The backyard – it’s the place where memories are made, knees are skinned, barbecues are held, and it’s also where the children spend much of their time after homework, baseball practice and ballet.
So what makes the perfect backyard? There is no single answer to that question, as a backyard is as individual as the family who enjoys it. From swimming pools and play sets to gardens and basketball goals, the possibilities for a kid-friendly backyard are endless.
Michelle and Atwell Coleman’s backyard oasis consists of a swimming pool surrounded by trees and pine straw, along with a basketball court, a play set and a garden tended by the whole family. “Our backyard is very natural. There is no grass, only pine straw on the ground, and it’s surrounded by trees,” says Michelle. “We love the area – looking up at the trees and hearing the sounds of the waterfall is very peaceful. The children love it.”
For Michelle, the backyard is the ultimate way to cultivate her children’s creativity. She and the kids will take a trip to their local homebuilding store and purchase scrap wood, ropes, hammers and other supplies, and then they go home and create. “My son got some tongue blades and a hot glue gun and spent two days building a ship for the pool,” says Michelle. “It may have sunk, but he had a ball making it. The kids will build something, tear it down and start over. They learn a lot from creating.”
Stevens Coleman enjoys climbing trees in the backyard oasis his parents created.
Photo by Jeff Amberg
Her advice to other parents? Ask your kids what they would like to do, what would be fun for them. Her children asked for the boards, the rope, the scrap wood. And many a masterpiece has since been created.
John Jordan and his wife quickly found their children’s favorite spot after they purchased their home. No surprise – it’s the pool. Having two young children, John was at first very hesitant to buy a home with a pool. “We were quick to research all of the safety equipment available before we purchased the house,” says John. Today, parents can rest a little easier thanks to the advances made in pool safety, including alarms that sound when something over a pound enters the water and door monitors that alert parents when a child has gone outside toward the pool. “We made sure our children had survival swimming lessons and understood pool safety. We didn’t want them to be afraid of the pool, but we wanted to make sure they respected the water,” says John. They were also sure to have benches installed in the water so the children could take a rest and relax without having to get out of the pool.
The Jordans also created a welcoming pool house, complete with kid-sized barstools and refrigerators, ensuring everything they need is easily accessible and there is no need to track water inside to grab a juice box or catch a cartoon. “We wanted an open space that allowed us an uninhibited view of the children, so the pool house has glass doors and a lot of windows to keep everything as open as possible,” adds John.
Wells and Stevens Coleman enjoy the playset in their family’s yard while their sister, Hundley, swings from a rope tied to one of the yard’s many trees.
Photo by Jeff Amberg
What backyard would be complete without a play set? The giggles and squeals from children swinging high into the air and barreling like bullets down the sliding board are what summers are made of. For the Colemans and the Jordans, play sets and sand boxes have been invaluable parts of their kids’ childhoods. Just add a few wood chips to keep the bugs at bay and some greenery to create a lush surrounding. These backyard staples provide hours of entertainment as kids turn a wooden play set into a captain’s ship or a princess’ castle. “Our play set is separate from the pool setting, giving the children their own little private area,” says John.
For Michelle’s children, memories are also made high up in the treetops, where they can spend hours climbing or building a tree house. And really, what child doesn’t want to face his fears and conquer the world by climbing a gigantic tree? After all, isn’t that what they are made for?
Backyards are also ideal places to practice layups, cheerleading dances or curve balls – keeping in mind the neighbors’ windows, of course. Michelle’s children enjoy a game of pickup basketball in the backyard, while the Jordan boys spend hours perfecting their baseball swings … and occasionally hit a few into the pool.
The Atwell children also help out with the family’s garden. They cultivate the garden early in the season and are thrilled to pick the delicious okra, tomatoes, squash and green beans that pop up in the summer.
The perfect backyard. If it makes you and your children happy, keeps them entertained and allows for memories to be made, then you have created your own little piece of paradise.