How to Turn your Backyard into a Toddler-Friendly Play Zone

I can remember spending most of my time as a child outside. I loved digging in the dirt to make dirt cups or pretending to be an archaeologist. Really, no matter what it was, I loved to play outside.


Nature is the perfect place for your child's imagination to come alive. The backyard is an even better place to foster creativity, imagination, and natural play. It's a safe, enclosed space in which you can keep an eye on your small tot while their imagination runs wild.

All too often these days parents find themselves indoors while their children play with electronic toys and gadgetry. Children miss out on the developmentally supportive aspects of outside play.

The back yard is the perfect playroom. Using these five suggestions, turn your backyard into a toddler-friendly play zone.

Music Station

Children love to create noise. And the backyard (anywhere outdoors, really) is the best place for them to do so! Set up a music station for your toddler to practice his Mozart-like skills or to bang out the next great drum solo.

The music station can be made up of extra kitchen items. Head to your kitchen and find old, worn out, or extra utensils, pots, or pans you've been meaning to throw out or replace. Grab some string from your junk drawer or the garage. Hang up your toddler's new instruments using anything as simple as a nail and hammer. Or, purchase picture hangers or hooks from the hardware store.

Your toddler can then take a wooden spoon or another utensil and run it along each item to start making music. She can hit, tap, or scratch at each item, whichever she feels compelled to do.

Another way to add music or sound to your music station is by hanging up metal plates left over from a broken toy xylophone. You might not have one yourself, but you could easily purchase a used toy xylophone from a secondhand shop and take it apart to use the pieces. Connect each piece to a long piece of twine or sturdy string. Then attach this main line to your music wall, tree, or station.

You can set your music station up at the fence or hang the instruments from low-hanging tree branches.

The FilthWizardry website provides ideas for instruments and instructions on exactly how to do it. Head over there now to get your child’s musical play underway!

Image Source: Filth Wizardry

Construction Site Gravel Pit

Now, this is super cute and doesn't take up a lot of space. You can easily find a 2-foot by 2-foot area in your flower bed or someplace close to the patio to create this little biome of imagination.

You'll need to purchase a bag of gravel, the kind you'd find at a kids playground. To ensure safety, always make sure you're outside with your toddler while he's playing in the fun gravel pit. You don't want a trip to the emergency room to excavate rocks out of his ears and nose.

Also, purchase tarpaulin or find the appropriate size of plastic sheeting to lay over the ground.

Use large stones or pieces of wood to enclose the space and to keep the covering in place. You can make the space circular or square.

Once you have the covering down and underneath stone or wood, you are ready to lay the gravel. In just a few simple steps, you have a construction site perfect for your toddler's small world play.

It’s a super simple project, but you might be the type that follows instructions. Go to the Imagination Tree website to get full the how-to.

Image Source: The Imagination Tree

Check the backyard games at Wayfair:

Cable wheel

Cable wheels are these nifty things that look like larger-than-life thread spools. That's basically what they are anyway. Cable spools.

You can pick up a cable spool at an electrical wholesaler either for free or for a small fee. They'll more than likely be happy to let you take it off their hands. Once in possession of a cable wheel, you can easily turn this large spool into a table upon which your toddler can conduct any kind of activity.

Here are some ideas:

  • Cover with fake grass and play dinosaurs
  • Paint the top with winding racetracks that intersect
  • Use it as a place to host tea parties
  • Or, make it into the ultimate outdoor craft table

Want different ideas? Go to Eyfs Matters to spark your inspiration.

Image source: Eyfs Matters

Chalk play

Chalk is an all-time favorite outdoor activity for most toddlers. But you might not have the perfect patio for chalk play. Have no fear! Now you can make your tiny tot a giant outdoor chalkboard that attaches to your wide open fence.

With a bit of elbow grease and crafty hands, you can quickly turn your fence into an outdoor pretend school room or brand new blank canvas.

You can also turn your tree into the chalkboard of your child's wildest dreams. Soon you'll have a tree that outshines the rest, at least for a short period of time!

Not much for construction?

The chalkboard tree is self-explanatory. But, you might need detailed instructions to create the giant outdoor chalkboard. Use the how-to’s from Hey There Home.

Image Source: Hey There Home

Science activity table

Last but certainly not least, give your child the perfect space to bring her imagination to life. Create a science lab for your up-and-coming Nobel Prize winning scientist.

This is an alternative use for the cable wheel mentioned above. Or, you can find an activity table that you don't mind cutting into.

Collect five different size and color plastic bowls. Put each bowl upside down on the table and use a pencil to trace the rim. Then use a jigsaw to remove these pieces and place the bowls inside the circle. This makes it easier for the kids to see into the bowls and stir what's inside without risk of the bowls tipping over.

Leave a sixth space available for experiments to be done on top of the table. Next, collect different kinds of containers like a small cupcake pan or "test" tubes. You can get these at the dollar store to aid your scientist in conducting his experiments.

For specific instructions, go to the TPcraft website.

Image Source: TPcraft

As you can see, each of these activity stations is relatively inexpensive and easy to create. Instead of buying your toddler more toys to be stored inside, build her a giant outdoor chalkboard.

If he loves to play with blocks inside, put together a quick and simple construction site gravel pit. Or, you're budding scientist can have a safe place to experiment without you needing to worry about making the kitchen a mess.

These backyard creations can be their next birthday or Christmas present, or simply a sweet surprise on a warm day. Today is the day to take the play outside!

About the author

I'm a lover of the little things that make life beautiful. And I love to share them with the world!

Leave a comment: