It’s become a familiar refrain – adults bemoaning how much time kids spend inside watching screens instead of playing outside. We aren’t imagining it. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, “Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media.” This more sedentary lifestyle and disconnect with nature will affect “the future of conservation, our economy, our military readiness, and the health and wellness of our communities.”
Y i k e s!
As residential landscape designers, Bruss Landscaping is asked to create outdoor spaces that families can enjoy both for their beauty and function. While there’s often a focus on the ability to entertain and aesthetics, including a comfortable place to relax and an area to play is one of our most important priorities when we design outdoor living spaces for families.
Include play spaces within the landscape design
Relegating your kids’ playset or sandbox to the back of a yard signals that playtime isn’t important and you’d rather not watch it. Little kids build their confidence and learn new skills when they climb and slide and swing; having the outdoor playset nearby makes it easy for them to access play and for parents to send the occasional encouraging word or lend a supportive hand. Adding plants with flowers, fragrance, and interesting leaf color to the play area fosters curiosity and exploration (What are the bees doing? Which plant smells so good? What kind of butterfly is that? Why do the leaves change color? Are the birds eating those berries?).
Custom play areas can also provide visual interest
A permanent structure in your landscape design like the swinging arch above may seem extravagant until you realize that it will graduate to hold an adult-friendly swinging bench when the kids are older. Add a few flowering vines on each post to grow up and gently trail overhead and it becomes a magical place for kids to “fly” and create new games in their backyard.
An interesting structure like the hammock grove below appeals to older kids (and their friends). Thanks to the clever re-use of tree trunks, this composition fits in well with the surrounding landscape and gives a bit of artistic flair to the kids’ area. Now the perfect place for hanging out after school, it’s also just right for cloud-gazing or looking at stars.
Get them digging in the dirt
You don’t need an extensive garden in your outdoor living space to teach kids about growing fruits and vegetables. Lots of edibles, like tomatoes and peppers, do well in patio pots. Incorporating an unused trellis in your landscape design can be the support needed for Sugar Snap Peas. Easy to grow in spring and delicious right off the vine, the sweet sugar snap peas can be picked (and eaten) by kids before they ever make it to the house. The same is true for Strawberries – grow them in pots or in a little garden patch and send the kids out to harvest (or most likely, devour) the ripe berries. You can have fun and teach a lesson in delayed gratification by growing Pumpkins. Prepping and planting is a great family activity, while watering and occasionally weeding is an easy but important job that teaches responsibility, builds self-esteem, and fosters a sense of accomplishment (I helped! Look what I grew!).
Plants can just be fun, too
There are plants we can grow that instantly spark curiosity and invite kids to touch them. The soft, fuzzy leaves of Lamb’s Ear (Stachys species) are fun to pet and even rub against one’s cheek. Low-growing herbs like Thyme can be planted around stepping-stones (and within reach of little kids), releasing their fragrance when stepped on. Cheerful, easy-to-grow Sunflowers can involve kids at every stage, from the planting of the seeds, to the watering, to the picking or harvesting.
Every day can be game day
For those with budding or serious athletes at home, installing a sport court might be a smart consideration for your outdoor living space. Allowing more space than the driveway (and ensuring wayward kids and balls don’t collide with parked cars), sport courts are increasing in popularity. Adaptable for multiple sports such as basketball, tennis, and volleyball, having a designated area for harder play keeps the rest of your landscape in good condition. The convenience of a court in your backyard makes arranging pick-up games easier and gets kids outside and moving instead of staying inside watching videos.
Know when to hire a professional!
If you’d like to do more to get your kids outside and want your outdoor living space to be inviting for the whole family, consider working with an experienced landscape designer from Bruss. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to create a truly custom space for kids of all ages – adults, too! To arrange a consultation with one of our landscape designers, visit us here.