How to Build a Safe and Exciting Play Environment for your Kids

By Subodh / June 24, 2013

Creating a safe outdoor play environment for your kids is one of the most important things you can do for their development. Kids get much-needed exercise from active play, so by designing and building a custom playground, you’ll ensure they can romp till their heart’s content.

To provide a kid-friendly atmosphere, you’ll need to take a number of factors into consideration. The following are helpful tips for creating the ideal outdoor play experience for your kids.

Elements of an Outdoor Play Environment

Building your kids an active, exciting place to play is no small undertaking. It can involve grading a portion of your yard, adding drainage, preparing the ground for grass, building a playscape structure, and more. So before the first shovel full of dirt is turned or the first nail driven, take time to think about your children’s needs and spatial requirements. Since your kids will be the actual users, ask for their input, too.

Older kids need more space. Design activities for them that allow for more rambunctious, interactive play. A dedicated lawn area can be used to run, wrestle, play ball, and more. Couple the lawn area with a playscape designed to include common amenities like swings, slides and climbing apparatus. Natural on-site amenities like small streams and rock outcroppings can make wonderful additions when incorporated into the play environment.

Safe and Exciting Play Environment for your Kids

Toddlers need less space, as they’re just beginning to explore their surroundings. Toddlers love playing in the dirt, so consider adding a sandbox with buckets, scoops and play toys, as well as an area for structured, supervised play. Include a section within the play structure designed specifically for toddlers, with smaller activity areas and learning stations.

Infants need a safe, secure area where they can be close to the action but still under Mom’s watchful eye. Include a shaded nook with a bench close to the play environment. Here, Mom can sit in comfort and keep an eye on all the kids. She can place the baby in a washable play yard close to where siblings are playing and where she can easily attend to his needs. The play yards are portable and can easily be transferred from indoors to out, making them even more of a value for new parents.

Constructing a pocket patio furnished with a small table and a few chairs under dappled shade allows Mom to entertain a friend while the kids play.

How Much Will the Project Cost?

A custom-designed play environment can be expensive, so you need to decide how much money you’ll need. One way to save is by doing the work yourself—you can take advantage of substantial savings on labor expenses.

Before purchasing materials, determine where you would like to place the lawn area and the playscape. Calculate the minimum area needed, and make sure all the elements will fit in your chosen spot. Remember that a lawn need not be large to serve its purpose. Keeping it small will save on water and maintenance costs.

Playscapes can also be kept compact, but if you’re limited on horizontal space, think about building up instead of out. Some well-known fast food franchises and children’s entertainment establishments are good examples of this.

Once you’ve designed the play area, determined the dimensions and the material quantities needed, take your information to several building material suppliers for pricing. Pricing out the materials allows you to make cost-effective purchases. When estimating materials, work from a plan if possible. Even a sketch can be helpful, but a plan drawn to scale works best.

Constructing the Play Environment

When building your active play environment, consider access to the building site. Can you get equipment and materials to your back yard via truck, or will everything need to hand-carried through your living quarters?

Think about visual impact as it relates to your home. You don’t want to be known as the “eyesore” of the neighborhood. Choose playscape materials and landscaping that complements your architecture. Whatever your choice, make sure your playscape looks nice, fits into its surroundings and doesn’t cause your home to drop in value.

The Internet has a number of useful sites that can guide you in construction. You can find exactly the materials you need, or even order ready-made play equipment like swing-sets or a washable play yard. And home improvement stores not only have the materials needed, but an entire staff trained in advising folks undertaking do-it-yourself projects.

If you’re not ready to tackle the project on our own, you can always hire a professional to handle the job. Consult sites like Angie’s List for competent contractors in your area.

Creating an active, exciting play environment in the comfort of your own backyard can provide a safe and stimulating place for your children to play. Take the time to design, choose the materials, and construct the ideal play area for your kids. The payoff is in their continued health, well being and development.