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caedmyn

if you wanted to your backyard to be a kid mecca...

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What would you have in it?  I'd like it to be a place where the neighborhood kids would enjoy playing also.  We have a biggish back yard  with a 1/3 acre lot.  There are several trees but no climbing trees, unfortunately.  There's a brick patio and a deck (over daylight basement so a few feet off the ground) with both enclosed space and an open space underneath.

We have a swing set.  I've thought of a trampoline, but it seems like trampoline + crazy kids might be a bad combination.  They'd love an above ground pool, but pool + 2 YO escape artist is a very bad idea.  I could maybe put together a Ninja course.  Any other suggestions?

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swingset/fort.  

deep sandbox 

trampoline - except considering you need to limit how many are on at a time to prevent injuries - that can become problematic.

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We have one of these monkey bar half-domes and it's held up very well over the years and even through a move.

A friend has a platform swing and the kids love it.

My nephew built his own little zip line with a wooden seat and it's very cool.

A balance beam would be fun.

If price were no object, a rock climbing wall like you sometimes see in public parks would be fabulous.

Another friend has an old-style merry-go-round and it is awesome. So many playgrounds have done away with them and they are SO FUN. 

Edited by MercyA

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- backyard play fort
hobbit hole playhouse
- big sand box
- area for just digging a deep hole, making Hot Wheels roads and towns, etc.
- tub of capes, masks, ninja outfits, camouflage jackets, twirly skirts and tutus, swords, squirt guns, etc. for dress up and imaginative play outside
- some lawn game sets -- bocce ball, ring toss, corn hole bean bag toss, frisbee slam can
- outdoor activities -- sidewalk chalk, bubbles, frisbees, soccer ball, nerf foam dart guns
- games to play on a big covered porch -- ping pong table, air hockey, foosball, etc.

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What you really need to do is be prepared to feed them. It doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Popsicles, popcorn, easy homemade cookies, watermelon slices, cold water and sometimes lemonade or koolaid - these made my kids and their friends happy to hang out in our yard. We didn’t have a ton of entertainment, mostly ball (stickball and football), but there were always snacks, including the cherry tomatoes and banana peppers they were allowed to pick straight out of the garden. 

Good times. They grow up too fast!

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Ride-on toys/bikes. Wagons. Scooters. Yard games like hula hoops, croquet, tossing sets, stilts, badminton. Swing set (which you have). Jungle gym.

My kids are 7 and 9 and we don't do play dates because, well, we've just never done play dates. So when a family comes over, it's a wide range of ages and I'm always amazed how they really enjoy climbing all over the swing set and jungle gym, riding all the ride on toys and playing the games. No matter what their age, they all find something to do and have a great time. A favorite game right now is setting up obstacle courses and timing themselves going through the course and trying to beat their own times. Nobody seems to mind if the littles skip some of the obstacles.

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Piles of lumber and sticks. Let them make forts to their hearts content. We still have a "wikiup" out in the north swamp. Rocks for Roxaboxen. Allow them to let the hose run to make a ditch. We're blessed with a ditch right past the fence, and another further out, though part of the summer it runs too deep. A HUGE rock out by the garage was popular. A friend brought it over with the backhoe. I'd nix the tramp idea--many homeowners' policies won't cover them. STILTS! Ziplines are cool, but you'd better hang on on ours or into the swamp you go. I started one of those vines growing over a trellis things, but then the cows broke in and ate it. Plant raspberries so the kids can "snitch" them. One of the most popular things we did was an old tractor wheel at the top of the swingset platform. That "ship" has been piloted many places. 

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We built parallel bars and they were  popular.

Also a hit was the former garden area that was too shady to garden, but we didn't plant grass because kids loved to dig. Even town kids should have a place to dig holes.

Tree fort and swing

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Wild life.  No restrictions on use of water or digging.  Tools.  Fridge boxes and markers, paints, and/or colored masking tape to decorate them with.  A place to make and hang personal flags.  Edible plants.  Making it easy to clean up (a dish pan full of hot soapy water and one full of cool rinse water and an old towel on the deck works well.). Sensory opportunities like sand or a bucket of beans.  Play dough and tools.  Lizards.

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For me, I would want it to be more natural, stuff to climb and dig and "landscape," rocks and plants and maybe a stream, perhaps a shed with tools and materials for building forts and obstacle courses and such.

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It depends on the age of your target audience! Some friends with 8-14yo had a Zipline. That was pretty awesome. 

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A bunch of sand or dirt to build in.  A water source (pump).  A couple different swings.  A regular one but also maybe a tire swing and a web one that lots of kids can get on.  Stuff to dig with. A play house made of beans.  https://www.familyfoodgarden.com/kids-garden-playhouse

loose stumps, pine cones, rocks, junk.  Nails and hammer and paint and places they can use all that.  

A zip line.  Monkey bats.  A merry go round.   

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Our youngest is 9.  The big draws right now are
space to play
net for baseball (it's that season)
a slackline set (line, guideline, and then obstacle course line)
a fort area (not intentional, but there is a propped up bush that cascades over the frame holding it up).  Along with this I keep a bag of old sheets and fort building material.

We have no restrictions on digging away in the muddy area, there's a garden to explore, and if they get bored, there's an empty driveway to play hockey and basketball in.

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If you want your backyard to be a kid Mecca...plant lots of special plants. Have 2 dogs that like to poop right where kids like to walk. Have hard surfaces, dangerous tools, and a small brick-lined pond that they can try to throw things into, and then make sure you yell at them.

That’s my backyard and the kids are constantly over here. Drives me crazy. The kid next door has a lovely backyard for playing. My neighbor and I are constantly trying to get the kids to go over there. No luck.

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A ball pit!  Trapeze.  Sensory tables with stuff in them. Ways to play with water.  Nerf guns.  Trampoline.  Bubbles and chalk.  A stream.  Animals...cats, dogs, chickens, ducks.  A garden they could work in.  Space for riding scooters and bikes (but front yard is probably better for that).  A basketball hoop.  Badminton nets.  A small field for soccer or baseball.  Lots of loose parts.  Something to climb.  If not a tree, then a wall.  Something that spins.  Boards and wood and nails they can do stuff with.  

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24 minutes ago, kap728 said:

If you want your backyard to be a kid Mecca...plant lots of special plants. Have 2 dogs that like to poop right where kids like to walk. Have hard surfaces, dangerous tools, and a small brick-lined pond that they can try to throw things into, and then make sure you yell at them.

That’s my backyard and the kids are constantly over here. Drives me crazy. The kid next door has a lovely backyard for playing. My neighbor and I are constantly trying to get the kids to go over there. No luck.

LOL. Growing up, we had an old splintery wood shed that we could climb and jump off the roof.  Also a climbing rope on a very tall Cottonwood tree. And an irrigation ditch. 

Best of all was an old wooden boxcar out in the fields that was used to store hay. And play Boxcar children. 

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My DD’s preschool had a set of clear plastic pipes with plastic fittings.  The kids could configure them different ways and run water through them.  I wish I knew where to find such a thing, but adding it to the yard I described above would be quite enthralling.

 

(And incidentally this is how I learned about ball valves.  Yup, learned from preschool in my forties.)

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12 hours ago, MercyA said:

We have one of these monkey bar half-domes and it's held up very well over the years and even through a move.

A friend has a platform swing and the kids love it.

These were a hit in our backyard. 

Make sure your homeowner's has adequate coverage.

We're big on NO to trampolines!!! And other than sitting on the beach or taking short walks to the mailbox, no flip-flops, lol! DH works in an emergency department, and we have new flip-flop stories every year.

11 hours ago, Seasider too said:

the cherry tomatoes and banana peppers they were allowed to pick straight out of the garden

Picking the garden clean of what we wanted for dinner was also pretty common for our yard too. 

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Basketball hoop for the older kids and water table for the littles. Trampoline for all ages. I used to be afraid of injuries- but we have only had one and it wasn't the trampoline's fault. There was a basketball hoop attached and it got pulled off and a screw hit my son in the head. We did take the basketball hoop off after that! My sis/bro in law have a trampoline that they dug out underneath so it is level with the ground. 

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13 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

Wild life.  No restrictions on use of water or digging.  Tools.  Fridge boxes and markers, paints, and/or colored masking tape to decorate them with.  A place to make and hang personal flags.  Edible plants.  Making it easy to clean up (a dish pan full of hot soapy water and one full of cool rinse water and an old towel on the deck works well.). Sensory opportunities like sand or a bucket of beans.  Play dough and tools.  Lizards.

Yup.  My yard looks like we have rabid gophers or an archaeological dig going on.  They love it so much.

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We live in a mobile home park and can't have anything outside all the time, so no swings or trampolines or stuff like that. We are still the house where the neighbor kids gather. We have:

  • sidewalk chalk and a big driveway (you could do a blackboard on the fence in the backyard)
  • balls of various types and sizes (a new ball each Easter is a tradition here)
  • hula hoops
  • bubbles and various bubble blowers
  • scooters, roller skates, bikes, skateboards, etc in various sizes (I just never got rid of most of them as the kids outgrew them since neighbor kids are always needing to borrow them)
  • a big garden that has empty areas and digging tools and small rakes and gloves in various sizes (we clean that area up if and when park management complains)
  • the beanbag hole game & that game where you wrap balls tied together onto PVC pipes
  • an unlimited amount of water from the outside faucet plus paint brushes, water guns, dishtubs & a kid-sized drying rack, spray bottles, etc. (one kid likes to "paint" with water, a couple wash doll clothes, they all like to clean their chalk drawings and start over). I usually spring for one big bag of balloons a season and let them do water balloons until the bag is gone. We had a slip and slide for several years, but it died, so no more - it was a hassle to set up and take down though. 
  • slime making supplies and playdoh (kept inside, but available to be played with outdoors) and a whole bucket of plastic tools
  • an outdoor lego bin and a couple of empty window box planters to make a village. We also have some outdoor toys from when the kids were little like a little farm set, some Sesame Street figures, etc - these are all used as a fairy garden kind of thing. We hide the empty planters from management behind our front door.
  • pile of small pieces of a couple of 2x4's and spare plywood and extra trim DH cut into small pieces along with wood glue and designer duct tape (I would allow my kids to use a hammer and nails, but I'm not going to supervise other's kids when building)
  • sometimes they find the sleds in the summer and pull the little kids around the yard or pretend they are on the school bus or a tour bus or whatever

I don't serve snacks, although I allow bottomless cups of water and occasionally make a pitcher of lemonade. 

Edited by beckyjo
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I’d make lots of interesting little paths and hidey-holes with plants and simple wooden trellises grown over with climbing plants and living willow structures and have little hills and dells.  With no climbing trees, I’d look into building something climbable.  And I second the suggestions for zip lines, water, digging, fort-building materials, and hobbit holes above.

https://www.houzz.com/photos/goodman-landscape-design-asian-landscape-san-francisco-phvw-vp~685834

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Lots of fun ideas here, but I think the single biggest factor is not caring if they mess up the yard (at least certain areas). Let them dig, run water, pile up sticks and rocks. Leave them alone as much as is safe and practical. 

Trampolines with multiple kids require supervision, so that's a nope for me.

I would stick with simpler, cheaper, more open-ended items. It's mighty disappointing to spend time and money adding something specific that the kids don't care about at all. Also, if you decide to go the route of being okay with a messy yard with lots of play items in it, people will learn of this and give you all kinds of crap, lol. They will be very happy to store stuff they bought in your yard. 

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When we bought a trampoline, we purposely bought a smaller diameter.  We limited it to two people at a time.  Really, it became not as fun with more than two.  It also limited kids from doing crazy flips because there just wasn’t enough room for bigger kids to do stupid things.  I think it’s 8 feet wide.    

My neighbors have part of their yard unfinished.  Their boys just dig in dirt with their toy trucks.  One time, they had a whole army scene set up with tanks and foxholes.  They are out there for hours just digging dirt.  

Edited by bethben

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Dirt (Mud is better. Sand is good too), buckets, shovels, bamboo, rocks, trees, logs, and some old junk. 

Susan in TX

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11 hours ago, bethben said:

When we bought a trampoline, we purposely bought a smaller diameter.  We limited it to two people at a time.  Really, it became not as fun with more than two.  It also limited kids from doing crazy flips because there just wasn’t enough room for bigger kids to do stupid things.  I think it’s 8 feet wide.    

My neighbors have part of their yard unfinished.  Their boys just dig in dirt with their toy trucks.  One time, they had a whole army scene set up with tanks and foxholes.  They are out there for hours just digging dirt.  

I mentioned above we never replanted our former garden space for that reason. It was great. In fact the kids have all moved away but we still haven't planted grass on that space. My husband doesn't care much for digging. He likes backyard fires.

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My solution to limiting number of kids on the trampoline was to get multiple trampolines. We have a twelve foot, a fourteen foot, and a six foot diameter trampoline, all in the back yard (though the six foot one sometimes lives inside in the winter).

If friends are visiting flips are not allowed (I don't want that liability); my kids can do flips if they ask my permission first (I just want to be aware so I can keep an eye on things) and if someone is doing flips no one else can be jumping on that trampoline at the same time. Big kids are not allowed to jump in a way that bounces little kids up in the air (so, get on a different trampoline if there is someone little on this one and you want to jump high).

We have nets on the two bigger trampolines, not on the smaller one. No flips or tricks allowed on the small tramp.

Lots of hours of jumping here and so far no injuries 🙂

Edited by maize
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Other than the trampolines, my yard has two swing sets (one is just swings, the other has monkey bars as well); a swing and climbing rope attached to a tree; a sandy area for digging, a blue spruce that makes a nice secret hide out; a net for playing volleyball or badminton; lots of fruit trees, grape vines, and a garden; and lots of sticks. And a small flock of chickens.  We have a basketball hoop in front (we live on a cul-de-sac) and they have bikes and scooters for riding.

Our house is smallish and not particularly nice, but kids do love our yard 🙂

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On 4/20/2019 at 4:40 PM, katilac said:

Lots of fun ideas here, but I think the single biggest factor is not caring if they mess up the yard (at least certain areas). Let them dig, run water, pile up sticks and rocks. Leave them alone as much as is safe and practical. 

I would stick with simpler, cheaper, more open-ended items. It's mighty disappointing to spend time and money adding something specific that the kids don't care about at all. Also, if you decide to go the route of being okay with a messy yard with lots of play items in it, people will learn of this and give you all kinds of crap, lol. They will be very happy to store stuff they bought in your yard. 

Our old neighbors admitted that they were grateful we were like this because they were not, lol! They passed stuff on to us that they didn't want to keep anymore but their younger son hadn't quite outgrown, knowing he could play with it at our house. It was fantastic.

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