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Seven Steps to a Backyard Playground for Kids

by ElaineSchoch

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Yard & Garden
Seven Steps to a Backyard Playground for Kids

GOLDEN, Colo. - There are dozens of ways to convert even the most modest backyard into a healthy playground that will delight children for years. All it takes is a little imagination and planning. There are seven things to consider when designing a kid-friendly yard that HomeAdvisor.com, a free, online home improvement resource has provided to help make backyards a fun place for children while maintaining safety and a beautiful landscape.

1. Open Play Areas
A spacious, flat, grassy area that lends itself well to a wide range of sports and play activities is essential. You could also consider installing synthetic grass in the play area - it is durable, designed to be realistic, and maintenance-free. A few trees around the perimeter of the yard are a plus. Besides offering some shade, trees can serve as bases, hiding places and net supports.

2. Containment
Fences are the most common solution for keeping children in one area and discouraging strangers from entering your yard. If your neighborhood has restrictions on fencing, consider hedges and stone or brick walls as attractive alternatives. Fencing can also help keep toys and bikes in one area, reducing the amount of wear and tear on plants and grass throughout your yard. To find a prescreened and customer-rated contractor to build a fence or add landscaping visit www.homeadvisor.com.

3. Specialized Play Areas
One of the most valuable specialized play areas is also the simplest: a small patch of plain dirt. From playing with trucks and shovels, to making mud pies, plain old dirt can be the source of countless hours of creative fun. A sandbox is an alternative to a dirt patch. Though easier on clothes, it requires considerably more maintenance.

There are a wide variety of playground equipment with slides, swings, bars and ropes. Choose equipment that does not require much maintenance. The more you spend, the more important it is to choose equipment that is compatible with the changing desires and needs of children as they progress from toddlers to pre-teens. An option for older kids is to let them design and build wooden ramps for practicing stunts on in-line skates, skateboards or bikes.

4. Dramatic Slopes
A versatile and simple play feature is a hill. If you do not have a slope or hill, you can easily have one graded in your yard. King-of-the hill, sledding, rolling and star-gazing are just a few of the activities inspired by a simple hill.

5. Hideaways
Another spark for the natural creativity of children is a small, enclosed, room-like structure. While a formal playhouse is great, less elaborate structures can work just as well. A carport attic, tool shed, under deck area, garage or gazebo will do the job, though nothing quite beats a tree house for pure adventure.

6. Durability and Safety
Creating kid-happy spaces in your landscaping is pointless if it is filled with fragile, precious plants that you worry about being damaged. So if you want some delicate or valuable plants, isolate them from the play areas.

Kids are rough on grass, so plant grass that is hearty enough to take the pounding. This may also mean extra watering, fertilizing and weed and pest control. Avoid the use of toxic chemicals and take precautions to minimize exposure to even supposedly safe chemicals.

7. Water
From elaborate facilities such as in-ground swimming pools to simple lawn sprinklers, a little water makes the backyard appealing even during the hottest months of summer vacation. Temporary structures like inflatable pools and "slip and slides" offer portability and eliminate the challenges of protecting equipment from the ravages of winter.

Several of these projects can be done in a weekend or two. You can also call in the pros to save you time and several headaches. To get an idea of how much a specific project may cost visit www.homeadvisor.com to use its free online estimating tool. If you choose to hire a professional, the service can also connect you with up to three prescreened and customer-rated professionals in your area.
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