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What does your optimal backyard look like?


PeacefulChaos
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I'm mainly talking in terms of play space for kids.  Interpret play however you want - I'm just always looking for inspiration for our backyard.  There are a lot of things I'd *like* to do but never get around to doing.  

I'd love for the backyard to be a bit more... something.  Idk.  I guess I'd like some more challenging physical things for the boys (or maybe 'challenging' isn't the right word - things that give them good exercise and are age appropriate for a 9-11 year old) and more spaces for them to be imaginative.

 

We have a trampoline, a swing set (a typical one with the covered part, slide, 2 regular swings, disc swing, and climbing rope, which we got for free!) and a tether ball lol.  We have a decent size deck, some chairs, a swing, that sort of thing...

 

I'd love to have a tree house, but we don't have many trees that are really accessible.  We either have small trees or HUGE trees, which are right on the outside edges of our yard.  

 

I love the idea of monkey bars, but most that I see are attached to the swing set somehow, and there's really no way to do that on ours.  I think Astro and Pink could use them, especially, for the strength factor.

 

Obviously I'd love a pool.  :P  But that's out of the question.

 

Idk, I guess I just want to have more available to them out there, not just the things listed above, but things that are sort of... adventure playground-ish.  Oh, and a hammock for me.  :D

 

And yeah, I know, kids are kids and they don't care what is in the backyard, they'll play there and have fun anyway - and they do!  Our kids go out every day, pretty much, and there are neighbors out there, too.  Our house is a pretty popular spot - I just want to keep it that way, I guess.  :)  Make sure they don't get too bored!

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I have to share that my knee jerk thought was "perpetually maintained." But then I realized that sounds like I want a cemetery back there!

 

I actually just want leaves that take themselves. I don't mind taking care of the rest. As for ideal, it includes natural space where kids can meet nature.

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Our kids are all adults now but 20 years ago when they were kids, we bought a covered sandbox and filled it with fine sand. The kids played with that until they got learner's permits. It was charming to see the neighborhood teenagers sitting there with their bare feet in the sand, digging and talking.  

We had to buy a couple of bags of sand every year because it ended up on feet, tossed around, etc., but it was the best money we spent for outdoor stuff for our kids.   Huge playset with a fort at the top? Used, but not as much as the sandbox. Basketball hoop? Used, but not worn out after four kids.  

 

Second best money we spent: wiffle ball bats and balls. 

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1.  I wish our deck was a little bigger and had an awning for the late afternoon sun.

 

2.  I wish we had one of those cool new beehives.

 

3.  I wish I could figure out how to get the electric fence to work right (that's a must-do for this summer, esp if I'm ever going to do #2).

 

4.  I wish we could clean up the old-hay mess (another going-to-happen this summer).

 

5.  I'd like a hammock swing in the big old maple.

 

6.  I'd like to tear down the old playhouse with the roof that fell in last winter.

 

7.  Getting rid of all those nasty staghorn sumac would be nice too.

 

8.  I'd like to fix up the chicken coop and sheep barn some.

 

As for play: We have a big garden that keeps them busy, and also a nice play set that they hardly use anymore. They like to swing sometimes, and climb the big maple. The sandbox never really got used after we moved it here, and I always wished we had made a folding top w/seats for it. They like to ride the little go-cart around the backyard, and splash around in the kiddie pool on very hot days when I'm too busy to take them to the river.  I had wanted to have dh work with them on a treehouse way out back in the huge pines, but there's too much work to do on the real house.  They can definitely help with #s 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, & 8; that should keep them busy.

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I would have one of these:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/197274211/large-hobbit-hole-playhouse-kit-outdoor?ref=sr_gallery_2&ga_search_query=hobbit+house&ga_order=price_desc&ga_page=1&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery

 

And a small stream that is shallow enough to not worry about the 4 year old, but enough water to splash your feet in.

 

And some trees that are good for climbing.  I had great climbing trees as a kid (lived mostly in apartment complexes).

 

And a garden.

 

And a swing or tire swing.

 

And a lilac bush.  

 

And a lot of soft grass and clover and wildflowers.

 

And a hammock.

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Oh, you wanted one for kids. Well, my initial response (from only having read the subject line) would be a backyard with shaded flagstone pathways winding their way under arbors of roses and grapes to sweet little alcoves furnished with wicker and wrought iron furniture. But, since that wasn't the question..... I'll have to think about it a bit!

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I would have one of these:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/197274211/large-hobbit-hole-playhouse-kit-outdoor?ref=sr_gallery_2&ga_search_query=hobbit+house&ga_order=price_desc&ga_page=1&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery

 

And a small stream that is shallow enough to not worry about the 4 year old, but enough water to splash your feet in.

 

And some trees that are good for climbing.  I had great climbing trees as a kid (lived mostly in apartment complexes).

 

And a garden.

 

And a swing or tire swing.

 

And a lilac bush.  

 

And a lot of soft grass and clover and wildflowers.

 

And a hammock.

 

Those are awesome!!  

Okay, pretty much everything on your list is awesome.  :D  Except I don't do gardens.  Some people have green thumbs... mine are... whatever kills everything it touches, plant wise.  That's me.  :lol:  

But I'll take everything else on that list.  :D

Ooh I agree about the sandbox (unless you have lots of stray neighborhood cats).

Yeah, we do have that... They're technically not strays, they *belong* to families around us, but they roam the neighborhood freely.  They're friendly, and I see them sometimes keeping a watchful eye at the edge of our yard looking toward the field next door for rodents, so they're semi-useful for that.  But yeah, they make sand pretty much a no go.  :ack2:

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I am a terrible gardener too, just terrible.  But I feel like my kids might be okay gardeners, and the soil here (Missouri USA) is the kind that grows just about anything without any real effort.  I planted squash one spring and then forgot about them all summer.  Lo and behold, August arrived and there were bunches of tasty squash.  (though they were difficult to find among the weeds).

 

The miracle of picking something that has grown from the ground is just so cool.  I used to eat fruit off the trees in Texas when I was a kid (at apartment complexes - I think maybe they were loquats? or something like that), it felt like I was some sort of pioneer explorer living off the land.

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I am a terrible gardener too, just terrible.  But I feel like my kids might be okay gardeners, and the soil here (Missouri USA) is the kind that grows just about anything without any real effort.  I planted squash one spring and then forgot about them all summer.  Lo and behold, August arrived and there were bunches of tasty squash.  (though they were difficult to find among the weeds).

 

The miracle of picking something that has grown from the ground is just so cool.  I used to eat fruit off the trees in Texas when I was a kid (at apartment complexes - I think maybe they were loquats? or something like that), it felt like I was some sort of pioneer explorer living off the land.

 

My grandparents garden and can things.  I like it but it doesn't tempt me.

 

Except... 

 

grapes.  

 

There was something so awesome about picking grapes off the vine and eating them the last summer I went back to their house (the house I grew up in) during college.  That was the first they had them - maybe the year before? - but I just loved it.  

 

so grape vines are the ONE thing on the list lol.  And there are a few different flowers and such I'd like to have... 

but a lot of those will have to wait until I own a house.  ;)  I don't feel like having to transplant stuff.  Moving things that are in the yard is one thing - uprooting is totally different.  :D

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When the kids were younger, we had a trampoline and a swingset. The trampoline was the most used item in the backyard. Unfortunately when we moved, we found out our insurance company won't cover us if we have one and threatened to drop us if we didn't get rid of it. There went the kids' exercise equipment.

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Flat.

After 7 years of living in a downtown subdivision with tiny lots, all of which on our side of the street have a slopes in the backyards (ours is particularly terrible), I'm so over it. The only fenced in play space my kids have is virtually unusable because of the steep slope. 

 

So, for the new house my one *thing* (I get two things; a school room and this - DH just wants a basement that can be finished, lol) is A FLAT BACK YARD.

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I would like the acorns to go away, it's like trying to walk on marbles. Poor dd2 is always falling on her butt because of them, we are going to try raking them up, but the squirrels and chipmunks will probably drag them back :(

Do you realize that acorns can be processed into a free, protein rich foods source for your family?

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My knee jerk reaction was, "No dog poo," so meh.  

 

:P

 

Don't rule out a tree house.  You can always build a platform 1/2 (or less) up a large tree.  My parents built us a platform playhouse with no tree at all.  But I'll tell you a secret, we had a tree house, a really cool tree house, and yet the kids didn't really play in it that much.

 

Do you have outdoor equipment (balls, frisbees, bikes, scooters) and / or building materials like sticks to build forts?  That's what my kids like.

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A goldfish pond...That's what you need. My son spends hours at our pond (farm pond, so really big) and I know he would LOVE a goldfish pond. He'd enjoy catching frogs, minnows, rearranging the rocks, etc.

 

A sunflower house.

 

 

Butterfly garden.

 

A climbing wall/rope.

 

 

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Personally I prefer grass, rocks, wildflowers, and trees.  Preferably climbable trees.  A hill, ravine, stream if possible.  And if there's enough space, I'd include a cement patio for stuff that grass doesn't accommodate well.  (We lucked out and got all of the above, except for the "climbable" part.  My kids are just now big enough to climb some of our trees.)

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Regarding leaves, we get many of them (oaks, maples, etc.)  My kids have had the job of cleaning up the leaves since they were 2yo.  It is one of the ways they can make an easy buck.  I think backyard features that provide opportunities for kid chores are great.

 

Some mentioned growing vegetables.  I think this is also a great idea.  We have done it a couple times, but deer came and ate most of what we grew.  So for us, I don't see doing that again, but others may have better results.

 

I won't have a fence.  I think it takes away the beauty of the yard.  My kids have been playing out there since they could walk and never wandered off or fell down the ravine or got eaten by a coyote (though the latter had me a little timid for a while).  We get a lot of critters in our yard, both wild and tame, so I taught the girls early to keep their distance.

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I'd just like to be rid of the mosquitoes. 

 

We have a couple good climbing trees the big guy loves, and forest across the way for walks, a "jungle" in the way back where we have let the back 1/2 acre go to seed, a garden, some nice fruit trees, chickens and turkeys, and plenty of space for the little guy to ride his tractor. It would be nice to have a little stream and a tree house is on our to-do list, as is a small barn.

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A dream backyard for kids:

 

Pool.

Hedge maze--complicated and big.

Woods with trails and without.

Stream in woods for wading.

No bugs allowed.

No poison ivy allowed.

Ramshackle cottage in woods with working plumbing (rather like the house in "Mandy")

Tree swing.

Circle of big evergreens that form an enclosure to hide in.

Apple trees for easy climbing.

Rabbit hole to Wonderland.

(The route to Narnia is inside the house in the wardrobe, obviously)

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Well, aside from my dream backyard in an earlier post, I would say that I like my backyard. It's a fairly good size for a city lot. We have a grassy area the kids can play in, we have a couple of trees on the western side to block the hot afternoon summer sun, we have a fort/slide/swing set off to the side, and a decent size garden on the north side. And a patio that works for or sidewalk chalk artists. It's nothing fancy, the landscaping is shrubs, and thanks to this drought we may be losing the lawn if they restrict watering this summer. But it's a good back yard.

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Ours is small, which is great because it's not much maintenance, but it would be more useable for gardening if it faced a different direction and got more sun. Otherwise, I'm on a downsizing dream kick and would be fine with a small courtyard or balcony. We don't hang out in the yard much, DS never even when he was younger and we had a huge lot.

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I have heard about it but haven't tried any yet..... Do you want some??? I'm sure I can gather a 5 gallon bucket full in less than 5 minutes with plenty left :D

Making acorn flour is pretty simple if time consuming. Make sure you have white oaks and not red though; red is much more bitter.

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I've been keeping an eye on Craig's List for reasonably priced logs.  I'm looking for big ones: 2+ feet in diameter, 2+ feet in length.  I think they would be great for the kids to roll around, climb on, jump off, make into obstacle courses, bake mud cakes on, etc.

 

Also, we have a huge sandbox which I have trained the kids to cover with a tarp weighted down with bricks to keep the cats out.

 

Wendy

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When we bought this house it had the perfect backyard, but now I hate it. 

 

It's a decent size. We had 2 outdoor dogs and a toddler and wanted plenty of room for both of them. We added a play fort with a slide, a rope, a sandbox, and a deck for playing pirates or whatever. We had a few trees good for climbing. It has room for an above ground pool (which we no longer have) room for me to scratch my gardening itch, and room for a shed to store the lawn mower and other outdoor tools.

 

Now that ds is 6 months away from turning 18 and busy with dual enrollment college classes, our indoor dog prefers to go on walks to running in the yard, and no one wants to maintain the lawn, we all hate it.

 

I'm just telling you this so you can think about it if you plan to be in the same house for years. Consider not just what you want your yard to be like now but whether or not it will be a burden in the future. If you don't think you'll stay until the kids are grown, then go with a backyard that fits your current needs/wants.

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My initial response to the subject line is a beach. We had one once as our yard and I miss it desperately. C'est la vie.

 

We love our rope swings and zip line, hammock, fire pit, and woods. Dh is building a pond and garden boxes that self water from the rain water like earth boxes. It was once the worst yard ever, but dh has put much effort into it! We put in sod and are loving that soft grass.

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Ours is just about optimal for me. If I could add about ten pastured acres with a barn behind our current yard, it would be perfect.

 

Ours acreage is all wooded, with small paths going throughout. A shallow creek surrounds the property. We have a cleared area near the house for a trampoline, swing, playground, and fire pit. In the morning when I walk the dogs, I hear the rushing water and multitudes of birds. We see deer on a regular basis. We have a huge garden area (about 20x30 feet I guess?) with raised beds and a composting system. My kids spend their days catching minnows, crawfish, and salamanders out of the creek. We are considering building a zip line from our balcony to a large tree (about 28-30 feet away) and a bridge from that tree to another one (about 12-15 feet away) with a treehouse there. We have plans for chickens, a beehive, and a bat house. I love our property.

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A huge hill of dirt or sand. We were fortunate to have a dirt hill in one of our yards. My dh wanted to level it to make the yard look nice, but I forbade it. The kids spent hours playing on it and they remember it fondly still.

I have a rich uncle that dumped a huge mountain of sand in his yard just for the kids to play on.

You could make it the new cool thing to do.

Playground: check

Trampoline: check

Dirt hill: check

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I've been keeping an eye on Craig's List for reasonably priced logs. I'm looking for big ones: 2+ feet in diameter, 2+ feet in length. I think they would be great for the kids to roll around, climb on, jump off, make into obstacle courses, bake mud cakes on, etc.

 

Also, we have a huge sandbox which I have trained the kids to cover with a tarp weighted down with bricks to keep the cats out.

 

Wendy

You might try calling a local tree service! I did this and got 5 large 2 feet tall pieces of solid red oak, about 2 feet in diameter, that we cut into varying heights for dd5 to jump to and play. For free! They were happy to get rid of them:)

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We have all sorts of things out there. A swingset/two story playhouse, a trampoline, tire swing, slack line, zip line, log obstacle course, mud kitchen for the kid, tire swing. The garage has been converted into a 'woody' rock wall/cave with monkey bars, trapeze, training bars, balance beam, and more.

 

This weekend dad is putting in a huge sandbox and soon it will be warm enough for the above ground pool to go back up.

That being said, we currently only have the one 5 yo who is only now getting to the point she will play out there for long, lol. I am on bed rest so I just bought a set of walkie-talkies, and it has been perfect to lay in the hammock or even stay inside...as long as she can check in with me she is happy.

 

This week she has been on a mission:we have TONS of pecans, and she saw a sign we drove past that advertised buying them at $0.90 per pound:) she has picked them up for hours, and taken them in twice for almost $30, lol.

 

We have a small concrete pad out there to do something with and dad wants to make her a hobbit hole with sod over the top. Grandpa is a landscape gardener and is planning a small pond with a tiny bridge when he comes out in three weeks...but I am a low maintenance, let everything grow and get covered in ivy kind of person so it definitely will never be manicured and tended.

I would like a veggie garden but can't work it:(

We are instead planting riotous colored flowers and going for a butterfly garden:)

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I should add: current yard has a xeriscaped butterfly garden, herbal medicine plants, berries/grapevines/fruit trees, veggie garden, david austin english roses, and other cutting flowers.

 

The kids have a Rainbow playset with sandbox and climbing wall. Neighbors have a zipline, two story climbing wall where someone belays the climber and an outdoor jacuzzi tub. We share amenities. :)

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I love lots of these!

 

We are renting, with no intention of staying here long term (though we've already been here 6 years, so... ... ... anyway, hoping that it'll only be a few more, tops).  Including what I mentioned earlier (trampoline, deck/chairs/swing, wooden swingset) we do have a basketball hoop and bikes and scooters and all that.  And a hose/sprinkler, which is the ultimate in play equipment once the temp gets above 80*.  :D  We have a 'fire pit' (self-made) that I want to put bricks/stones around, I had originally left it because I was trying not to add more for the boys to mow around, but they have to mow around it anyway, so what's the difference between mowing around the pit itself or bricks?  lol

Ideally, I love lots of very natural things - a stream is very, very high on my list lol.  I'd love to have a yard big enough that we could have the 'backyard' - play equipment, pool ;), patio, etc - and then the further out part of the yard, which is left sort of wild and open for whatever.  

 

If we did do a treehouse, I would want the kids to build it themselves.  Pretty much anything we do, I'd want the kids to be a part of - deciding what they want, building/making it, etc.  I've got tons of stuff pinned on pinterest lol.  Maybe I'll just ask them what they'd add to the backyard, if anything, and then go from there.  We can make a project out of each one this spring.  Idk.  I get all these plans - we'll see if I actually do any of them.  (Besides the hammock.  I really, really want a hammock.  But then I'd probably need 2, because the kids would be in the hammock and I'd be like, nope, that's mine...)

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