel about it is every home with a backyard and kids should have a swing. There is just something about swinging that makes it awesome. And the cost can be little to nothing. If you have a big tree in your yard then all you really need to buy is some rope or a chain. You can find old tires just about any where. Chances are you know someone that would love for you to just take there old tires just to get it out of their way.
- Outdoor Chalkboard – This is something we can across on line and thought it was a good idea. Most kids love using sidewalk chalk but not every home has a paved driveway or sidewalk or at least in a location you would want the kids playing. So what you can do is buy a sheet of plywood (treated or painted) and some of that chalkboard paint and make a giant chalkboard like they have in schools. Then you can attach it to just about anything like a privacy fence, chain link fence or the side of a playhouse. You could even build a place to mount it, using two 4×4 posts. And if you can find a place in the shade that’s even better for those hot summer days outside.
- Fire Pit – This one might have caught you off guard being that it is a list for kid ideas but as long as caution and common sense are used it can it will be loved by all. I mean what kid or adult for that matter doesn’t like s’morse? Plus an evening with the family sitting next the fire is much better time spent than sitting in the house watching TV. Fire pits are easy to make if you have the room or can be bought online or at most home improvement stores. And if you don’t have access to firewood it can be bought at most gas stations or you can check the classifieds.
- Small Kids Garden – Now here is one that can not only be a fun educational activity but it might even get your kids to eat their veggies. If this sounds like something you would be interested in it shouldn’t take a lot of space maybe 4’x 4’. Buy some seeds for easy to grow plants like corn, tomatoes and green beans or any other type of veggie your kids happen to like. Using a tiller would be the preferred way to prepare the garden space but if you do not have one and can not barrow one then a shovel and hoe should make do. Let your kids plant the seeds and help then to water and weed their garden as needed. In a few short months the entire family will be enjoying a nice homegrown feast.
So there you go a nice starter list for you to begin your kid friendly backyard paradise. In the future as I find new ideas I will update this post so check back often and until then enjoy your time outdoors with you kids. Here is short video on some other ideas to think about.