Family LIfe

Backyard Adventures: Planning an Outdoor Play Area for your Children
by Jessica Ackerman

Planning and creating an outdoor play area for your children can be a fun and creative task. Although many people immediately think of store-bought swing sets and play houses, there are other options when planning a backyard adventure space that kids will find fun and entertaining.

Celebrating Nature
Children love nature, and the backyard is a great place to allow them to safely explore it. Providing some areas that can be planted in wildflowers or even an area that kids can use to plant a small garden or other plants of their choosing can be a great source of both entertainment and learning for children. Don't overlook their interest in wildlife and even bugs . . . a bird feeder kept at a safe height can provide hours of educational entertaining. A sandbox can also provide hours of enjoyment, by providing a place to build and play in the dirt.

Creativity and Physical Activity
Some toys that allow for active play are also great additions to the backyard play area. Swing sets are always popular items, as are clubhouses or playhouses. These can either be store bought, or crafted by hand. Often, the hand-crafted items are a better choice if you have the skills to build them, because the children have a chance to help in the building process. Children enjoy thinking creatively, so even if you don't have room in the budget for a purchased or hand-crafted playhouse, a blanket draped over a clothesline in the backyard can make a perfectly serviceable and portable clubhouse or fort.

Make Room for Water Fun
Kids also love water, so finding a way to add some water fun to the backyard play area is a great idea. This can be as simple as adding a small wading pool, or even a sprinkler. These types of items can be a lot of fun, especially on hot summer days.

Planning Your Backyard Play Area
When planning a backyard play area, it can help to sketch the area out first so that it's easier to plan for the space. If there is a shade tree in the backyard, for example, that would be the ideal spot for a child-sized picnic table. Creating a plan in advance also lets you judge the overall size of the play area, which can help determine what types of play sets or other features would be most appropriate. When adding a swing set or other type of play set, make sure that there is adequate room on all sides to allow for safe operation.

Safety Concerns
Also, for the sake of safety, it's best to use a softer material under play sets, such as rubber mulch or wood chips, so that scraped knees are kept to a minimum. Another good safety feature, especially if the children are very young and you live in the city or on a busy street, is to construct a fence around the backyard or the play area. This can prevent toys from rolling out into the street, as well as avoiding the even more serious problem of a child running after a toy without first looking to make sure there isn't any traffic.

About the Author:
Professional designer Jessica Ackerman, writes for, and is an authority on decorating with iron scroll wall art and home decor accents.

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