In the tire swing to the old oak tree, to a sand box at the corner of the patio, a family-friendly yard with do-it-yourself playground equipment is limited only by available space, your budget and imagination. Designated play areas with age-appropriate structures and open space for free-play really are all you have to keep the kids happily busy for hours. Prior to getting out your hammer, however, consider putting pencil to paper and doing a small site preparation.
To help toddlers explore, consider building a two-sided, four-step stairway with a platform at the top and cover it with one-half inch foam, and then outdoor rug, making sure it stays solid from the grass and wo not tip over. Build a sand box and include buckets and shovels. Little ones enjoy playing in playhouses: build an open-concept structure with an open door to protect little hands, or build a tepee and cover it with outdoor cloth. To beat the summertime heat, build an outdoor shower within an arbor or pergola; just make sure that there is no chance of standing water.
Ages Three to Five
Kids in this age group will still play things from the museum group, but now you want to make it a little more challenging. Build a pathway together with hardened for riding a bicycle, tricycle and scooter. Build a 6-inch high by 5-foot long balance beam and a sturdy seesaw. Paint the side of a shed or your garage wall with chalk paint; include a sill and box to your chalk and erasers. Build an open-concept fort with a stockade that encloses a lookout platform. Consistently include a soft landing material, like rubber mulch or outdoor foam tiles, beneath any play structure 4 feet or taller.
Ages Six to Nine
This age group is learning about their environment, and about raising and growing plants. Build a raised or terraced garden to plants seeds and harvest create. Build a treehouse, fort or a climbing wall with ropes. Build a small workbench and outfit it with age appropriate tools, some wood, nails and screws. Numerous home-improvement shops have kits you can build with them, or you can create your own. Kids this age should have the ability to follow instructions and assemble projects with a little patience and advice from you.
Ages 10 to 13
Have your child help you build a more elaborate treehouse with a walkway, porch, roof, windows and a door. Build a putting green full of synthetic turf and teach your child about golf. If you have two sturdy trees at least 30 to 40 feet apart, then you can build a cable ride where your child grips a trolley device, lifts their feet and zips down a length of steel cable, stopping as the cable rises near the end of the line. For youngsters interested in skateboarding, consider building ramps or a small garden skateboarding park.