If your home has a backyard, you can create an amazing playground that your kids will absolutely love. Getting exercise and spending time outdoors play an important role in encouraging healthy childhood mental and physical development. With a few simple changes and some fun playground equipment, it’s easy to design your very own backyard playground. This guide offers some tips to help you plan, ideas for different play areas, and information about kids’ activities to help you get started. Once you make the change, your kids will have a fantastic playground right in their backyard that they’ll enjoy for years to come.
Planning your backyard playground
Before you start buying swing sets and other playground equipment, it’s important to do a few key things in advance. Here are some planning tips to help you get started:
- Measure your backyard dimensions: You wouldn’t buy a new sofa without measuring your living room first. The same principles go for your backyard. Get a feel for how much space you have to work with by measuring your yard in length and width in feet, taking note of the total square footage. Doing this will make it easier to divide the yard into sections and bring in the proper-sized equipment later.
- Designating sections and games to include: If your backyard is large, consider dividing it into different play areas. For example, one corner could have a sandbox, while another could have monkey bars and a swing set. Don’t forget to include fun games and kids’ activities like giant outdoor building blocks, a ring toss game, or a cool climbing tower. You can purchase many backyard playground items that are pre-made or try to make them yourself using a few simple things you can obtain from your local hardware store.
- Consider your children’s ages: When designing a backyard playground, it’s important to keep your kids’ ages in mind. Younger children should use bucket-style swing sets for safety and only be allowed outside under adult supervision. Things like rock climbing walls and taller equipment should be reserved for older kids. Generally, the older your children are, the more complex and taller the playground equipment can be.
- Get your kids involved in the process: Have your kids help you build their playground equipment and make the process fun. This is a great way to spend time together as a family, and it gives the kids a chance to provide their input on what type of things they’ll have in the backyard, where to put them, and what designs or colors they prefer.
- Follow safety guidelines: When building a backyard playground, you must follow all safety guidelines regarding the structure, the material uses, and the rules for outdoor playtime. Never leave kids outside unsupervised, and make sure that no screws or nails are exposed to prevent injury. Once your equipment is in place, add at least a foot of shredded rubber, wood mulch, or fine sand all around the base to provide a “buffer” when kids fall or engage in rough play. Inspect all equipment often to ensure that it’s in good working order and that no sharp edges or hardware is exposed. Replace broken boards or any parts that are in disrepair.
DIY backyard play area ideas
Now that you have the planning out of the way, it’s time to check out some fun and unique DIY backyard playground areas to consider. Some are really straightforward and easy for anyone to do, but you can choose to hire a handyman to help you build your perfect DIY playground.
- Tire climbing tower: Create a custom climbing tower using heavy-duty lumber and some tires. Make sure the tires are in good condition and that each one is attached securely to the lumber using lag screws. Put the lumber at least two feet into the ground to keep it steady and prevent it from leaning or falling over.
- Rope and rock-climbing tower: Design a fun tower with rope climbing on one side and rock climbing on the other using a sturdy wooden A-frame. This DIY design is for older kids, but it’s a great way to keep them active and engage in some friendly competition with their siblings and friends. Attach the “rocks” (you can find these at most sporting goods stores) to the solid side using nuts, bolts, and long screws so they stay in place. You can design the back either by attaching a rope to several loops at the top of the wood or by making your own climbing net from nylon rope.
- DIY wooden swing: A handmade swing is easy to make with just a few simple items. You’ll attach small wood sections with braided nylon rope, separating each slat with a wooden bead so that the seat is flexible. Just make sure that the rope you use is heavy-duty so it stays together and will securely attach to the swing set frame.
- Homemade tire swing: Every kid loves a classic tire swing, and it’s an easy DIY backyard playground project. All you really need is a large tire, a tree with thick, sturdy branches, and some high-quality rope. Wrap the rope around one end of the tire several times, then bring the two ends up and tie them onto the branch above. If you want to add a pop of color, coat the tire with some outdoor spray paint for a fun touch.
- Sand play area: This is an easy play area to create. Simply fill a section of your yard with play sand and separate it using wooden timbers, large rocks, or a pre-made sandbox. Always make sure that the sand you use is specifically designed for kids to play in. Don’t forget to add some fun toys so the kids can enjoy hours of fun outside in the sand.
- DIY backyard sound wall: A sound wall is great for kids’ sense of touch, sight, and hearing. Simply attach a range of items to a wooden board, placing it at about eye level. You can add pots and pans, spinners, and anything else that makes noise as long as it’s weather-resistant.
- Tire balance beam: Using recycled tires, create a simple DIY balance beam by burying each one about halfway into the ground. Place the tires in a straight line, ensuring they’re up against each other with no gaps in between. You can paint each tire a different color and watch your child get excited as they walk across each one until they reach the end.
- RC racetrack: Design an awesome racetrack for remote-controlled cars by carving out a curvy section of your yard, ensuring it’s flat and level. Surround the racetrack with a barrier to keep the vehicles on it using a flexible drain pipe attached to the ground with rebar. Make sure the track is free of rocks and debris, and have fun as you watch your kids participate in an exciting RC race.
Playground equipment to include
Here are some examples of popular playground sets and equipment you can include for an awesome experience:
- Slides: Every kid loves a slide, so fill your backyard playground with a few different slides at varying heights. Make sure you choose low slides for young kids, and if you’re using metal slides, try to place them under a tree so they stay cool in the sun.
- Swings: From a classic swing set to a tree tire swing, every child loves swinging outside. You can purchase a complete vinyl playset or make your own and hang it from a tree.
- Treehouse: If you have the ability and the tools, you can make a custom DIY treehouse. Several plans are available online, or look for a pre-built treehouse that only requires you to securely attach it to the tree, but no matter how you build it, a homemade play house is going to be the best for your kids.
- Castle: A backyard fortress or castle is every kid’s dream. Look for castles that are already made, or build your own using pieces of plywood. Don’t forget to add windows and a drawbridge to the castle, too.
- Small pool: Kiddie pools offer a great way to cool off on hot summer days. You can find small pools in various sizes and shapes for the backyard. Fill the pool with clean water and let your kids splash their cares away.
- Clubhouse climber: A clubhouse climber features two clubhouses attached to a bridge or pathway. You can find these online at a variety of retailers or attempt to make your own.
- More ideas: A few other popular playground sets or equipment items include things like monkey bars, seesaws, and teeter-totters; you can buy the best outdoor playhouse and merry-go-rounds.
Schedule regular maintenance checks
To keep your kids safe, make sure you schedule regular maintenance checks of all your backyard playground equipment. Ideally, you should inspect the backyard playground weekly or more often if possible. Look for things like dangerous debris lying around or any hardware sticking out of boards, etc. Sand down any sharp edges you see and replace worn-out or rotten ropes and pieces of wood. Check the ground and ensure that there are still at least 12 inches of mulch, sand, or other materials to protect kids when they fall. Remove any standing water and turn over equipment that could collect rainwater when it’s not in use. If you’re using a tire swing, inspect the branch to ensure that it’s still in good condition. Following a regular maintenance plan will help to ensure that your new backyard playground is safe for all.
With a bit of planning and some creativity, you can create an amazing playground right in your own backyard. From simple swings to rock climbing walls and castles, keep these tips in mind to help you come up with the ultimate backyard playground. You’ll have a fantastic space for your kids to play, spend time outside, and use their imaginations for many years to come.