Whether you’re looking to get your kids outside, keep them closer to home or prepare your home for a family-friendly sale, kid-proofing the backyard is a great project. Your backyard is your best bet for a safe place for your kids to play. Getting children outside from a young age sets a healthy pattern for life and we could all stand to spend a little more time outdoors, so why not give yours more kid-appeal?
Start with the setting – depending on the age of children, you probably want to ensure the property is fenced. Put in some vegetation, but be sure to check at the garden center that your greenery doesn’t involve any poisonous parts. Also be aware of thorny or sharp shrubbery. Other safety concerns include sharp tools and harmful chemicals, including many fertilizers. These should be kept out of reach of children.
Fruits and vegetables are a safe and healthy choice for backyard plants. Encourage children to snack fresh from the garden. Kid-sized garden tools can be a great addition: allow children to plant their own little box or plot of garden. Children love watching their handiwork grow.
Next, consider designating a soft area for children to play in. Grass is good, but gets worn out in areas of high traffic, so mulch is a better option. Gravel is also used, but depending on the age of your children it can become a throwing hazard and may be messy to clean up.
Once you’ve established the setting, you can add the accessories. There is no end to possible backyard accessories. Your only real limits are the age and interest level of your children, your space and your budget. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
– A sandbox: find one with a lid to keep the neighborhood cats from using it as a litter box.
– Sports equipment: there are so many options to choose from. Volleyball, badminton, tether ball (set the pole in a cement casing) = lots of fun for the whole family, especially if you have older children.
– A trampoline with safety netting: these should only be used with supervision when parents are home, but are a huge hit with kids.
– A pool: pools require extra diligence as children can drown in just a few inches of water. The safest pools incorporate a good fence into the design.
– A swing set or adventure playground: Check for any exposed bolts that could catch a child’s skin. Any set should be anchored firmly to the ground. Before purchasing pressure treated wood, check that it was treated with non-toxic chemicals. Although they are more expensive, wooden swing sets will last longer because they can accommodate larger children and are sturdier. Choose wrapped chain link hangers – they last longer than rope, and are safer than rope or unwrapped chain. Leave a safe space around play equipment so that children have room to drop off without hitting any other equipment.
Involving your children in the design will ensure that you’re meeting their needs and planning a space they’ll actually use. And when it’s finished you’ll be able to send your children outside without worrying about their whereabouts. Just don’t be surprised if your backyard becomes the local hot spot for the neighborhood kids – at least you’ll know where to find yours!