How to Design a Family-Friendly Backyard

A backyard garden has a small wood deck with set of steps that lead to a sunken garden area with a wooden outdoor furniture set.

A backyard garden has a small wood deck with set of steps that lead to a sunken garden area with a wooden outdoor furniture set

How to Design a Family-Friendly Backyard

The ideal backyard space has a little bit of something for everyone – spaces for play, cooking, socializing, and a place to just be. 

Here are tips and inspiration to design a multi-functional backyard for any space, any budget, and every age. 

Play Space for the Kids

If you have kids, they’re likely at the top of your mind when designing your outdoor space. There are endless ways to create a backyard that gets your kids off the couch and into the sunshine. 

Create a Soft Spot 

Start with a big swath of lawn – a simple patch of grass that serves as a play space and visual relief. Reserve landscaping for the edges of the yard to create a natural barrier. 

Inspire Play
Kids will thrive if you integrate a play feature into the natural space. Ditch the pre-built playground in favor of a tire swing, hammock, bridge, or sand area. These types of play spaces have a timeless look that blends in, and offer more potential to jump-start your child’s imagination.  

Splish Splash

A water feature like a splash pad, mini pool or hot tub is a surefire way to make your house the most popular hangout in the neighborhood. 

Hangout Space for the Adults 


Grown-ups need their space to “play” just as much as the little ones do. Design a grilling area, gathering center or zen space that’s functional and fun.

Furnish It
Sturdy, comfortable patio furniture is the first step towards creating a great social space for adults (that kids can enjoy too). A long outdoor table is essential for outdoor family meals. It’s also a vantage point for watching the kids while you sip cocktails. Place furniture near the house for easy access to the kitchen and bar.

A Quick Getaway 

Everyone in the family can enjoy an outdoor escape. A reading nook or pergola placed a bit separate from the house makes it easy to “get away from it all.” A comfy bench, yard art, pond, flowers or other vegetation can all contribute to a peaceful atmosphere within your yard. 

Safety Considerations for All Ages

A few modifications can go a long way in making your backyard enjoyable for multiple generations:

Safe Landscaping
It may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure what you’re planting is safe for everyone, including your fur babies. Some plants are harmless to humans but very dangerous to dogs or cats. And you never know what kids will put into their mouths. Do a little research to avoid any poisonous or harmful plants.

Make it Flow
The more seamless the transition is from indoors to outside, the more it will draw everyone out. Few or no stairs is better for accessibility and a feeling of connection. Consider an outdoor rug or transitional flat stones leading to the grassy area.

Light it up

A lighted path lets you enjoy your backyard even after the sun goes down. Solar-powered lights are affordable and easy to install along pathways for added accessibility. Or, hang some strands of twinkle lights for a bit of festive charm. 

Family Gardening
A garden is a great project that kids can help with and get excited about. Box gardens or raised beds on stilts are the best option for older folks who can’t bend down, plus they look great and keep things contained.

Rebecca Rosenberg is an international digital media consultant and freelance writer.

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