Backyard Play Ideas

When the weather is nice, the Hooligans and I spend most of our time outdoors, in our backyard play space.  Quite often we’ll be out from the time they are dropped off in the morning until afternoon nap-time.

sprinkler fun

We have our snacks on the deck, and our lunch on a big blanket under the trees.  They love having their lunch outside, and I love that there’s isn’t the big “kitchen clean-up” to deal with when we’re done!  I normally just pile a tray up with sandwiches, drinks, fruits/veggies/cheese etc and take it back to the blanket, but I found a fabulous idea last night at Michelle’s Charm World that I can’t wait to try!  Load up individual ice-cube trays with veggies, cheese, berries, plain pasta, meat etc., and let each child carry their own lunch tray to the picnic blanket.  Brilliant!  I love it!  Thanks, Michelle!

picnic under the trees

Anyway, outside is where we want to be when the weather co-operates.  Winter is too long to not make the most of the nice weather when it’s here.  There’s a ton of fun to be had in the yard, and the Hooligans like it best when we keep it simple and unstructured.

This fence is great for chalking on or painting with water

colouring stones (or pinecones/sticks etc.)

fall maze

We have our basic outdoor art supplies like chalk, spray bottles, homemade finger-paints, paintbrushes etc.  This fall I’d like to incorporate more “loose materials” into our play-space (see Teacher Tom and Jenny for some terrifically inspiring ideas). There’s so much fun to be had with simple materials and a little imagination.

painting beach rocks

Water play is always a huge hit,

A jug with a spigot that the kids can control is a great addition to an outside play-space

a water-wall adds hours of fun and learning

and we muck in the sand and mud, creating concoctions and messes.

outdoor soup kitchen with “ingredients” from the garden

a wheelbarrow filled with sand, potting soil and water makes for excellent mud play

bricks, trowels and a bucket of mud for “brick-laying”

We are fortunate to have a good-sized back yard, and our neighbourhood backs on to a ravine and forest.  The Hooligans refer to this area as “the jungle”.  In the spring, before the undergrowth gets too high, we spend a lot of time exploring, hiking and “rock-climbing” in the jungle.

a jungle walk

a walk in the ravine in early spring

The playhouse (you can see the recent renovations here), the tire swing and the sandbox are where the children spend a lot of time, playing make-believe, getting messy, and having good-old-fashioned fun.

on a hot day, a rubber boat filled with water at the bottom of the slide provides a whole day of fun

so many hours are spent here, digging, building, working together, and problem solving

the tire swing is an absolute, all-time favourite of every Hooligan who’s ever played here

We are also blessed to have a pond in our backyard.  It’s small but it provides us with countless hours of entertainment, and opportunities for learning.

chillin’ by the pond on a hot day

The children watch the fish and get excited when they discover that the fish have had babies.  They learn about life-cycles as we watch tadpoles develop into toads every spring, they scoop out algae, they hunt for snails, and they observe the birds and dragonflies that come for a drink.

hello, toady

scooping algae

snail hunting

The pond is a wonderful feature of our yard; I’m so thankful that we have it.  It’s a place to splash your feet on a hot day…

cooling off the toes

…or to sit and quietly reflect with a friend.

a quiet moment

Thanks so much for coming along with me for the tour of “our big back-yard”.  It’s actually been quite a nostalgic little journey for me.  Please feel free to share pictures of your own outdoor play-space with us.  I’m always looking for new out-door play ideas, and I’d love to see how your little people spend their days!


    • happyhooligans says

      Thanks, Kierna! It really didn’t take that long. I just played around with it while we were out in the yard one morning. It was surprising how quickly it came together.

    • happyhooligans says

      Thank you, Rebekah! We are so fortunate to have the space that we do for the Hooligans to run around and play in. I just can’t wait for the warmer weather so we can get back to spending almost all of our time out there!

  1. Bry says

    All of these ideas are wonderful! We are celebrating my daughter’s third birthday next month, and we will be doing an outside BBQ – She will have a blast with some of these ideas! Thank you so much for the inspiration =)


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