With spring and summer around the corner, now is the prime time to start preparing your outdoor space for the warmer months. With two school-holiday breaks coming up in the next six months, parents will have plenty of opportunities to get their kids engaged in outdoor activities – and where better place to start than in the backyard?
“By making sure their backyard is safe and appealing for children, parents can save themselves a lot of time, hassle and worry,” says Matt Leacy, Co-founder and Creative Director of Landart Landscapes.
“It’s much more convenient to have the kids play in the backyard and to not have to leave the house all the time to keep them occupied outside. By landscaping an outdoor space that kids will love, you can create a playground right on your own doorstep,” explains Matt.
“You’re afforded piece-of-mind in knowing the kids are playing in a safe area, whilst also being able to keep a close eye on them as you tick off your own to-do list – cooking, cleaning, life-admin or relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand yourself.”
With this is mind, Matt shares his top tips for landscaping a kid-friendly outdoor space – one that children will love without compromising the backyard aesthetic.
“Play, plant, potter and learn – there’s very little that kids can’t do if you’re strategic with your outdoor areas and properly consider the layout and features of your space. There are lots of ways to make outdoor areas fun for children, while also nailing the design elements” says Matt.
1. For fun – create an outdoor kids room
“Play areas, swing sets, trampolines and mounted or stationed cubby houses provide a world of fun for little ones – and you can incorporate a variety of materials, designs and textures, which also look great outside,” says Matt.
“Take in-ground trampolines, for example, which are growing in popularity. Not only do kids love jumping around and playing on trampolines, but they provide a great opportunity for exercise,” notes Matt.
“In-ground trampolines are generally safer and easier for kids – especially young kids that need a parent to lift them in and out, and they’re often more aesthetically-pleasing. You won’t have an eyesore sticking out in your backyard and you’ll avoid blocking out your property’s natural views.
“Note, however, that you’ll need to dig a hole in the ground and ensure proper drainage and aeration beneath the trampoline, so it may be worth engaging a professional to make sure you get the installation process right. While doing so may cost a little more up front than an above-ground trampoline, it’s arguably worth the investment to ensure the kids’ safety and your backyard looking great.”
“In terms of a cubby house, you might consider using raw natural materials for the exterior,” says Matt. “Traditional plywood and hardwood are great for summer as they soften the heat.”
“For the interior, a different but creative approach is coloured rubber flooring,” says Matt. “It’s both hard-wearing and comfortable, and it will allow you to bring some fun and individual personality to the room – especially if you use the kids’ favourite colours.”
“You might also consider a chalk board constructed from recycled wood and painted with a chalkboard paint, which you can get in just about any colour. Another option is a little golf putting green made of synthetic grass, which you can cut out with various contours and bring to life with a bit of sand,” adds Matt. “Surround it with some ornamental grasses and you will have your very own ‘vintage’.
2. For engagement – keep it creative
“Outdoor spaces are great for young minds, and you can use an array of colours and abstract elements to keep kids engaged,” says Matt.
“Experiment with shapes, textures and colours – for example, you can create tunnels and forts using laminated plywood, plastics and metals and even concrete pipes covered with soil if you really want to go extreme. These help bring the outdoor space alive and create a point-of-difference to your usual, everyday backyard.”
“You might also look at transforming a corner of the garden with a raised gardening bed or sandpit,” adds Matt. “It’s all about incorporating interesting additions and dimensions that enable the space to have different feels, purposes and aesthetics.
“Chalk that’s easy to wash off, but allows outdoor spaces to be reimagined, can be your friend when it comes to giving kids a range of activities to do in the backyard,” Matt says. “If you don’t have space for a dedicated cubby house that can be covered in chalk-paint, nominate a wall or fence that the kids can use to create their temporary masterpieces. The dark colour of chalk-paint will also make the plants in your garden pop.
“Large format pavers or concrete are also ideal for chalking. Pavers that are spaced out in a pathway can become hopscotch squares, or allow kids to create a treasure hunt of clues and arrows to follow around your backyard to hidden ‘treasures’.”
“Also, think about the types of outdoor furniture you use,” says Matt. “You can, of course, incorporate traditional deck chairs – but also consider what’s going to maximise comfort for the kids and yourself.
“Daybeds and plush benches with cushions and pillows, beanbags and camping chairs are all comfy additions that can blend seamlessly into the landscape if you get the colours, design and positioning right.”
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