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Small backyard fun, toddler style

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

Outdoor fun for tots

The backyard is often the place where kids have some of their earliest outdoor memories, playing on a jungle gym or running through the grass. Unless, of course, you have a small backyard. But don't worry! Limited space doesn't mean your toddler or preschooler can't have fun in your backyard. Check out our tips for making the most of your small backyard.

Limited space shouldn't be a barrier to a fun backyard for your toddler or preschooler. You just have to be creative with what you have. Check out our ideas to create a fun backyard for your little one!

1Jumping fun

Outdoor fun for tots

Compared to the cost when we were kids, trampolines are surprisingly affordable. They are also much safer, with netting that surrounds them to keep your little one on the trampoline. Preschoolers have endless energy and a great way for them to get it out is to jump, jump, jump. Consider placing a trampoline in the corner of your yard. While space is definitely an issue in a small backyard, if you can make it work, try to purchase a trampoline that is large enough to last for several years and that has room below it (see our next tip). However, if space is at that much of a premium, you can most definitely find a "my first" style trampoline that is more compact. Just remember that if you do choose a larger trampoline, the manufacturer probably doesn't specify it for preschoolers. Constant supervision and immediate proximity are an absolute must.

2Double up with sand


A universal truth is that almost all kids love to play in the sandbox. Even most little ones who are unsure of the texture eventually come to love digging and playing in sand. Putting a sandbox in your backyard is a great way to increase its value to your toddler or preschooler. Because you're dealing with limited space, double up! You can dig out the area under the trampoline and build your own sandbox. It's wasted space otherwise -- grass will die because of the lack of sunlight. You can use the flexible planter border to separate the sand area from the rest of your yard. If more than one child will be playing in your yard, remember that it's either/or -- either the sandbox or the trampoline, not both at once!

If placing a sandbox under a trampoline isn't an option, you can always build your own -- this gives you control over the size. For those who are even a little handy, check out thesestep-by-step sandbox building instructions and give it a go. When it comes to sand, it's not all created equal. At a minimum, buy play sand.

3Swing from the rafters - literally

Outdoor fun for tots

Who wouldn't love a giant swing set? Unfortunately, when space it as a premium, large playscapes aren't an option. However, most toddlers love to swing, so consider picking up a portable-style swing, such as the Little Tikes Snug Secure Swing. The manufacturer specifies that it is intended for kids between nine months and four years of age. It's reasonably priced and can be hung from a secure place. Just remember to always test out your hanging structure to be absolutely certain that the swing, plus your child's weight, won't cause it to break. Avoiding an injury is your number one priority.

4It's the small things

Outdoor fun for tots

Young kids don't need giant play structures in your backyard to keep them happy. They love water, so when you're up for careful supervision, you can fill up a small kiddie pool and let them splash away. The pools either deflate or fold up, making them easy to store and space-conscious. Simple push toys are also winners for toddlers. Lawnmowers that blow bubbles, Cozy Coupes that they can start by pushing and eventually learn to ride in and even an old-school corn popper are all great outdoor toys.


You don't need a huge backyard to have fun with your toddler or preschooler this summer. Survey your space and get creative. Remember, despite what we thought for several years, bigger doesn't always mean better!

More outdoor decor ideas

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