Backyard Play Areas that Encourage Active Play

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% of children between the ages of 12 and 19 are obese, and this number has stayed about the same for the decade preceding these most recent numbers. This means that the current and future health of approximately 12.7 million children are affected by obesity. It should also be noted that this does not include the number of children that are overweight but who have a body mass index lower than what is considered obese.

The CDC notes that the percentage of children with obesity between the ages of two and five decreased from 13.9% in 2004 to 8.4% in 2012, which shows progress in the fight against obesity in this age group. However, also in 2012, 17.7% of children between the ages of six and 11 and an astonishing 20.5% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were obese.

There are several factors exacerbating the obesity epidemic affecting children and adults in the U.S., including advertisements and availability of unhealthy foods and beverages, ever-increasing portion sizes, lack of education about healthy diets and inactivity.

While there are multiple reasons why children are less active today than they were in the past, one significant factor is a lack of appealing opportunities for active play. This is coupled with the many enticing, indoor options that require little activity and are incredibly popular, such as gaming consoles, television shows, social media sites, and games they can play on smartphones or tablets.

With the growing number of appealing options that are indoor and sedentary, it is more difficult than ever to entice kids to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, as well as some exercise through active play.

Of course, obesity is not the only reason to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Children of all sizes can learn new skills, enjoy memorable experiences, and increase their overall health and well-being by playing outside.

One way to encourage your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to be more active and get more fresh air is to create an appealing, exciting play area they will not be able to resist.

Here are 10 ideas for backyard play areas that encourage active play:

1. A Swimming Pool

An in-ground swimming pool is an expensive home improvement project, but it is one that will increase the value of your home and that can be enjoyed by every member of the family. Swimming, playing water polo and participating in a game of swimming pool volleyball are rarely thought of as exercise by children but are great ways to increase activity in a fun way.

Surround your pool with an attractive paving stone patio to create a slip-resistant area for entertaining, poolside activities or simply hanging out while you supervise the kids to make sure your swimming pool is a functional addition to your backyard.

2. A Trampoline

Trampolines are fun for kids of all ages, including those who are kids at heart. This fun, physical activity is sure to become a favorite pastime at your house if you install a trampoline in your backyard.

3. A Tennis Court

Tennis courts are another example of a more expensive home improvement project, but they are also another project that will increase the value of your home and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. With the proper planning, tennis courts can serve multiple purposes, including providing a surface for other sports, such as basketball.

Clay courts are an option, but you might want to consider an artificial grass court, which can make your sports court more flexible for other potential uses and for use as a play area when not being used for its main purpose.

4. A Badminton Court

You can install a permanent badminton court or simply buy a badminton kit with a net that can be hung and taken down as needed. Either way, you will be providing the kids (and adults) who come to your house with a fun option for outdoor play. If you are considering installing a permanent badminton court, you should consider synthetic turf for this sports courts as well. This safer playing surface allows you to use the area for multiple purposes. Additionally, you do not have to worry about a natural grass lawn being damaged or destroyed from lots of activity and traffic.

5. A Basketball Hoop

This is an old standard that can be found in almost any neighborhood, and it is a great way to get kids outdoors. Shooting hoops, playing HORSE or challenging your child to a little one-on-one is a great way to spend time with your kids and encourage physical activity.

6. A Soccer Goal

A regulation soccer field might be a bit too large for your backyard, but almost any yard can accommodate a single soccer goal for practice and at-home games. You can even purchase a small, inflatable goal if you have younger children or need an option that can be easily stored between uses. If you have an artificial grass lawn in your front yard or backyard, this is a great option for easily transforming your lawn into a temporary soccer field.

7. A Horseshoe Pit

Horseshoes may seem like a pastime best enjoyed with friends during a barbecue with an adult beverage in your hand, but kid-friendly horseshoe sets are readily available and make for a great family activity that can be enjoyed by all.

If you have older children or teenagers, they may be able to use conventional horseshoes thrown at a shorter distance; however, younger children will need lighter horseshoes to participate in this fun, family-friendly sport.

8. A Bocce Ball Court

There are specific dimensions for regulation bocce courts, but no one is going to call the United States Bocce Foundation to turn you in if your backyard court is smaller than 91 feet by 13 feet. This long, narrow court can be placed in a side yard, along a fence or in another out-of-the-way spot to keep your backyard both fun and functional.

This is another case where installing an artificial grass court is a good idea if you want to keep the area looking well maintained and to be able to use it for multiple purposes.

9. A Play Structure

Old-school swing sets still have their place, but modern play structures offer a wider variety of opportunities for physical activity and are so versatile that they can easily occupy your children for hours. Ladders, swings, slides, see saws, trapeze rings and even two-story playhouses are commonly included in today’s play structures, which makes this an ideal option for homeowners with smaller children who could benefit from spending a little more time playing outdoors.

10. Climbing Structures

There are lots of options to consider here, including monkey bars, rope ladders, jungle gyms and climbing walls. Climbing structures require physical activity but they are so cleverly disguised as fun and challenging play structures that your children will not give a second thought to whether or not they are exercising while they are increasing their upper body strength and burning calories.

Your Turn…

What have you added to your backyard play area to encourage active play?