Guest Blogger: Jessica Kyriakos
Most parents love taking their kids to the park, but sometimes it’s just not practical to do so when other demands pull on your time. If you wish you had the benefits of the park without the time commitment it requires to take your kids all the way there, why not create a park in your backyard? On a smaller scale, you can have all of the benefits of the park without ever leaving home.
Start with Play Equipment
Play equipment is the part of the park that draws your children. Start with the play structure. This gives you the chance to get creative, too. You can choose as much or as little playground equipment as you want.
As you plan for your backyard playground, make sure that you give kids the basics. Most kids love swings, slides and climbing structures. While yours might be smaller than what you find at the park, try to include these basics. Add a few unique options, like balance beams or rocking horses, to transform your backyard swing set into something more like a park.
Don’t forget to give the kids a place to play with sand. Sand play is great for development and can keep kids entertained for hours. Create a sand box or invest in a sand table to create this play environment.
If you live in a hot climate, make sure you add water play. You can keep this simple, such as hooking up a sprinkler that your child can play with, or you can make it more complex, rigging up a splash pad of sorts in your backyard. Either way, this will keep the kids from coming inside because it’s too hot outside.
A Place to Rest
The park is filled with places to rest when play is getting too intense. A picnic bench, a park bench and even a stump from an old tree can provide a comfortable place to sit and rest before jumping back into play. Consider adding some kid-sized resting spaces, like a child-sized picnic table or park bench, to make the space interesting.
A Place to Connect with Nature
Part of what draws you to the park may be the nature that is there. While they play, kids can also be seen collecting rocks, gathering acorns or watching a busy squirrel. Kids need the chance to connect with nature free from man-made structures. Nature play provides several benefits, including better focus, more empathy for the natural world and lower risks of obesity and other problems connected to a sedentary lifestyle.
If you are already committed to putting play structures in your backyard, don’t neglect the outdoor living space. You can help kids connect with nature by creating a small nature play area of your own. This space doesn’t have to be fancy, but it just needs to be a natural area where your kids are encouraged to play without interruption. Add a bird feeder or two to attract some wildlife.
Don’t Forget the Shade
If your kids (and you) are going to spend hours outside, you will need some shade. Mid-day sun is harsh on your skin, and you don’t want to have to come inside simply because it is getting too sunny.
Shade is easy to provide. Build an awning for part of your play area, or invest in some umbrellas for the picnic tables or patio furniture you are using for seating. Install some structures near large trees that provide natural shade. With a little bit of attention, you can have shade in your backyard park.
Light It Up
Do you want play to stop just because the sun goes down? In summer, maybe you do, but in winter you may want the kids to be able to play even after the sun sets. Install some outdoor lighting to give them this chance, and your playground will get year-round use, even if the sun sets early in the winter months.
Creating your backyard playground is not hard. With some creativity and a small investment, you can transform your boring backyard into a park that everyone will want to play in.
About the author: Jessica Kyriakos is Brand Manager for Webcoat, Inc. (www.webcoat.com) in McAlester, OK. Her 15 years of experience in the site furnishing industry brought her to her current role in the company. Webcoat provides outdoor amenities, like park benches, trash receptacles and patio seating for your outdoor space.