Play Areas That are Beautiful (And Fun!)

For families with young children, the opportunities a back yard provides for outdoor play become the most important aspect of the yard.
All Play, No Style

All Play, No Style

After the children have left the nest, it’s time to evaluate the outdoor space for more adult activities. Or should you? There maybe some grandchildren in the future, so maybe the playground needs an upgrade?

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Play Garden

An area dedicated to play can also be filled with plants. Sturdy climbing apparatus and rope swings are always popular, but there is no reason why such features can’t also be used for climbing plants, such as clematis, or emerge from a bed of attractive foliage plants. Use bedding plants to etch out nursery-scale numbers or to form the pattern on a mythical creature. Brightly colored perennials surrounding a play area will give pleasure to adults and children alike. 

Playhouse and Slide

A playhouse gives children somewhere they can escape into their own little world. Those on stilts have some of the other-worldly properties of a treehouse. A playhouse close to the main house and surrounded by stark lawn does not feel very private, and is unlikely to be well used, but nestled among plantings, it blends into the garden and becomes a far more attractive destination. Careful pruning to ensure children always have a clear sightline of home will make them feel secure despite being hidden.

Flower Maze

Mazes and labyrinths invite children into them again and again and are an excellent focus for a large lawn or expanse of patio. Mazes have several routes to find the center; labyrinths have only one path to be followed. Both are equally appealing to adults and children alike. A labyrinth or maze can be a permanent feature, when made from pavers or of gravel-filled channels in grass. But they can also be temporary, made from daffodils that disappear later in the season, mown out of long grass, or even created with rope for a special occasion, such as a birthday party.


This sandbox replaced a pool when young children moved to the garden. Surrounded by sweet smelling herbs, such as lavender, the area is perfect for quiet play. The planting shields the buckets and spades from the adult seating area.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Outdoor Living Spaces: Ideas for Outdoor Rooms

Learn about options and ideas for outdoor rooms and outdoor living spaces.

Garden Design: Connect Your Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

Let your indoor space inspire your landscape design plans.

Outdoor Rooms Add Livable Space

Spend less money on vacations and more time with friends and family on your deck or patio.

Reclaim Wasted Space: Dining Rooms, Garages, Attics and Closets

Explore the evolution of floor plans from previous decades and gather inspiration for designing a space that fits your lifestyle.

Planning Your Outdoor Space

A master plan that incorporates everything from long-range projects to nitty-gritty details will help you design the backyard of your dreams.