How to Design a Backyard Your Kids Will Love (And You Will Too)

One backyard often has to do double duty. The adults want a relaxing retreat. The kids want a space for games and adventures. We’re firm believers that you can come up with a backyard design kids will love without sacrificing your own need for an outdoor escape—and these 11 ideas will help get you there.

11 backyard design ideas for kids

  1. Ask for their wish list
  2. Think kid-size
  3. Create places for imaginative play
  4. Give them a garden
  5. Make hiding spots
  6. Create places for art
  7. Attract nature
  8. Remember safety
  9. Don’t forget storage
  10. Just add water
  11. Create family gathering places

A child's drawing of a backyard in marker

Ask for their wish list. When the team at Angie’s List asked kids from around the world to design their dream backyard there were tents, treehouses, waterslides and swings. There were also alien spaceships, mermaids and giant Smurf heads. Whether your child draws, paints, acts out or talks through their ideas with you, their contributions are sure to spark your imagination.

Photo of children eating at a table and chairs made from reused palletsThink kid-size. Children will enjoy a space that includes features that are sized right for them. A table and chairs that are designed for children will encourage artwork, picnics and games. A child-sized potting bench will inspire planting, watering and making a creative mess. Think about the activities your children may want to engage in—and the way they use their existing space already—and make sure they can play at heights that work for them. Gnomes are a fun addition to a kid-friendly garden—they’re right-sized for kids and inspire imaginative vignettes. We’ve put together a whole post on garden gnome ideas for inspiration!

Photo of young boy looking out a playhouse window with binocularsCreate places for imaginative play. A curtained pergola can become a stage. A walkway meandering through tall garden plants or bushes can become a path to adventure. A shed, sandbox, treehouse, rope ladder or tire swing are all additions to your backyard design that kids will love, because it will fire up their imaginations. A patch of grass can serve many purposes on the same day—game board, army camp, bubble world, football field, stable—then become a place to lie down and watch the stars at night.

Photo of a woman and two girls tending a gardenGive them a garden. Designate part of your garden for your children to grow plants of their choosing. If you’ve got a patch of full sun, encourage them to plant easy-to-grow and kid-friendly edibles such as strawberries, lettuce (great for bunny watching, too!), beans and cherry tomatoes. A garden plot is great if you’ve got the space. If you don’t, a pot or two can do in a pinch.

Photo of young girl in backyard teepeeMake hiding spots. A little privacy helps children completely immerse themselves in their creative play. Bushes and drooping trees can create secret rooms. So can a tent, playhouse, fort, hammock or other permanent or semi-permanent structure. Plan these areas with sight lines from the house or adult areas of the garden in mind. That way you can keep an eye (and ear) out without interfering in the make-believe.

Photo of young girl in a garden with birdhouse and bunny sculptures made from logsCreate places for art. Why not cover an otherwise blah exterior wall with chalkboard paint? (You can hang a large chalkboard on the wall for a less permanent option.) You can also put the kids in charge of designing your garden sculptures, rock gardens, labyrinths and other artistic additions to your landscape—it will give them a creative outlet and a sense of pride to see their work integrated into the overall backyard design.

Closeup photo of child's hand holding a monarch butterflyAttract nature. Birds, insects, and small animals are additions to any backyard design that kids will love. Consider adding bird feeders, bird houses and flowers that will attract butterflies. A bat house is a great conversation piece and educational addition to a yard. Some of these projects can even be completed by your children. Don’t forget to keep the binoculars handy! A natural garden is something the whole family can enjoy—for more information, check out our tips on environmentally friendly landscaping.

Photo of beautiful backyard with wooden children's play equipment and garden bedsRemember safety. Use shock-absorbing material under play equipment and keep it at a reasonable height, avoid treated wood containing arsenic, store your garden equipment safely and choose plants that aren’t thorny or toxic if they’re ingested or make contact with skin. If you have a pool or hot tub, ensure you follow your municipal bylaws for safety and always supervise kids when they’re around water. If you’re attracting wildlife to your garden, make sure children know to look, not touch.

Photo of bright blue garden storage shed in cute gardenDon’t forget storage. Kids come with toys of all sizes (some with irritating batteries). Clever, built-in storage solutions keep everything in its place, and make it easier for kids to pick up after themselves. If you’re short on space, make your storage multi-task. For example, include storage for toys in any fort or playhouse design. Opt for furniture with built-in drawers or lids. And build deck boxes into your deck design.

Photo of young girl filling a watering can in a backyard pondJust add water. Water is a wonderful addition to backyards for kids and adults alike and can be adapted for properties of all sizes. A pool requires a larger space, but a hot tub, swim spa, waterfall, pond and even a splash pad can fit in a yard of almost any size. You can even create a water garden in a large planter or surround a small pond with your deck if your yard is an urban postage stamp. Adding water to your backyard design is almost like having a cottage, without the cost or the commute.

Photo of family gathered around a backyard table at sunsetCreate family gathering places. Independent play is important for kids, but so is spending time together as a family. A fire pit or fire table will inspire cuddling and conversation during long summer evenings. A pergola creates a sheltered spot for daytime snacks, talks and games when it’s hot or raining. A hot tub is great for older kids who no longer crave parent time. A family dining area, grassy spot for group games and even an area for outdoor movie nights are all family-friendly backyard design features.

So there you have it: 11 ideas for a backyard design kids will love. Start by doing some dreaming with the little ones in your household, then determine what design ideas will make your short list and how you’ll implement them based on the size of your yard, your budget and the age of your kids. Balance opportunities for independent play with places for family time and you’ll have a place that everyone—not just the kids—will love.

If you’re ready to take your yard from blah to bliss, we’d love to help!

Download our our backyard design checklist and start planning the backyard of your dreams! 

Still looking for some inspiration? We’ve got you covered with a free lookbook.

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