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10 great garden play area ideas for kids

10 great garden play area ideas for kids

There have never been more toys and activities for children to play with indoors. But if you want to encourage the kids to set aside their phones, tablets, consoles and TV screens, we’ve got some great suggestions to tempt them outside. Here are 10 of the best outdoor play area ideas to help turn your garden from boring to brilliant.

1. Dig them a vegetable patch

Closeup of kid holding plant
Children love to grow things
Image source: Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Kids love growing their own plants and flowers. Successfully nurturing a tiny seed into a fully grown plant gives children of all ages a real buzz, and it’s a great way to inspire the next generation of gardeners.

Start by inviting your kids to help you with light tasks in the garden. Give them their own mini watering cans, rakes and trowels. They can pitch in with you or make mud pies while you weed. When they’re ready, give them a little patch of their own to grow things like peas, strawberries, or pumpkins to carve at Halloween. Or build a little kingdom for their toys by planting a leafy jungle setting or making a mud castle surrounded by a mini moat.

And for those without green thumbs, one of the best things you can do is leave them plenty of lawn. Just mow it every now and again and suddenly that unassuming patch of green is a world-class football pitch.

2. Install a wooden playhouse

6x6ft Dutch Barn Playhouse from Waltons
A playhouse is a blank canvas that can be anything children want it to be
Image source: 6x6ft Dutch Barn Playhouse from Waltons

A playhouse is a great place to let your imagination run riot. One day it’s a mad science laboratory, the next it’s a rocket ship or a tea shop. And the best bit? It keeps the fun going all year round, especially if you pop a little space heater in during the colder months.

Children have boundless imaginations but you can give them a boost with a few cunning decorating tips. Blogger Aby of You Baby Me Mummy recommends simple additions like bunting, a few coats of paint and adding some cuddly, soft cushions to really bring it to life. Her top tip? Paint an inside wall with blackboard paint. Then the playhouse becomes a tiny studio for an up-and-coming little artist!

3. Create a beach

Children garden sandpit
Bring to beach to your garden with a homemade sandpit
Image source: Shutterstock

A sand pit can provide hours and hours of simple fun. Easy to assemble, you can buy pre-cut sandboxes that just require a little bit of elbow grease when you get back home. Or you could get creative and upcycle other materials to create your own desert island. 

Head to a DIY store for special play sand (it’s a finer grade, making it much better for kids to play in) and get the little ones to help fill it when the time comes. Just remember to cover the sand at night if you live in a neighbourhood with lots of cats.

4. Build a treehouse

Hand drawn treehouse image
A treehouse is every kid’s dream hideout
Image source: Skint Dad

Over at Skint Dad, Ricky’s daughter desperately wants a treehouse. And who could blame her? There’s nothing better than a super secret, no-parents-allowed hideout in the trees. Her dream space would have “a hot chocolate machine… every games console… trampolines, a giant ball pit and a climbing wall.

But even if you need to scale it back, a few accessories can ramp up the cool factor of the humblest of treehouses. A pirate flag turns your child’s hideout into the bird’s nest of Blackbeard’s ship, while a homemade banner claims the space for all to see. But for those without mature trees in their gardens, don’t despair! Tower playhouses are a great alternative.

5. Grow a living willow den

Living willow den
A willow den is a natural, beautiful addition to any garden
Image source: Shutterstock

Play areas created out of living willow are fun and magical. Plus, they look beautiful in the garden. A cost-effective, natural structure, children love the idea of a wild den where they can hone their survival skills and set up camp. 

The best time to plant willow is between December and February, making this the perfect outdoor family activity during the winter months. Before you know it, spring will roll around bringing with it fresh green leaves and a rapidly growing structure. Want some tips? Little Trekkers has an easy, step-by-step guide to help you create your own den from willow whips, garden string and a bit of effort.

6. Re-wild your garden

Making a homemade bug hotel
Homemade bug hotels are fun to make
Image: Johannes Ziegler Photo/Shutterstock

For a taste of the “wild” in your play area, revive a neglected corner by sowing a wildflower meadow. It’s a great way to encourage mini-beasts, birds and butterflies to your space, and it creates a magical ‘enchanted forest’ feel.

Write a list of all the things you could do to encourage more wildlife into your space. You might like to make your own bird feeders, create a hedgehog highway, build an insect hotel or set up a wormery. Maybe you could even dig a small pond to really encourage biodiversity. Challenge the children to keep a record of each new animal they spot and learn some fun facts about each one. The team from Kids Do Gardening recommends making compost with children too. You might be surprised at how much they enjoy helping to reduce waste and produce their own ‘black gold’ for the garden. 

7. Design a fort

Homemade fort made out of wooden pallets
Forts can be made from chairs and blankets or more permanent structures
Image source: The Middle-Sized Garden

It’s easy to make a fort that goes up and comes down within the space of a few hours; ideal for making the most of a sunny summer’s day. Gather the family along with all the boxes, chairs and blankets you can find and see what you can create! In a guest post on The Middle-Sized Garden, Matt Jackson of Land Heritage is a big fan of this cheap and cheerful option “because the children can join in and have a real sense of ownership.”

But you can also make a fort that’s built to last. Matt says that they made one from old commercial wooden apple bins that they bought, stacked and secured. All it took was a “bit of elbow grease” and it was good to go! Just remember to check that the structure is sound and not likely to topple over before playtime commences! 

8. Set up a traditional playground

Tower Playhouse and activity centre from Waltons
Add a traditional swing and slide for even more fun
Image source: Tower Playhouse and activity centre from Waltons

Bring all the fun of the playground into your own garden with a swing set and slide.

If your playground is a permanent fixture, consider investing in play-grade bark chippings for the floor around the equipment. It’s much kinder to little knees in case of accidental landings. You’ll need to make sure that it’s about 4 inches deep so it’s extra springy and safe.

And how about a trampoline? For added peace of mind, you can invest in a safety net, or simply sink the trampoline into the ground so they’re bouncing at ground level. 

9. DIY obstacle course

DIY obstacle course in garden
Create a new course every day
Image: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

Do your kids like mud runs and boot camps? Collect a load of different equipment and supply some stop watches so they can set up their own obstacle course. Think old tyres, skipping ropes, a football, a plank of wood to balance on and a net to scrabble under. You don’t need expensive equipment for this – look at what you can borrow from the house and get creative with the challenges. Old pillow cases are great for sack races and almost anything can be balanced on a spoon to make completing the course even more tricky. 

10. Launch a young enterprise scheme

Buttercup Play Shop from Waltons
Role play is one of the best ways to build confidence
Image: Buttercup Play Shop from Waltons

Budding entrepreneurs will love the idea of setting up their own shop, cafe, post office or help desk. For kids parties, the Buttercup Shop from Waltons can be transformed into a mini milkshake bar or ice cream stand, and for creative kids, it can even become a puppet theatre ready to showcase their own little plays. 

Role play is an excellent way to improve confidence, social skills and empathy. Running your own shop is also a clever way to make maths fun, and you’re never too young to start learning basic business skills! 

There are no limits when it comes to playing in the garden. Lavish play areas can be fun, but sometimes simple, down-to-earth ideas are just as successful. What amazing ideas do you have for your kids? Share with other parents over on our Facebook page!

Lead image source: Shutterstock


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