The back yard is wonderful invention. Dad U grew up on a ¼ acre block in a city of ~1 million (at least that’s the number most residents would roll out, presumably because it’s nice and round and easy to remember, has plenty of zero’s to signify importance, and makes for a workable fraction when explaining that the behemoth over the state border was a cold, wet and miserable monstrosity that stole all our best footballers, rather than a thriving metropolis). There is only so much that can be done with a small yard and Dad’s have to work within the canvas they have available. Count yourself blessed if, like myself, you have a better half that has an essentially unlimited imagination for desirable additions to the space……(ED: when are you making that raised flowerbed?)……Now, if you live in a smaller city, or large town, as Dad U does now, the possibilities are fantastic. Somehow we found a place with not quite a full acre, and while it took numerous years to tame, we managed to get it done while the kiddos had enough time to make good use of it. And that’s the whole point. For every 10 mins of non-chore time I get to spend out there, they are racking up hours. So, with that in mind, what are the items Dad’s should prioritize to get in the yard? Of course there is no correct answer, but we did it this way:
#3. Sandbox (under green cover on right). Quick, easy and they will play in it for....hours.... If you make it big enough for them to sit in, they will have to be dragged away. For maximized kid-appreciation and sturdiness, build one from treated lumber, with a light frame with shade cloth as an anti-"cat bathroom" cover. Wimp-out and buy a small plastic one if you must, but don't say I didn't warn you they could lose interest (remember: it’s all about having enough real estate to build an Empire). A sandbox that gets a good kid-rating will buy you substantial time while you work on:
#4. Fence. Create an escape-proof perimeter so that the little gremlins are secured. Said family members can then be cast outside and left to their own devices unsupervised (temporarily at least). Works great on large pets too. Fencing is one of those large yard jobs where you can save up to ½ or more of the cost by doing it yourself. Notice I didn’t say it was easy or quick. I personally built ~200 feet of wooden privacy fence, which took two “sessions” of two months each of digging, concreting, and nailing after work and on weekends. Two yr-olds and up can help pass screws and nails and can get a kick about building their own security zone without even knowing it. Fence-breaching escapees that are under 5 usually fall into two categories: the Mole (Under), or the Monkey (Over). You have to catch them in the act and administer "negative reinforcement", or just wait till they are older than ~5, when they just go out the gates. Do not underestimate the hugeness of a fencing job, nor fail to factor fencing into the equation when looking to buy a property.
#5. Play set. Yeah-ha! That’s what they want. Swings, a slide, monkey bars and a hut. Dad U was not feeling gun-ho enough to build from scratch, and elected to build from a kit. It was a good move, except for the part about trying to level and connect the 6 major uprights single-handedly (ED:....& needed rescuing). Dad U recommends getting a buddy to come over and help (bribe with pizza if necessary). The play set has be subjected to a serious amount of play-mileage, and was worth every cent, but is starting to show it’s age, even after only ~5 years.
If you live in an apartment, condo, or other yard space-limited dwelling, Dad U has sympathy but not much helpful advice. I can only relate the decision that I came to after living under those conditions for several years: As a young couple we didn’t feel particularly constrained, but once our family started expanding I had to make a quality of life decision and get out of the rat race.
-it's just wood, build it