Outdoor Fun for All Ages: Building the Ultimate Kid-Friendly Deck
If you’re looking for a way to get your kids off their screens and spend some time outside, your backyard is the perfect asset to entertain restless youngsters. Having a deck provides a safe, fun space for them to socialize and spend time outdoors. Though it’s not terribly difficult to lure your adult friends outside — as long as there’s a grill and cooler within arm's reach — kids aren’t always as easily engaged. That’s why a kid-friendly deck is the perfect way to make sure your family and friends of all ages can safely enjoy your outdoor space.
Whether you’re just beginning construction on a deck or your backyard already boasts one, let’s explore some of the ways you can turn it into a kid-friendly haven, from the essential safety measures to put in place to some must-have additions for every age. With a deck space designed with both fun and safety in mind, you'll never worry about your kids playing outside all day again.
Safety First: Kid-Proofing Your Deck
Before the fun can begin, you need to make sure your deck is safe and sound for all your guests — no matter their age or height. As you assess your deck, make sure you’ve installed and secured these important safety features before inviting any young families on. That way, you can rest assured everyone has a safe, fun time. Here are the three safety features to consider for a kid-friendly deck:
1. Adding railings and gates to keep kids safe
When kids are having fun, it often involves a lot of excitement and running around. If you own a deck you'll need strong safety precautions in place to avoid injuries.
During deck installation, make sure you secure your guard railings to withstand physical impact, weather, and other wear and tear so you, your kids, and your guests don’t take a tumble. More importantly, measure your railing heights properly to discourage your kids from trying to climb over or inadvertently hurting themselves, especially if your deck is more than 30" above the ground. Additionally, ensure your guardrails are securely fastened and balusters correctly spaced so no one gets stuck trying to peek through.
Another essential safety addition is a gate for your deck. Particularly helpful for smaller children and pets, your gate helps you move to and from your deck while keeping everyone else secured inbounds and preventing them from wandering off. Pre-built aluminum gates can be easily installed and make for a simple, elegant entrance and exit option that sets some safe boundaries for your deck.
2. Light up the landscape
If your guests, regardless of age, can’t see your deck when walking around — particularly in the evening — that creates a ton of safety risks. Installing the right lighting for your space will provide a safe hangout environment for your guests and give kids a chance to relax comfortably as the sun starts to set — all without forgoing design.
Whether you opt for the warm glow of flickering lanterns or fuss-free, built-in lighting along your railings and posts, there are plenty of deck illumination options to choose from that will capture the vibe of your space while increasing visibility. This gives you a balance of practicality and elegance so you can keep an eye on whoever's running around (and they can keep an eye on where they're running to) no matter the time of day.
3. Smooth out a safe surface for bare feet
Kids love running around barefoot — especially outdoors. As a homeowner, it's important to prepare your outdoor space for those little toes exploring the backyard. Aside from ensuring nails and fasteners are smooth with the surface of your deck (and not waiting to poke your unsuspecting guests in the foot), be sure to pressure wash and clean your deck to remove any dangers.
A better option for keeping feet of all ages free of pesky wood splinters is investing in composite decking material when building your kid-friendly deck. Composite decking is a smooth, aesthetic decking option that doesn't rot, warp, or splinter — meaning it can take a pounding from kids running around on it with minimal signs of wear over time. Plus, the surface is much easier to wash, helping keep dirt and debris off bare feet.
Party Time: Making Your Deck Kid-Friendly
Now that you’ve done your due diligence and made your deck safe for guests of all ages, let’s dive into what you can do to make it the kind of place where your kids will love to hang out. Here are eight kid-friendly deck and patio ideas you can add to your outdoor space to make it welcoming for all.
1. Make every day a game day
A deck is a great place to incorporate a few fun ideas to hold your kids' attention. Go beyond traditional staples like backyard playgrounds to provide unique fun for your kids (or your own inner child):
- Play a big game of oversized chess on your patio.
- Draw up some giant chalk tic-tac-toe.
- Go even bigger with a game of giant Jenga.
2. Get in some practice for the sports seasons
Put your deck and patio to work with some sporty activities to get the kids ready for rec leagues, school tryouts, and more:
- Put the ball in your court with your own patio basketball hoop.
- Set up some soccer nets and kick the ball around underneath the deck.
- Practice your pitching skills with this pitching net — just make sure to aim away from the windows.
3. Allow ample space for deck-top games
Your deck can rival any lawn or patio as a great space for games, providing tons of fun for kids of all ages, even up to the more competitive teens (and adults):
- Have a go at corn hole — with custom designs from Trex.
- Create some light competition with fun, simple games like hook-and-ring or tic-tac-toe.
- Start up some tabletop tournaments with board game classics from Candyland to Monopoly
4. Make a splash with some water features
Nothing beats a pool, whether it's above or in-ground — but if that’s not in your budget, your options for staying cool in the summer don’t end there. Keep things chill with some splash-able water activities:
- Install your own splash pad for the younger kids who might not be swim-ready.
- Add a water table for the exploratory toddler.
- Open your very own slip 'n' slide water race track.
- Turn your hose into the perfect outdoor toy with some simple sprinkler attachments.
- Add in a sandbox with a style that matches your deck to give your kids a play zone that's still easy on the eyes.
5. Unearth the budding scientist
Let your kids explore their scientific side with some tiny ecosystems to teach them a thing or two about natural habitats:
- Build a fountain with plants, lily pads, and more to attract some amphibian life.
- Install a pond and wow your kids with everything from little guppies to giant koi (with the proper barrier around it to prevent anyone from falling in, of course).
6. Set up some grown-up-free hangout spots
Decks and patios naturally bring adults together around fires, grills, and general camaraderie — but that same hangout vibe is just as achievable for your kids. Give your kids more room for a good old-fashioned hang away from the grown-ups:
- Hang a cozy hammock for a reading nook under your multi-story deck.
- For yards with a bit more space, build your kids the treehouse or playhouse of their dreams to create the ultimate hang-out zone.
7. Nurture creativity with a quiet space
Your deck and outdoor space are tailor-made for letting your children unleash their inner hobbyists. Try a few of these additions to get the gears turning early:
- Set up an art area to inspire creativity for all ages.
- Give them their first garden set to foster that green thumb early. Ready to upgrade? Try building your own here.
8. Create the perfect scene for summer evenings
The memories your family creates on warm summer nights will be unforgettable for your kids (and, likely, for you). Help make them a reality with some of these additions:
- Blow up an inflatable screen to project on for an outdoor movie night under the stars.
- Set up a collapsible tent for impromptu backyard camping on cozy nights out.
- Create an open space for family night games and ensure there's lighting available.
Get started on your kid-friendly deck today
With just a few safety precautions and some affordable additions, your deck and outdoor space can put the “fun” in “functional” in no time. If you're feeling inspired to dive into the deck-building process ASAP, explore this handy DIY guide to start putting your biggest family-friendly outdoor plans into action.
For more safety guidance, check out these resources for deck inspection as well as some tips on maintenance and repair so you can ensure your space is secure and focus your attention on making your deck the gathering place of your — and your kids' — dreams.