Owning a kid-friendly backyard is one of the best ways to encourage your kid’s health and happiness. A fun outdoor environment will encourage them to take a break from technology, be active, and get their daily dose of vitamin D (with sunscreen on, of course).
But the first step in getting your kids to go outside is to create a safe place where they want to play. The following backyard ideas for kids will help you do just that, so both you and your child feel good about their time outdoors.
And don’t worry—we’ve got plenty of tips for those with limited budgets, small backyards, and kids of all ages.
1. Start With a Fence
The less obvious part of fun is safety. Keeping your kid safe and preventing possible injuries is what allows the fun to continue. For this reason, we suggest adding a fence as your first step to a kid-friendly backyard.
Fencing in your yard will keep strangers and uninvited visitors out and keep curious children in. If you install a fence, be sure to include it in your home insurance coverage under “Other Structures.”
Safety Tip: Some states have pool barrier requirements, so be sure to look up your state laws. According to the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act in Florida, for example, if you have a pool that’s over 2 feet deep, you’re required to install a barrier around it that is at least 4 feet tall. This is to protect unattended small children from getting or falling in.
2. Stick With Safe Ground
When adapting your backyard for kids, the ground is an important part that is easy to forget or that you may not realize you have control over.
Hard cement and gravel are a fall away from scraped knees and hands. If you have these in your yard, teach your children to run and play on safer ground. Grass offers a natural, softer foundation to run—and potentially fall—on.
If your grass refuses to grow the way you would hope, you can still have a kid-friendly backyard without it. Your other two best options are artificial grass and rubber tile. Artificial grass costs more upfront, but it takes less work to maintain and can be less slippery after rain due to the lack of mud.
You may have seen rubber tile in modern parks and playgrounds. It’s shock-resistant ground that is designed to look like mulch or asphalt but is less hard to walk and fall on.
All 3 of these options are safe for your children, making it less likely that they will hurt themselves when they fall.
3. Make Room for Sports
Depending on your child’s interests and age, having some room to run around and play tag may be enough. For others, having a small field of space for practicing and playing their favorite sport may be ideal.
Kids can play soccer, football, and baseball easily. For soccer and football, use a net or a couple of cones as the goal. For baseball, you can make homemade bases.
It may take a little more work, but you can build a mini basketball court with some rubber tile and a hoop.
4. Consider Investing in a Playground
Backyard playgrounds offer various types of play and come in several sizes. With the typical playground, your child can climb, swing, and more.
A playground isn’t required for your kid to have fun outdoors, but it may be worth the cost if you have a higher budget or intend to buy all the play equipment that typically comes with one separately.
Safety Tip: If you have a sloped backyard play area, you will have to buy a playset for sloped ground or level the ground it will be on.
Bonus Tip: Even if you’re looking for backyard activities for toddlers, investing in a more advanced set will allow your kid to use it for longer.
5. Create a Hidden Space
A playhouse or fort is an excellent addition to a kid-friendly backyard. They give your kid a safe place to play and relax outside the home and offer shade on extra hot days. These little spaces can serve as your child’s own special place, where they can let their imaginations roam or host “secret” clubs.
If you’re looking for kid-friendly backyard ideas on a budget, a small tent or teepee accomplishes the same thing at a lower price point. These can be set up and taken down at your leisure, or you can build your own.
If you opt for a playhouse, you can purchase prebuilt ones that come ready to assemble. We recommend hiring a professional to install any raised structure.
6. Spur Creativity With Chalk
If you do have concrete in your backyard, it doesn’t have to be a total play-free zone. Instead, break out some sidewalk chalk for the kids to draw. Rain or a hose can wash away the art for a blank canvas.
If you don’t have a chalk-friendly surface already, consider investing in a chalkboard or DIY-ing your own with chalkboard paint. You can hang it up on the patio or the side of a playhouse or fence.
Chalk is a great way to get artsy or play games like tic-tac-toe, and it can offer a break between cardio activities, encouraging kids to play outside longer.
Bonus Tips: You may be able to apply chalkboard paint directly to a fence or playhouse. Ensure that the chalkboard or paint you buy is okay for outdoor use, and be sure to hang it within your child’s reach.
7. Go Old-School With a Seesaw
A seesaw can make young children feel like they’re flying and be a fun way to teach them about physics. If you have two kids or plan on hosting their friends often, you can add a seesaw to your backyard for under $100.
8. Earn an Easy Win With Hopscotch
Hopscotch is a classic game that gets the heart racing—and it’s one of the easiest backyard play area ideas to add. Draw it up in chalk, or use painter’s tape if you don’t have chalk-friendly ground.
If it’s in your budget, you can also buy hopscotch tiles or mats for your kids to re-arrange.
Safety Tip: We’ve seen some DIY-ers use concrete tile for hopscotch squares. Be sure to bury them evenly with the ground or use softer materials to minimize possible injuries.
9. Encourage Imagination With a Sandbox
If your wee ones love playing in the sand at the beach, they’ll love a sandbox.
Sandboxes stimulate the imagination, and there are different kinds to suit different needs and budgets. You can level up your backyard with a large permanent sandbox or a smaller portable sand table. There are even two-in-one sand and water tables for more variety.
Whatever you choose, don’t forget the toys to make it fun. You’ll want some shovels, buckets, and molds.
10. Teach Kids With Their Own Garden
Gardening is a hobby that everyone can enjoy, from toddlers to teens. Even a three-year-old can dig and excitedly watch plants grow.
Once your kid is ready, having a garden doubles as an opportunity to teach them about plants, life, responsibility, and science.
A kid garden can be as simple as a few potted plants on the patio or a small plot in the backyard. All you need is a small watering can, shovel, and seeds.
11. Level-Up Your Outdoor Play Area With Landscaping
Your backyard landscaping or garden can create a beautiful place to lounge as well as encourage outdoor play. Having a variety of plants gives small children something to explore, and the right choices can attract wildlife like butterflies and squirrels. Add birdhouses and feeders for an extra touch.
You can also use landscaping to create secret, fantasy-like spots for imaginative adventure.
Safety Tip: Have your kid tested for allergies, so you can make sure none of your plants pose a threat.
12. Add Water Play for Summer Days
Few things are more fun for kids on a hot summer day than playing in the water. While a YMCA membership and pool maintenance can be costly, water play doesn’t have to be.
You can order a small portable splash pad or an inexpensive sprinkler system for the kids. You can also invest in plastic or inflatable mini-pools and slip ‘n slides as they get a little older. With a big enough inflatable pool, the whole family can have some fun.
13. Create Some Shade
As you add these backyard play ideas, you’ll also want to think about sun protection. Sun damage poses a health problem in the short term and long term, so applying and reapplying sunscreen is a crucial part of outdoor play.
If you’re able to go a step further, consider adding roofs, canopies, or attractive shade tarps wherever you can.
14. Collect Outdoor Toys
You don’t need to buy a bunch of large structures for your kids to have fun playing outside. If you’re looking for some fast, easy, and affordable backyard activities for kids, there are plenty of outside toys that can do the trick. Consider these fun and affordable classics:
- Hula hoops
- Kick balls and sports balls
- Jump ropes
- Cones for obstacle courses and games
- Bubbles (machine or self-blown)
- Ring toss
- Lawn darts
15. Make Space for Storage
Being a parent doesn’t mean you want a messy backyard. But when you create an awesome experience for your kids, there are always toys that need a place to go.
To solve this problem, buy bins to hold toys and tuck them off to the side of the house or patio. You can also provide extra seating and store toys with storage benches.
16. Have Fun With Lighting
It’s easier to get hurt in the dark, whether it’s from running into another kid or tripping over a toy. Nice lighting makes your backyard a great place to host outdoor events and makes nighttime play safer.
You might consider hanging up lanterns or choosing string lights that match your style. If you want something simpler, there are also a variety of landscaping lights that stick into the ground and work just as well.
17. Don’t Forget About Yourself
As a parent, you probably put your kid first all the time, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget about yourself. While thinking about how to make your backyard fun for kids, make sure you think about how to make it your oasis too.
Be sure to add a shaded place to sit where you can relax and host guests. Doing so will also give you a place to supervise your kids comfortably as they play.
What If I Have a Small Backyard?
You don’t need a lot of space to have an awesome backyard for kids. The two things to keep in mind with a small backyard are portable toys and vertical space.
Portable toys you can buy include sand tables, splash pads, inflatable playhouses, small tents, and the toys in the “Collect Backyard Toys” section above. You can store these toys inside, in the garage, or in bins, so they don’t take up permanent space in the yard.
Small backyard ideas for kids that use vertical space include climbing walls, chalkboard walls, and swings.
If you invest in permanent structures with a smaller backyard, make sure that there is still room for your kid to run around.
Customize Your Kid-Friendly Backyard to Your Kid
You don’t need to implement all these fun backyard ideas for kids to create the ideal yard for yours. Every child is different and has their own interests.
Think about what your kid loves to do and their favorite places to go. Use these as inspiration to create their perfect outdoor play area.