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From 18 Months to 18 Years: Kid-Friendly Landscape Design for Safe Fun

Posted On: September 20,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

kid-friendly patio and outdoor fireplaceWhether you have children now or you plan to in the future, you want to make sure that your landscape design takes into account safety just as much as it takes into account how your kids will use the space. After all, as a family that likes to spend time outdoors, you want them out there having good, safe fun with you or their friends.

Of course, they won’t stay little forever. That means you also want a landscape design that will be appropriate as they grow. You don’t want to worry about making poor design choices now that will end up being a frustration down the road.

Choosing wisely for a kid-friendly backyard landscape design that your children will love from toddlerhood into their teens will help ensure that your whole family gets maximum use out of your outdoor space. We’ve rounded up lots of ideas to help you achieve a kid-friendly landscape that will grow along with your kids.


Ideas for Kid-Friendly Landscape Designs for Little Ones

When the kids are little, there are definitely some specific considerations to keep in mind as you plan a landscape. Not only do you want them to be able to enjoy the space but you want them to be safe doing so. Here are some key things to consider in terms of both safety and enjoyment.

Safety Comes First

As a parent (or soon-to-be parent), safety is at the forefront of your mind, particularly with toddlers. Some additions that can help make your landscape safer include adding a fence around the property, ensuring your deck has a gate that can close and lock, and adding a railing to any areas on the property where there are steps.Pool patio with safety fence

A lot of people don’t realize that there is also a safety component to your plant material selection. A lot of times when we work with families that have young children, they ask that we avoid plant material which would attract a lot of bees and other stinging insects—or at least being mindful of where flowering plants are placed. Families with young children may also want to steer away from plants with thorns, or again, be mindful of where they are placed. You wouldn’t want a thorny rose bush right next to your children’s play area.

Incorporating Shade

When the kids are little, mom and dad are outside when they are. That often means they want a shady spot to sit and watch their kids play. Shade can be accomplished with a structural addition like a pergola or a pavilion, an awning, or even just a strategically placed umbrella at your patio table. Trees are also great for shade, though they’ll obviously take longer to grow and fulfill your goal.pavilion adding shade to outdoor landscape

Adding Play Areas

Incorporating play areas into your kid-friendly backyard landscape design can also make the space more entertaining for your little ones. Imagine being outside, grilling up a family meal in the outdoor kitchen, while your children play on the nearby play set. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to be outdoors.


Of course, their play area doesn’t have to just be a swing set. You could get creative with your landscape design and add boulders for climbing or maybe even a treehouse for the kids to play in as they get older.

Thinking About Storage

There seems to be an abundance of backyard storage needs when the kids are little and you might need to think about some options for storing toys, sports equipment, bikes, and more. A backyard shed can make a nice addition to your property, giving you a space to neatly tuck away these items when not in use.backyard shed and stepping stones

In addition, if you have a pool, you might also want to think about a pool house for storing all those toys and floatables that your kids will acquire. A pool house can also incorporate space for a changing area to get kids into their bathing suits (or out of them) without traipsing through the house. This addition will be just as appreciated when kids are older and have their friends over to swim (and need a space to change).

pool house and patio

Adding storage areas now will benefit you as the kids grow, too. After all, you’ll still need to store bikes, pool toys, and sports equipment for your older kids.

Ideas for Kid-Friendly Landscape Designs for Older Kids

While you might wish you could keep them little, your kids are going to keep growing and their needs are going to change. That’s why you also want to make sure you’re thinking ahead about how your landscape can be adapted to suit your older kids, as well. Here are some points to consider.

Creating a “Hangout” Zone

As your kids get older, if you want your house to be the “hangout spot,” then you’re going to have to think about some ways that your kid-friendly landscaping can appeal to an older child. For instance, if your outdoor pavilion also has audio and video additions, you can be sure that your tween or teen children are going to want to have movie nights at your house. They might also enjoy sitting outside with their friends if they can listen to their favorite music. Other “chill areas” where your kids might enjoy relaxing with friends include the fire pit, outdoor fireplace or the outdoor kitchen—stocked with plenty of snacks, of course!Pavilion with outdoor fireplace and TV

Encouraging Backyard Sports

If you have a child who loves to stay active, then you can also foster their love for sports right in your own backyard! Think about adding a putting green for your young golfer or a basketball court where they can practice their foul shots. We have even built starting blocks in a client’s pool for their young swimmers to practice!

Keeping an Eye on Older Kids

While there’s an inclination to think of safety in terms of young kids, you obviously want to keep your older kids safe, too. Of course, you’re not worried about them falling into a pool or down the stairs like you would be with a toddler. Instead, you’re worried about them making good choices. That might mean ensuring your kitchen cabinets have locks installed to keep alcohol safely stored.


It might also mean that you’re able to still see them from inside of your home without making them feel as though you’re totally invading their privacy. This can be achieved with thoughtfully designed vantage points from inside of the home to the outdoor area, with soft landscape lighting to give visibility at all hours.


Working with a Landscape Designer that Thinks Ahead

Pavilion with outdoor kitchen and poolMaking sure that your kid-friendly landscaping ideas come together in a way that truly allows you to maximize time outside with your family can be achieved by working with a landscape designer who thinks ahead.

A good landscape designer will not only think about how you’ll use the space in the next year or two but how you’ll use it for many years to come.

At Earth, Turf, & Wood, we are always thinking ahead about how you might use your landscape in the future. That’s because we’re not only planning for today but for tomorrow’s memories as well. We know that your family’s needs will change as your kids grow. We want you to get the most out of your space no matter what ages or stages your kids are at.

If you’d like to discuss kid-friendly landscaping ideas for your Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home, then contact us for a free consultation.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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