Creating a kid-friendly yard to promote outdoor play
One of my favorite parts about spring and summer is how much more time my kids are able to spend outside. They argue less, use their imaginations more and sleep better after a long day of playing hard outside.
When it comes to our yard, our goal is to create simple landscaping that invites our children to explore and enjoy being outside. For this reason, we try not to include plants or features that will leave us constantly saying, “No,” “Don’t touch that,” “Be careful,” et cetera.
Here are a few tips of my tips for creating a kid friendly yard.
1. Emphasize open space.
The size of your yard obviously plays a role in how much open space you have, and for some people it just might not be possible to leave much. But open space invites children to explore, imagine and just play. It also leaves them more room to run around and get their extra energy out, which is always a good thing!
2. Plant a variety of flowers and plants.
Having a variety of plants – and/or fruits and veggies – growing in your yard or garden allows kids to watch the natural progression as plants grow, bud and flower. They get to see the flowers fall off and the plants go dormant in the fall and winter. They’ll see firsthand the effects of different amounts of rain and sun on the plants. And the flowers will attract butterflies, honeybees and other insects for kids to observe as well.
3. Be aware of safety concerns.
Avoid plants and flowers that are poisonous and landscaping that poses a danger. If your children are young, this would include water features (no matter how shallow the pool of water) as well as stone work with sharp edges. Keep children out of tall grasses until they’re old enough to watch for snakes.
Avoid pesticides and fertilizers, especially in areas where kids may play in the grass or pick flowers. Providing a safe environment means your children will be able to enjoy the yard more often because you won’t have to hover over them when they’re outside.
Photo by Robert Terrell
4. Have a space to build or create.
Most children love to dig and build and discover. Provide a sandbox or an area of your yard that can be dug up without ruining your beautiful yard to satisfy this natural curiosity. We don’t have many outdoor toys, but shovels and buckets are on the must-have list!
5. Engage their imaginations.
I love the idea of creating a sunflower house or hideaway for my kids by planting a border of sunflowers and a flooring of soft grass. If you live near the woods or have old trees in your yard, you can use those to create forts and hideaways as well.
We recently played at an outdoor area that simply had large rocks placed throughout an open area, and my kids would have played for hours if we’d let them. All of these ideas have one thing in common: they use natural materials to invite children to use their imagination to create a magical place of their own.
6. Create a space to relax.
Having a place to rest and relax outside is just as important as having a place to play. On the hottest days of summer, we often have to coax our girls to stay outside when they’d really rather not. Instead of forcing them to continue playing (because, really, that tends to take the fun right out of it!), we invite them to sit on the porch or the patio — whichever happens to be in the shade at the time — and read books, have a picnic snack or do a craft.
Do you have a kid friendly yard? Have you found the balance between having a beautiful yard and one that the whole family can enjoy?
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