In all of the years we’ve been in this house, I think I’ve only shown the side yard play area maybe once.
Ever since Robert and I hauled a trampoline into the corner of our fence for the kids a year and a half ago, we let it fall into a state of semi-disarray.
Play Area Side Yard Ideas
The kids’ area would sometimes get muddy, the trampoline pad started showing serious signs of wear, and the dead grass underneath wasn’t a good look.
I’ve seen so many cute backyard playgrounds with perfectly landscaped mulch, but the reality is that’s a laborious, somewhat pricey, and frustrating maintenance job with kids running around. Add in a canopy of trees raining debris everywhere, and it would just be a constant leaf clean-up battle.
So we added a little playscape decor to make this side yard play area more aesthetic and functional. See what a difference it made in the two before and after photos below just by making a few small changes?
If you have a similar kids’ space, I hope these play area side yard ideas help to spruce it up in a jiffy.
Related: 35 DIY Backyard Ideas on a Budget
1. Large Plants Under a Trampoline
Why In Ground Trampolines Are Sometimes a Bad Idea
I love the clean look of in-ground trampolines without the need of a bulky safety net, but our yard had several challenges working against it.
- Underground Obstructions – A waterline runs directly under this side of the yard, so digging was out of the question for us.
- Drainage Problems – Our side yard and backyard are just skirting the edge of a floodplain, so setting a trampoline into the ground where water is already at high risk to collect on top of red clay soil wasn’t ideal.
- Attracts Snakes – Since we live in an area populated with venomous-snakes, I didn’t love the idea of snakes potentially making an in ground trampoline their new home. Backyard trampoline pits can act as the perfect habitat for snakes, so if you live in a region where they’re present, take precautions.
Best Plants to Place Under Trampolines
These plants grow large and full, love shade or partial shade, and are low maintenance making them ideal to use at the base of trampolines to hide damaged grass underneath.
- Sweet Potato Vine
- Lily of the Valley Shrub
- Japanese Forest Grass
See what a difference a few planters of greenery made? Replacing the worn trampoline pad was a big help too.
2. Tree Stump Trampoline Ladder Step
I wish we had a big stump handy for the kids to use as a natural step in lieu of a trampoline ladder, but we haven’t been chopping any trees lately. (You could likely check Facebook Marketplace for anyone local selling or giving away old tree stumps.)
Instead, I found a cube table made of reclaimed teak root that did the job. But I think a tree stump would look WAY cooler (and be cheaper); think fairy garden vibes.
3. Tiki Torches to Keep Mosquitos Away
Definitely ONLY light Tiki torches a safe distance away from a trampoline and never when kids are left unsupervised, but it’s really helpful to keep the biting bugs away while the little ones have fun.
I love that we now have this pair of Tiki torches staked in the ground with these cast iron bases to make backyard cookouts extra enjoyable while the kids play in the side yard. Plus, they add a pretty glow.
4. Stepping Stones to Prevent Muddy Feet
Robert and I found these polyresin stepping stones that are great for staying cooler than real stone under little ones’ feet on a hot day. They come with stakes to anchor them into the ground so you never have to worry about them shifting.
Create a path with stepping stones for the kids in their play area from one structure to the next so they don’t have to traipse through the mud.
Bonus points: They’re perfect for playing “The Floor is Lava” and “Leapfrog”.
5. Kids’ Picnic Table
Our kids love having snacks or popsicles outside in the sunshine, so adding a little picnic table is a totally logical addition.
They’re always playing restaurant or painting “en plein air” (though they just call it art time outside), so now they have the perfect spot to do it.
An outdoor play area just feels complete with a picnic table.
6. Outdoor Playhouse
We got this playhouse for our 4 year-old for Christmas last year (but our 10 year-old still enjoys playing in it with her too). It has been the best for pretend play.
Our girls and their friends love opening the side window, cooking at the little play kitchen, and playing restaurant.
I found the topiaries by chance at a local nursery, filled the window boxes with some leftover faux hydrangea I had, and placed an old faux plant from IKEA on the picnic table for them.
7. Swing Set
We got this swing set over two years ago, and it has held up perfectly!
All of the Lifetime brand outdoor play sets seem very well made. Ours is one of the smaller backyard playsets while their bigger versions have climbing walls, forts, and obstacle courses, but the small outdoor playset is still a great size for age 3 to teen.
It’s even heavy duty enough to hold up to Robert and me sliding and swinging on it (yeah, that’s a sight to behold).
8. Trampoline Lights
Since the side yard doesn’t get a lot of light at night from our string lights on the other side of our backyard, we put up these outdoor trampoline lights that added just enough glow to make it feel magical.
We zip tied the lights along the top of the safety enclosure net as well as underneath the perimeter of the jumping mat frame so the kids could see the lights dancing underneath them as they jump. Attach the battery pack underneath the trampoline pad so that it’s a bit more protected from rain.
So now, thankfully, with just a few small additions, this side yard makes much more sense.
If you drive by our house and see me jumping on the trampoline, blaring 90s pop, and cranking up the party lights, let me have my moment. I have to teach these kids how it’s properly done, okay?
Side Yard Play Area Sources
- Trampoline Lights
- Swing Set
- Stepping Stones
- Rectangular Planter
- Picnic Table
- Teak Root Table
- Tiki Torches
- Cast Iron Tiki Torch Stand
Have you implemented any fun decor in your kids’ outdoor play space? Or maybe added some unique features to your side yard?
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