30 Family-Friendly Backyard Designs

Put down the video games and soak up the fresh air. Give kids an outdoor play space they can enjoy with these fun backyard design ideas, from a treehouse getaway to a life-sized chess board.

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May 08, 2020
By: Mina Hochberg and Kayla Kitts

Photo By: Michael Hunter, courtesy of Frankel Building Group

Photo By: Photo & Design © Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc.

Photo By: Mom’s Design Build

Photo By: Jenna Sue Design Co. and Lowe’s Home Improvement

Photo By: Mom’s Design Build

Photo By: Photo & Design © Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc.

Photo By: Landsburg Landscape Nursery

Photo By: Yellow Brick Home and Lowe’s Home Improvement

Photo By: Photo & Design © Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc.

Photo By: Ryan Duebber Architect/RVP Photography

Photo By: AguaFina Gardens

Photo By: SuperRamp Technologies

Photo By: AguaFina Gardens

Photo By: Hammacher Schlemmer

Photo By: Daniel Kelly Photography

Photo By: Chris Amaral © 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Bryan Meltz/ Getty Images © 2014, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jamie Rector © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jessica McGowan ©2012, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jamie Rector ©2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Bryan Meltz/ Getty Images © 2014, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Bryan Meltz/ Getty Images © 2014, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jamie Rector ©2011, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Photo Courtesy: Scott Womack © 2013 Gibbs Smith, Allure of French & Italian Decor, Betty Lou Phillips

Photo By: Mom's Design Build

Lay Down Some Turf

Turf can double as a kid’s play area as well as a court for games that people of all ages can enjoy — like bocce ball. “Having that turfed space is a really nice way for the family to let the kids be able to play and run around and then still have a clean space for entertaining and adult time,” says Scott Frankel, co-president and principal of Frankel Building Group + Avea Pools.

Treehouse Getaway

A treehouse is a place for kids to call their own and become immersed in their own little worlds. “To encourage imaginative play, I like to create a cozy clubhouse up high that gives kids a real sense of getting away from it all,” says treehouse and play structure designer Barbara Butler. “I think it’s important for the clubhouse to be different than the family home — more of an outdoorsy cabin, more fun colors and features.”

Classic Tree Swing

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned plank-and-rope swing for adding simple charm to your yard. They’re also ideal for smaller yards that might get overcrowded by a large play structure. Design by Mom’s Design Build.

Gather ‘Round a Fire Pit

Fire pits are perfect spots for quality family time, whether it’s cooking s’mores or just warming up cold hands. For DIYers, making a festive fire pit is as easy as purchasing a fire pit kit and encircling it with colorful Adirondack chairs. Design by Jenna Sue Design Co. and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

More Ideas: 30 Cool Fire Pit Ideas

Cook Pizza Alfresco

Kids are great assistants when it comes to making pizza, from beating dough to putting on toppings. What makes it even more fun? Doing it alfresco. A pizza oven is a worthwhile addition for families who love dining outdoors, especially when they get burned out on barbecuing. Design by Mom’s Design Build.

Dream Play Structure

A basic swing set is great — but integrating extra features like climbing nets and walkways will really keep the kids busy for hours. Designer Barbara Butler likes to encourage physical play as well as imaginative play when she designs play structures. “I create lots of ups and downs, with a variety of challenges with some easier to accomplish than others,” Butler says. “I concentrate on making ‘loops of play’ to keep kids running around, and I avoid creating dead ends – a balcony with no exit, for example.”

Secret Garden

Growing your own edible garden is a great way to get kids outside and nurture their appreciation for where food comes from. Plant seeds with your kids and encourage them to check in on the plants for signs of growth. When your fruit and vegetables finally ripen, kids will love picking to their heart’s content. Landsburg Landscape Nursery in Minnesota designed this vegetable garden within an enclosure, giving it an even more kid-friendly “secret garden” appeal.

More Ideas: Gardening Projects Kids Will Love

Swing and Dine

Add an element of fun to alfresco dining by introducing a swing to the table. This pergola is home to a traditional dining table, plus a pair of swings to keep the kids happy and busy at mealtime. Design by Yellow Brick Home and Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Unleash Your Inner Spidey

This “rope net hangout” from designer Barbara Butler can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Kids can test their coordination skills by crawling across the net or put their strength to the test by swinging across gymnastic rings. If they’re feeling mellow, they can also lounge on the net and just daydream.

Peekaboo Sandbox

Sandboxes are a great sensory lab for kids who love digging, sifting and burying. This clever design from Ryan Duebber Architect integrates a sandbox into the covered deck with movable panels to conceal it when not in use.

Feed the Fish

Fish ponds are a great way for kids to witness wildlife up close and learn about natural ecosystems. Younger kids will enjoy feeding the fish and, in some cases, watching them grow. Koi pond design by AguaFina Gardens.

Skater’s Paradise

Turn your backyard into a biker and skater paradise by installing your very own half-pipe or ramp. While most ramps are above ground, this subterranean ramp from SuperRamp Technologies has a bowl shape in order to preserve the aesthetics of the landscape. This is one backyard feature that both kids and adults are sure to enjoy equally.

Fun With Mazes

Young kids find joy in the simplest activities, such as following a winding garden path. The stone pathways in this meditative garden are lined with a reflecting pool, riverbeds and various stone artifacts to catch a child’s fancy. Design by AguaFina Gardens.

Be a Ninja Warrior

If your kids enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior, they’ll love having their very own ninja warrior course in the backyard. You can download a ninja warrior blueprint online or purchase a ninja warrior kit. This kit from Hammacher Schlemmer includes a 50-yard nylon line with obstacles to test your kid’s strength and endurance, from rings and knots to a spinning wheel.

Make a Splash

Splash pads have all the appeal of a sprinkler and so much more, making them the ultimate addition to your arsenal of backyard distractions. Splash pads can offer a variety of water features to pick from, whether it’s water cannons, fountains that spray from the ground or buckets that dump water on your kid’s head.

Cool, Colorful Lounge

When it's time to take the party outside, this outdoor deck can accommodate the whole crew. Built-in benches and wooden stools ensure everyone has a place to sit, while string lights and a flat-screen TV add to the ambience and entertainment factors. Design by Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri.

Trampoline Hangout

A padded and pillowed trampoline sheltered with a shade sail is not only perfect for sky-high jumping, but also for lounging and laughing with friends when it's time for some R&R. Design by Chip Wade.

Side-by-Side Seesaws

On one end of the backyard, parents can relax on the dining deck under a curtained pergola. On the other end, kids can play for hours on handmade seesaws. Design by Chris Lambton.

Versatile Seating

Licensed contractor Chip Wade transformed this suburban backyard into a tiered entertaining space with a fire pit, game lawn, grilling area, lounging cabanas and mobile, indoor-outdoor couch that slides on a track.

Simple Play Area

This "kids only" backyard space features a hammock, hopscotch steps and a pint-sized chalkboard for endless hours of fun. Design by Chris Lambton.

King-Size Chess Board

Chip Wade created an outdoor deck and patio that's fully equipped for warm-weather entertaining. This family-friendly space includes a fire pit, dining area, kitchen, outdoor chess and places to play basketball and volleyball.

Outdoor Movie Screen

When the sun sets, nothing is better than an outdoor flick on a huge projector screen. Gather friends and family for a movie everyone can enjoy. And don't forget the popcorn!

Get the How-to: How to Make Your Own Movie Screen

Tumble Mat

An outdoor tumble mat gives the homeowners' three daughters the perfect place to play and exercise in the backyard, while the parents can sit back on the nearby entertainment deck. Design by Chip Wade.

Yard Game Station

This tiny backyard isn't just kid-friendly, it's pet-friendly, too. Landscape designer Chris Lambton created a space devoted to competitive yard games and fetch with Fido.

Charming Playhouse

Ignite your little one's imagination by building a fun backyard playhouse that's all their own. Tucked among trees and foliage plants, this former garden shed was converted into an adorable child-sized getaway with shuttered windows and scalloped trim.

More Ideas: 45 Enchanting Playhouses

Picnicking and Croquet

An open grassy area near an outdoor fire pit is ideal for spreading out a picnic lunch and starting up a game of croquet. Design by Betty Lou Phillips.

Practice Your Putt

No need to haul the whole family to the mini-golf course – schedule tee time anytime with an at-home putting green. This one by Mom’s Design Build is nestled between an outdoor kitchen and fire pit for an all-around family-friendly backyard.

Rowboat Sandbox

Bring new life to an old wooden rowboat by letting your child become captain of the backyard. In just half a day, you can create your own rowboat sandbox.

Get the How-to: How to Make a Rowboat Sandbox

Backyard Lounging

Landscape designer Jamie Durie created the perfect spot for lazy outdoor lounging with a hanging daybed and a mesh hammock that swings between two trees.

Shoot Some Hoops

This fun and functional outdoor space is ready to play. Landscape designer Scott Cohen created a half-size basketball court next to an outdoor living space, sun deck and swimming pool.

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