With school out for the summer, it only takes a click of a button and a plop on the sofa to lure kids into a sedentary lifestyle. We encourage turning your kids away from “screen time” and instead promoting “green time” at home. Begin by designating an area on your property within view of your patio or rear window to keep an eye on your kids. Then try some of these ideas to incorporate the four elements of nature right in your backyard.


Playsets come in a wide variety of styles and sizes to suit a family’s tastes and budget.

Get Some Fresh Air

A swingset is the ultimate destination for fun and fresh air. When selecting one, consider kids’ ages, the size of your yard and the location of the structure. Ideally there should be at least six feet of open space around the stationary part of the set. Swings will require more clearance. The area should be stripped of lawn, edged with landscape timbers, lined with landscape fabric to minimize weeds and a installed with a thick layer of playground chips to provide cushioning.  A zipline secured between two large trees with a clear runway will have your kids zooming past while seated in a harness or hanging onto handlebars. Be sure you select one that is appropriate for your children’s age and weight. Lengths are available from 35 feet and longer. If your yard is too small for a swingset or zipline, smaller playground equipment options are available. A rotating see-saw does double duty as a see-saw and a whirly-go-round. A geometric climbing dome lets your children climb and clamor within a confined space. A non-rigid climbing ladder or climbing rocks attached to a stable vertical surface give children room to move up.




Consider the scale of your water feature, to ensure safe water play for little children.

Just Add Water

Pull out the watering hose for older children to help with watering plants. Hooked up to a lawn sprinkler, it’s a simple, sure way to beat the heat with pals on a hot summer day. For a more permanent fixture, consider adding a decorative fountain, bubbling boulder or pondless waterfall, which sets the stage for safe water play and adds beauty to your garden… and tranquility when it’s unoccupied.




Loll Designs offers a fun, colorful and contemporary line of children’s furniture, made of recycled plastic and suitable for outdoor use.
Photo courtesy of Loll Designs.

Play With Fire (figuratively)

Vibrantly colored garden accessories like a brightly painted, kid-sized table and chairs and colorful plants like shade-loving Fanal Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis ‘Fanal’) or sun-loving Chicago Apache Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Apache’) liven up your children’s outdoor surroundings. Supervised by adults, a firepit can be a fun spot for children to gather ‘round during chilly evenings to roast marshmallows and share stories. Low-voltage lighting can also set your children’s garden aglow at night, mimicking the warmth of a fire and extending enjoyment time into the evening.



The right mix of perennials delight the senses through touch, smell and sight.

Get Down To Earth

A stepstone path weaving through a garden bed invites children to discover flowers, foliage and butterflies. A secret book nook is created when you add a group of stepstones and a lounging chair along the way. Touchable plants like the big, purple orbs of Globemaster Allium (Allium ‘Globemaster’), soft leaves of Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) and cheery curls of Creeping Jenny (Lysmachia nummilaria), and are fun to hold and behold. Plants with movement and sound, like the quaking seedheads of Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) and sweetly scented plants like White Cloud Calamint (Calamintha ‘White Cloud’) and Bevan’s Variety Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’) delight the senses. An edible garden, whether it be a cherry tomato plant in an upside-down planter or a squash vine in a corner of your yard, teaches children the value of growing your own food. A living teepee of bamboo poles secured with rope and twine, and planted with climbing vines creates a cool hideaway. Try fun annual vines like the colorful Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus) and edible Nasturtium.