You have kids and pets - but you also have a taste. You try desperately hard to maintain order and style in your home, keeping toys confined to bins and baskets so it doesn’t look like your world is run by your little ones. For the most part, it works; your home is attractive and functional, keeping everyone happy.
However, your exterior spaces might be a different story. Pets can ravage your backyard, transforming what would be a delightful entertaining space into a stinky, pest-ridden dump. Kids do the same, digging indiscriminate holes, building forts from landscaping elements and trampling on your precious plants. If you are into outdoor entertaining, you need to put together a gorgeous exterior space that will stay that way even when exposed to kids and pets.
Fortunately, it is possible. Read on for tips and tricks for designing a kid- and pet-friendly outdoor area that looks feels and smells wonderful nearly year-round.
There is no getting around it - you need a lawn. Lawns provide the perfect safe play area for kids and pets, and they soak up typical outdoor messes without much complaint. Plus, lawns look beautiful, adding a cool, lush green space to your yard.
When you put in your lawn, you should be careful to level the landscape to eradicate any uneven surfaces, where pets might be tempted to dig or children could trip and fall. It is also important that you schedule proper maintenance for your lawn, to include weekly mowing in spring and summer as well as aerating and fertilizing throughout the year. You might also want to spray your lawn for flea and tick control because irritating critters like these can make grass their home.
Some families find that synthetic grass lawns are softer and easier to care for than a real grass lawn. However, if you can’t afford a top-tier quality astroturf, you, your pets, your kids and your guests will be able to see and feel the difference between the fake stuff and real grass. If you can invest in a high-quality synthetic option, you can consider it; otherwise, you should opt for a real lawn.
It should be obvious that you should avoid landscaping with plants that are poisonous to people or animals. It’s inevitable: Your kids and your pets will be tempted to put anything in your yard in their mouths, and an emergency trip to the hospital isn’t worth how good toxic flora might look in your outdoor space.
You should also stay away from plants that are particularly delicate. Kids and pets will climb over your plant life, pull on it and otherwise put its existence to the test, so you want to landscape with only the hardiest of plants. It’s a bonus if the plants are intriguing to kids and keep pests away. Some plants that fit this bill include:
- Lamb’s Ears
While you watch your kids and pets play outside, you should have a covered patio or a similar shady spot to lounge. Ideally, this space can function as an outdoor entertaining space, rain or shine, and therefore has comfortable chairs and tables for guests. You should also have hardscaped paths around your yard, so kids, pets and guests don’t stomp too frequently on the same patch of lawn, killing the grass.
No matter what kind of pet you have, you should construct an outdoor sanctuary specifically for it. Dogs, tortoises, rabbits, cats, and other pets can get left outside, and the should have a small shelter - with water and food as well as a warm, comfortable bed - they can use while they wait to be let back in. You might try to design your pet house to mimic the style of your larger home, or you might try to blend the shelter into the landscape of your yard.
Finally, one way to keep kids entertained - but not messy or destructive - is to give them constructive projects. In your backyard, you can encourage your kids to care for certain areas, like a vegetable garden or a flower box. You might also get your kids involved in creating outdoor artwork that you can use to decorate your patio.
If you design your backyard with your kids and pets in mind, they will be able to live and play without making an unpleasant mess. By making the right choices in play areas, plant life and hardscaping - and by guiding your children and pets toward safe, beneficial outdoor activities - all of you can enjoy your outdoor space.