Small Backyard, Big Ideas: Seven Hacks for Kid-Friendly Outdoor Spaces

Is your backyard a kid-friendly haven? While it’s true all a kid really needs is a grassy space to roam or build a fort, if you design your backyard around child’s play, it can become an outdoor oasis for the whole family, where a child’s imagination can run just as wild as their games of freeze tag.

Have a small backyard? Don’t worry: There are lots of creative ways to carve out play areas in yards of all sizes. Just check out the many kid-friendly small-backyard projects on Pinterest, ranging from genius to downright adorable. Turn your limited outdoor space into a place for everyday exploration and family fun with these seven fresh ideas for creative play zones.

1. Let Them Bounce

A trampoline becomes the go-to spot where kids can jump to their heart’s content and get plenty of exercise while they’re at it, but it can also serve as an outdoor gathering space. Design your trampoline as a lounge area with pillows and cushions — check out this cool crash pad on HGTV, for example — to make it a focal point of your backyard.

2. Sand and Water Play Area

Sure, you can just plop down a sandbox and call it a day, but why not transform this play area into something more magical? This backyard beach concept by Better Together is the perfect solution to give your child a space to get messy outside while staying shaded from the sun. Simply fill a large area of the yard with sand, and add a kiddie pool, beach chairs and a tarp above.

3. Kiddie Climbing Wall

Even when space is scarce, a rock climbing wall gives kids another option for outdoor play. A simple weekend project, you can make a DIY rock climbing wall by attaching grips to a wood slat or a concrete wall. As shown in this example at Buzzfeed, your climbing wall can be a stand-alone piece, or you can attach it to a fence or other playground equipment. Add some rubber mats below to soften landings.

4. A Place for Plein Air Art

Let your children explore their artistic sides by mounting an oversized chalkboard to a backyard fence or giving your fence a chalkboard paint treatment. Keep chalk handy with a hanging pail or chalkboard tray, and watch your kids’ imaginations in action. And because you set up this art area outdoors, at least you’ll keep that rainbow chalkboard dust outside!

5. Mini Putting Green

Outdoor games play an important role in backyard birthday parties and gatherings. Why not build something fun into your backyard, like your own miniature golf setting? Using artificial turf and whatever obstacles and decor you can dream up — including mini windmills, tunnels and castles — design a backyard miniature golf course that’s fun for kids of all ages.

6. Musical Fence

Start a backyard band with this musical fence idea from Creatively Blooming. Here’s what you’ll need: An existing white picket fence or a single panel of fencing mounted to another wall or fence, from which you could hang a mix of musical elements, such as old pans, wind chimes, cooking utensils, broken xylophone keys or anything else your kids can make noise with.

7. Make-Believe Area

Not enough space for a play house? No problem. Instead, create some kind of an imaginative play area — try these creative ideas from Apartment Therapy. This area can be as simple as a play kitchen, a lemonade stand or a mini garden. Set up pint-sized tables, chairs and pillows to make it extra cozy. Adding other fun details, such as pavers or fence posts painted in an array of colors, will signal this spot as a space just for kids.

An imaginative makeover for your backyard can provide an oasis for your family that doubles as an exciting entertaining space. Take inspiration from one or several of these small backyard ideas, and your kids will surely thank you by disappearing into the backyard until you have to make them come inside for dinner, just as it should be.

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