13 Easy Ways to Make Your Backyard More Fun

Encourage your kids to explore, build, create, or just relax in the outdoors. These creative ideas will inspire backyard fun!

Fun Backyard Outdoor Easel
Photo: Stephanie Rausser

Backyards can be excellent spaces for outdoor adventures, fresh air, and imaginative play. But, sometimes, kids need a little help with new ideas to keep the space fun. Read on for 13 ideas for encouraging kids to spend more time playing, relaxing, and connecting outdoors.

01 of 13

Perform on a Summer Stage

Fun Backyard Summer Stage
Stephanie Rausser

Inspire imaginative play with no-sew theater curtains. All you'll need is 6 yards of red burlap, a clothesline, and clip-on curtain rings.

  1. Cut the fabric into two 3-yard-long pieces.
  2. Then fold about 12 inches down on one end of each piece of burlap and clip the curtain rings to the folded edge, equally spaced apart (we used seven rings per curtain).
  3. Finally, thread the rings onto your line, then rig the line between two trees.

Clips make the curtains easy to put up and take down.

02 of 13

Leap on Stump Steps

Fun Backyard Stump Steps
Stephanie Rausser

Create this balance challenge with a path of cut logs of varying heights. You can contact your local tree trimmer to see if they can donate scraps or cut them yourself in heights ranging from 2 inches to 10 inches. Space the stumps far enough apart so kids have to carefully plot each step as they walk the path.

03 of 13

Explore the Neighborhood

Bird Birdie 3 Wheel Kick Scooter

Bikes, scooters, rollerblades, skateboards, and hoverboards are some ways your kids may enjoy navigating the neighborhood. Exploring is even more fun on wheels.

Or try a neighborhood scavenger hunt—create a list of things the kids have to hunt for and send them off. You could contain this to the block or the backyard, depending on your comfort level and the age of your kids.

04 of 13

Create a Rock Spot

Fun Backyard Rock Spot
Stephanie Rausser

Little builders will relish a gravel play area for their trucks and construction vehicles. For a 4- x 5-foot pit, we used five 50-pound bags of pea gravel and contained the play area with larger stones and wood. Add small wood planks for ramps and cut branches and sticks for kids to build with.

05 of 13

Hang an Outdoor Easel

Fun Backyard Outdoor Easel
Stephanie Rausser

Kids will go chalk wild for this oversized chalkboard (and you'll be happy to keep the chalk dust outside!). You can make your own outdoor chalkboard paint, which will weather better than store-bought paint:

  1. Mix 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout with each cup of exterior latex enamel paint (flat finish) you use.
  2. Stir 1 cup at a time in a container to ensure proper blending.
  3. Apply two coats of the paint to a large piece of plywood.
  4. Once it's dried, hang the finished drawing station at kid height with heavy-duty picture-hanging hardware.

Tip: Prep the finished chalkboard by lightly rubbing the long side of a piece of chalk all over the surface and erasing it.

06 of 13

Swing on a Silly Spinner

Fun Backyard Silly Spinner
Stephanie Rausser

This alternative to a traditional swing lets kids twist and sway from a high tree branch. Our homemade spinner was crafted from:

  • A pair of bike grips
  • A ⅞-inch wooden dowel cut to 11 inches long
  • A heavy-duty nylon climbing rope from a sporting goods shop

If you're not the DIY type, you can buy a twist swing that offers the same effect.

Tip: The spinner should be high enough for your child to reach with arms extended.

07 of 13

Race on a Boat Racetrack

Fun Backyard Boat Racetrack
Stephanie Rausser

Kids can race homemade boats down these tracks made from large-hole pool noodles cut in half lengthwise. To make:

  1. Use a marker and a yardstick to draw a straight line down the length of the noodle. At each end, wrap a measuring tape around the circumference of the noodle to find the halfway point.
  2. Draw a second straight line down the other side of the noodle. Then, use a utility knife to cut the noodles into equal halves.
  3. To make sailboats: Cut 1 inch off one end of a pool noodle. Use scissors to cut the ring in half and snip it into boat shapes. Cut the boat bottoms, so they are flat. Make the sails from duct tape and toothpicks.

Tip: Create a longer track using duct tape to attach noodles.

08 of 13

Make a Hanging Hideaway

Hanging Hideaway
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

With a few inexpensive materials, you can create an outdoor room perfect for tea parties, secret club meetings, or games of hide-and-seek. Repurpose an older canopy from a bedroom or hang a couple of sheets from a tree. You could even create a room out of pieced-together cardboard boxes.

Involve your children in planning and constructing—this is an excellent way to get their creative juices flowing. Your kids will love their new secret hide-out and the sense of accomplishment in what they helped build!

09 of 13

Play Dirty

Play Dirty
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

Sandboxes are great, but a pile of dirt—easily turned into mud or molded like clay—might be even better. In this free-play domain, kids can create a Mars landscape, lead a mission of army people, or use toy earth-moving trucks to, well, move earth.

Designate a corner of the garden as a kids' realm or do what FamilyFun contributor Kimberly Stoney does every year: Get a truckload of screened topsoil or loam dumped in the yard and let the kids play in the pile for a couple of weeks before raking it into the lawn.

Add some rocks to provide structure for mountains and roads. You can find bagged stones in the landscaping department of home improvement stores.

10 of 13

Build Tunnels and Bridges

Truck tunnels
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

Make a natural playscape for trucks and cars in the gravel and dirt. Encourage kids to use what they see, like rocks, twigs, and scraps of lumber. Then run their cars and trucks along the roads, bridges, and tunnels.

Fun tip: Bury lengths of PVC pipe (ours are 3-inch-diameter) for truck tunnels.

11 of 13

Dig a Mini-Pond

Plant Saucer Pond
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

You don't need a pool or lake to have some outdoor water fun. Instead, try a mini-pond that your kids can float boats in or use for making mud pies.

Fun tip: A large plant saucer set in the ground and filled with water makes a pleasant play pond.

12 of 13

Cook Up Some Fun

Cook Up Some Fun
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

Turn an old cabinet, shelf, or bookcase into an outdoor play kitchen just right for mixing up mud pies, clover parfaits, and other nature-based delights. Scour thrift stores, garage sales, and your kitchen junk drawer to outfit it inexpensively with cups, bowls, pots and pans, utensils, measuring cups, spoons, and more.

When selecting items, let imagination rule the day: Plastic drinking glasses in fancy shapes invite mud-slurry concoctions, and a muffin tin can be used for beautiful, leaf-topped miniature cakes. Don't forget to fill a big bowl with water for on-the-spot mud-mixing and utensil-rinsing, so you don't need a hose.

Fun tip: A recycled flour sifter gives dry dirt an even, fluffy texture.

13 of 13

Make a Toad Abode (Fairies Welcome!)

Toad Abode
Photograph by Kinzie + Riehm

Once a decorative birdhouse, this tiny home is encircled by a fence from a craft store. Here's how to create a miniature piece of real estate that kids can call their own; we think it would also be the perfect vacation home for a toad.

  1. Start with plants and mosses that will thrive in a container in your region—a local nursery can make suggestions.
  2. Drill a few drainage holes in the bottom of the container (we used a 24-inch-wide plastic plant saucer), then fill it with potting soil.
  3. Seat the plants and moss in the dirt from largest to smallest and add plastic toys and hardware store finds; be careful not to overwater your abode.

Fun tips: Create paths and a patio with hardware-store gravel and mosaic tile.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles