How to Create a Kid-friendly Backyard Without Grass


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When you imagine a kid-friendly backyard, you probably imagine a large lawn.

Perhaps there’s a swing ball set, a slide or football net too.

In reality, lots of homes don’t have a grassy area in their backyard and wonder how they can create a kid-friendly backyard without grass.

Kid-friendly backyard without grass
Kid-friendly backyard without grass ideas

Well, in this article, we’re going to give you some amazing ideas to make your backyard as kid-friendly as possible without a blade of grass in sight!

For anyone wanting a quick answer, all you need for a kid-friendly backyard is a portion of land that has a soft landing, an area of shade, and a fun activity or two!

Here are some highlights of what we’ll cover:

  • Incorporating a swing set or play frame
  • Encouraging nature with bird baths or bird feeders
  • Growing something
  • Having a gazebo or canopy for shade
  • Laying a soft surface like artificial turf or rubber mulch.

Let’s talk about this in more detail:

Ideas for a kid-friendly backyard without grass

1 – Add a soft surface

Grass isn’t necessary for a backyard to be kid-friendly, but you probably do need a soft surface for where children play.

Many people choose wood mulch as it’s inexpensive (you’ll pay a small number of dollars for a bag at a home improvement depot).

It’s also good for landscaping elsewhere in the garden.

However, for kids, rubber mulch is arguably better. This is because it’s maintenance-free, springy, and soft.

Kid friendly rubber surface backyard idea
Kid-friendly rubber surface backyard

Rubber mulch is made from recycled tires and so it’s a good way of recycling something that might have otherwise gone to a landfill.

What’s more, it can last a decade!

In terms of initial investment, rubber mulch will cost more. However, since it lasts around ten years, it won’t need replacing like wood mulch.

One downside is that it isn’t as natural-looking, which puts some people off.

2 – Have a tree swing or zip line

If you have lots of big trees, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood with a tree swing or zip line.

Zip lines for children
Ziplines for kids

For a zip line between two trees, you’re looking at $100 to $200, which is a great investment considering how much use it’ll get.

A tree swing is a lot cheaper, and the materials can be found easily at a hardware store.

3 – Create an outdoor art area for playing with chalk

If your backyard is mainly paving or cement, all you need for kid-friendly fun is a pack of outdoor chalk and let them take the lead.

If you don’t want to do this on the ground, why not create a chalkboard on a wall or fence. Chalkboard paint is pretty cheap!

4 – Watch nature enjoy baths and feeders

Nice looking fountain
Cool bird fountain

If your kids are into nature, get them to help set up a bird bath or bird feeder in your backyard.

If you really want to make your yard a haven for animals, you could have:

  • bird houses
  • bat houses
  • squirrel feeders
  • hedgehog tunnels
  • bug hotels
  • and more!

What’s more, many of these can be homemade or sourced cheaply for good old-fashioned fun that won’t break the bank.

5 – Invest in a play structure

If you have space, a play structure or swing set is a good addition to any yard.

If the surface is hard (e.g., concrete), you can add rubber matting underneath.

Choose the outdoor playset for older children tips
Choose the outdoor playset for older children

Here are some ideas for play structures:

  • A climbing wall (for areas with limited space)
  • A fort
  • A swing set
  • A treehouse
  • Monkey bars
  • A seesaw
  • A slide
  • A geometric dome

Prices of these vary so it’s worth creating a budget and shopping around.

6 – Create some shade

If you live somewhere that gets hot and sunny summers, it’s a good idea to invest in creating shade.

Whether this is a canopy, pergola, or gazebo doesn’t matter – as long as the kids have somewhere shady to play, eat, or cool down.

Waterproof pergola roof ideas guide
Waterproof pergola roof ideas

Pre-built pergolas are probably going to cost upwards of $1k.

However, if you have the skills, you can build one for less.

If you don’t want a huge outlay, a pop-up tent or a canopy can add shade too. These are also good for beach days!

7 – Add some playground tiles

If you’ve ever been to a playground with rubber-looking tiles, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Playground tiles are available online and can be laid over concrete or paving to create a safer (and softer) ground for children to play on.

If you like the idea of rubber mulch but don’t want the mess of it spreading everywhere, playground tiles will do the same job.

These are designed to reduce injury if children fall. They can be used under a swing set or climbing frame, or in any location in your backyard.

You’ll probably pay a bit more for these than you would for rubber mulch, but they will last forever and come in lots of different colors.

8 – Get a sandbox

Kids from young to old love digging in sand!

A sandbox is a great investment for anyone with kids over one-year-old.

A small girl is having fun in a sandbox
A girl is having fun in a sandbox

You can buy a ready-made sandbox or make one yourself.

It’s a good idea to get or make a lid too to avoid animals using it as a litter tray when it’s not in use.

If you’re worried about sandbox hygiene, there are ways to clean sandbox sand!

9 – Grow something

Almost all kids enjoy seeing things grow!

Whether you choose flowers, vegetables, or fruit, growing a garden is a great learning experience and teaches kids all sorts of skills.

It also comes with the reward of a finished product too!

If you don’t have any soil, a raised bed will be a great start. Alternatively, you can grow flowers, strawberries, or herbs in pots!

10 – Create a fishpond

This one is a little more work and needs supervision, but a fishpond can be a great way for kids to enjoy the garden.

Garden pond design paths and tunnels
Garden pond design

If you can’t dig a fishpond, why not invest in a water feature for a little fascination and interest.

11 – Get an inflatable

As long as you’ve got somewhere to store it, an inflatable waterslide or bounce house is a great investment for summer!

Kids will have fun while burning off energy.

Most home bounce houses require a large air pump, but the investment is worth it if your kids love bouncing but you don’t want a permanent fixture like a trampoline.

Both bounce houses and inflatable water slides will likely set you back a few hundred dollars – but the fun is endless!

12 – Artificial grass

One option for a kid-friendly backyard without grass is to invest in artificial turf.

If you don’t want or can’t have grass, this is a great idea. These days, artificial grass looks very realistic too – and you never have to cut it!

Artificial grass for backyard kid friendly
Artificial grass for backyard

However, it is very expensive – even if you don’t need a lot.

Some people choose artificial grass for putting under a swing set or climbing frame as a soft landing.

13 – Install a splash pad

If you live somewhere really hot, a splash pad is a great idea!

Until very recently, you probably only saw these in public playgrounds. However, it is possible to install one in your own backyard.

A splash pad is a really fun area for water lovers!

However, they’re very expensive so it’s not something you’ll install somewhere if you plan to move home!

14 – Get a pool

A pool provides an enormous amount of fun, and you don’t need any grass for it!

Whether you choose an in-ground pool, an above-ground pool, or even an inflatable pool, it doesn’t matter! The fun to be had is the same.

Installation backyard semi-inground pool process
Installation of backyard semi-inground pool

A swimming pool is a great investment.

Expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an in-ground pool while you can get an inflatable pool for as low as $20.

There is really something for every budget where pools are concerned.

15 – Create a mud kitchen

If your backyard has lots of soil and you don’t mind a bit of mess, why not create a mud kitchen for your kids to enjoy?

This can be as simple as giving them old pots and pans or as elaborate as a readymade mud kitchen that is available online.

There’s something that kids just love about mud!

Final thoughts on how to create a kid-friendly backyard without grass

Who knew there were so many kid-friendly backyard ideas where you didn’t need grass!

These fifteen ideas cover a wide range of options for kid-friendly fun – and there’s something for all budgets here too.

So, whether you like watching wildlife, digging in sand, or splashing in water, you’ve got lots of choice without a blade of grass needed!

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