A pond provides a play area for kids to explore
Photo: Keller & Keller
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Play Areas for Kids to Explore

Less-lawn solution: For many kids today, what's missing from their lives isn't a play structure or a sports field (parks and after-school activities offer plenty of that), but the chance for a one-on-one connection with nature. In that sense, a small flower or vegetable garden or, for older kids, a backyard pond that supports fish, frogs, or other wetland creatures can provide more lasting play value than a lawn alone. A low, freestanding deck connected to the rest of the yard with paths that wind among shrubs can serve as a base for forts or a stage for plays.

For toddlers, an oversize sandbox is a great choice. Cover it with bird netting, rather than plastic sheeting, between uses to keep cats and other critters from using it as a litter box while permitting sunlight, a natural sanitizer, to reach the sand.
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