It’s summer and that means it’s time to go outside and play! You can create a garden you and your kids will love without spending a fortune. Here are 10 ideas on how to turn your backyard into an exciting and beautiful place to play without investing a lot in space-hogging, expensive structures and permanent features that your kids will soon outgrow.

1. Fun furniture

Create playful outdoor furniture such as tables and chairs made of wood stumps and painted with tic-tac-toe games and other stimulating patterns. Check out your local NextDoor website (or phone app) or Buy Nothing group and you might just find those wood stumps being given away by your neighbors. Wooden shipping palettes can be transformed into a daybed with some paint and a mattress. Old tires stacked together and decorated with vivid hues can become a table base. Just add a piece of wood on top!

2. Active play zone

For bigger yards, you can designate a space as an active play zone with balancing logs, sturdy boulders, and winding pathways with stepping stones for kids to climb, jump and exercise. Twig teepees make great hiding places and provide habitat for wildlife too.

3. Outdoor art station & toy storage

It’s easy to create an area where kids can get messy outdoors. Why not install a chalkboard on your fence? Or how about using inexpensive wooden storage boxes, repurposed wine crates or colorful plastic bins from the Dollar Store to keep toys and art supplies organized and easily accessible. It’s definitely easier to clean up messy crafts outside than it is in inside the house. Just hose everything off, including the kids, and bath time is done!

4. Movie time

Bring out the popcorn (and the wine for mom and dad) for some screen time al fresco. Just hang a projection screen up on the fence or the side of your house, set up the projector and press play! You can even invite the whole neighborhood too!

5. Miniature gardens

Pint-sized landscapes are always a hit with kids, especially if you incorporate their favorite toys. Create a dinosaur world, small race track or mini fairy garden in a corner of your yard. You can also use containers, pots, treasure chests, old tires, a wheelbarrow and birdbaths; your (and your child’s) imagination is the limit! Just make sure whatever you use has good drainage. You can also waterproof wooden containers to make it last longer. Next will be the fun part of designing and creating the miniature landscape with your kids. Plants such as succulents, moss and groundcovers are of suitable scale for this type of project and are easy to care for. Just add tiny furniture and accents that you might already have in the toy box and you have an instant miniature garden.

6. Veggie gardens

Include snackable plants like strawberries, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas into your veggie garden to encourage kids to pick and eat. It’s great to grow your own food as you know exactly what went in them to ensure a pesticide-free harvest. Incorporating features like bean pole forts, spiral planting beds, painted herb containers with DIY markers also make the vegetable patch more fascinating and fun. When kids help out in tending the edibles, they are more likely to eat them, too!

7. Sensory garden

Entice kid’s senses through plants. Encourage them to explore the world through their sense of smell by planting fragrant shrubs such as Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides), Lavenders (Lavandula sp), Peonies (Paeonia sp), Bee Balm (Monarda), among many other non-toxic fragrant plants. Scent is particularly alluring and makes your garden a more rewarding place to play. In addition, these often attract butterflies to your garden, for an even more interactive and visual experience and allow for bonus learning opportunities.

Plants with different leaf textures appeal to the sense of touch. Planting a groundcover such as the Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) or Sage (Salvia officinalis) reminds kids of their stuffed bunny’s ears. Soft resilient grasses look great billowing in the wind and add textural contrast to broadleaf evergreen shrubs.

Needless to say, flowering plants will add a burst of color, attract fauna and provide an opportunity to bring the garden indoors with some cut flowers for bouquets and vases.

8. Garden Art

Summer days can be spent creating outdoor garden crafts together with your kids. Next time you are at the beach collect a few big round rocks to paint and scatter all around the planting beds for some vibrant accents. Collect pine cones on your hikes to paint and hang on a string around the patio or on tree branches. Decorate wooden birdhouses, feeders, pinwheels and terracotta pots to inspire your surroundings and add visual interest. Wooden popsicle sticks can become veggie markers. These supplies are inexpensive and can easily be found at the craft store or Dollar Store. Displaying all these creations around the yard will give your kids a sense of pride and ownership in their garden.

9. DIY Sandpit

Create an instant sand box by filling a shallow plastic pool with sand. To make it look seamless with your garden, you can dig and make the pool flush to ground level. Poke drain holes at the bottom of the plastic pool so there will be no standing water that can turn your sandpit into a soupy mess when it rains.

10. Yard games

Instead of bulky play equipment and slides, use games that can easily be set-up and kept away when not in use, such as ladder toss games, tic-tac-toe ropes, horseshoes, ring toss and dartboards installed on a fence. These are sure to provide hours of outdoor entertainment during family picnics and get-togethers.

Creating an outdoor space that your kids will love is more than just a boredom-free afternoon out in the backyard; it is about connecting with nature, getting some fresh air, physical activity, and providing opportunities for learning and exploration which is great for children’s growth and development. It allows a space to cultivate a love for plants and nature. Most importantly, it is about creating happy childhood memories with your kids which they will surely treasure. That is priceless.

Let Blessing Landscapes create a kid-friendly space the whole family will enjoy for years to come. Contact us to set up a consultation!