Ideas for the most family friendly backyard EVER
As we are finishing up the inside of our new house (shooting the kitchen on friday!!!!!) we are starting to think about the backyard. Brian and I are both OBSESSED with giving our kids what we had growing up – acres of nature to play in all day every day. This can’t happen with a 2500 square foot plot of land in the heart of LA, but my God we are going to do our best. The house I grew up in backed up to the national forest (with no fence) so as far as we knew we had 20k acres to play in and explore. Brian had 2 acres and his nearest neighbors are horse farms. Someday we will have a country house, but for now we are going to try our hardest to recreate our childhood for our kids, despite the fact that we live in a densely populated sprawling suburban neighborhood.
My hope is by spring it’s pulled together and ready for those kids to lose hours and hours playing while Brian and I just sit and relax up on the courtyard (That’s how parenting works, RIGHT???). I pulled together a deck (as you do) to pitch out the project for a video series, so I figured I’d share it with you to get your feedback and give you a little peek as to what we might have planned. We’ve only had kids for two years so I thought many of you could weigh in on what kids really do, what keeps them the most entertained and how we can implement those things in a way that looks integrious to the house.
The goal: To have the most family friendly backyard ever (despite its small foot print) with nature oriented activities that can stimulate imagination and zones that can help them create worlds of their own, all while having enough space to of course run and play and be 100% safe without our supervision (no pools, etc).
*Quick note/Update – this is my fantasy list and we are probably doing 1/3 of the ideas. So don’t worry, we aren’t putting a creek/splashpad and 3 playhouses in this backyard.
Brian is obsessed with having a large grassy area for the kids. I’m more into creating zones of wonder – so we are trying to make both happen. But there will definitely be a large portion of the grass dedicated to running and sports.
For the landscaping we want color, texture and a very layered and ‘been here forever’ look. We want English Country meets California – wild but more drought friendly than what would actually be in an English Countryside. Like so:
We want stone paths or fencing with old stones or brick – both to create privacy and add a path to the guest house.
My true fantasy is this:
But we’ve already nixed the creek because there truly isn’t space. I grew up playing in creeks in Oregon (just outside our backyard in the woods) and spent hours and hours building bridges, chasing frogs, etc. I’m desperate to give this to our kids, but they’ll survive regardless, I’m sure. Brian doesn’t like the idea of them getting all murky and gross (fair) and even if its 10 – 12″ deep I might worry about Elliot out there alone and I really want them to be able to play without us. So for now, no creek. We are putting a fountain in the front yard, however, so we’ll have a tiny water feature to keep me happy.
We need some things for the kids to climb on and hide in, etc, and I love all of these more nature inspired ones. Since pulling this together I’ve honed in on what we are thinking but these were my initial ideas. We spend probably 10-15 hours a week playing hide and go seek, pirates, Robin Hood, etc. and my hope is to move these activities outside so we need places to hide, climb over, obstacles, etc. We are definitely getting some boulders and I LOVE the idea of that hollowed out trunk.
We might put a slide from the courtyard to the backyard. HA. I’m sure 1/2 of you think that is a TERRIBLE idea and the other half might think it’s awesome. We obviously are part of the IT WILL BE AWESOME!! camp. The only issue I see so far is that the ironwork is really pretty and you can’t really buy metal slides anymore. The idea of putting a plastic slide on the metal sounds ugly. Stay tuned (or any ideas???)
This is our other fantasy – a splash pad, that we aren’t doing but how fun would this be?? You can buy them now for around $3- 4K which isn’t nothing but it’s WAY less than a pool and for kids it’s so much better and safer (IMHO). I’m pretty terrified of toddlers and pools but this is just so safe and lets kids get so much energy out. We don’t think we have the space so this idea has been nixed but how fun is that!!?? Also two of our best friends that live near us have pools so we are covered on that front when we do decide that it is time for some family pool time 🙂
I’m obsessed with this idea:
We don’t have room for this either (we want to do more of a structure) but I LOVE the idea of these natural forts that allow the environment to grow in and around them organically.
I’m thinking that we will build one that is two story – where the bottom story can be a hiding area, with vines growing up the sides, etc, but I love the three above (you can find full photos on by the way).
I grew up with a huge vegetable garden – like a quarter of an acre and all summer long we were down there weeding, watering and pulling vegetables. We would then can or dry any vegetables we could and use the rest for our meals. Man, my parents were good parents. So, for our kids I want there to be a sense of growing your own food, but we don’t have room for much. I think the side yard we can put a few fruit trees and then a little box in the backyard for everyday veggies – tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, etc. I loved watching my veggies grow from seeds when I was a kid, so by gosh so will my kids.
Now for our space, the courtyard:
Since we can eat outside 60% of the year, I plan on really decking this space out and making it look so elegant and functional.
Having a built-in BBQ is really adult for us and I have no idea how much it will cost, but based on how much I think we’ll use it, I’m going to pursue it and get some quotes so we can potentially make it happen.
Last but not least – ambience. Since we want to be able to play out here after school even in the winters (its still 65 degrees at night here) we need some lights.
I don’t want it to feel like Disneyland (which a couple of those photos do) but some landscape lighting and string lights will make it feel safer and and more inviting once the sun goes down.
So let’s ask the audience (YOU). For those of you who have had children (especially kids under the age of 10) what have you found to be the most fun for them, that keeps them entertained for hours and hours? I for instance grew up with an epic sandbox and my mom said we spent a couple hours a day in it during the summer. Brian thinks that sandboxes are gross what with their attraction from certain animals. I concur but i’m so tempted by them. My parents raised 6 kids out in the country and some summers we only went to town once a week. Somehow we all stayed busy, had fun and that was even before cable (we watched a LOT of musicals). Nature and the outdoors entertained us all day, every day – building forts, creating worlds, running through sprinklers, riding bikes and jumping on our trampoline. Brian was more athletic and played sports with his dad and brother in his backyard everyday but it was the same idea of creating a safe space for us to play as a family.
So what do you think …. Monkey bars? Sandbox? Small trampoline? (None of which we’ll probably do but I am curious what your thoughts are). What am I missing or what do you think we could do to make it even more kid/family friendly? Is there anything here that you wouldn’t do if you had two young kids? Weigh in below and let the conversation begin, would love to hear your input.