Every home that has children should have a designated place outside for the them to play in. Providing an outdoor play area for children brings lots of rewards: the children love it, parents know the children are safe and happy, and the rest of the garden is (usually) left to grow without too much disturbance. You may find that if you create a nice area, all the kids in the neighborhood will be hanging out at your place, which may or may not be a good thing. It is usually quite easy to add at least a small play area to your landscaping plans.
For very small children, the area needs to be close to the house so the children can be closely supervised, but not feel too restrained. An area that is visible from a kitchen window is perfect. A lot of manmade toys like swings and slides are made for play areas. However, young kids are really good at coming up with their own games using nothing more than sticks, rocks, dirt, and other natural objects. A simple sand pit or box, with cover when not being used to keep the neighbor’s critters out, will keep small children busy and playing for hours. Add some simple elements like stones to the sandbox. (At a later time, you can make the sandbox into a raised bed.) Old logs make a good climbing frames and so can a small tree, especially if it has strong branches that are closer to the ground.
Older kids like their play areas to be a little more away from the house. However, it should still be a highly visible spot planned into the front yard design or backyard landscaping ideas. Older children still like to use their imaginations so don’t build the treehouse just yet. Start with the simple stuff, using some board nailed to a tree as steps or even a piece of knotted rope to help climb into the trees. The tree can then be anything. A house, plane, ship, or anything the imagination can come up with.
An area of grass can be a good addition for playing as it is soft enough to fall down on. If this idea doesn’t quite go with the rest of your landscaping, give bark chunks or chips a try as a cushion under play equipment.
An concrete patio or other slab will most always be one of the most used spots in the garden as the kids get older. This is where they will try out the rollerblades, learn to ride a bike, play jacks, play hopscotch, and practice a long list of other games. And who knows. They may even take up gardening if you give the kids a sunny spot of their very own.