The Great Backyard

September brings a wave of excitement about all things fall. Kids are back in school, and pumpkin spice flavored everything begins lining the shelves of my favorite grocery store. But September’s temps usually feel nothing like fall. In fact, here in KC the weather typically still feels like summer because… well, it is! Take advantage of the warmth by enjoying your backyard in unexpected ways. Here are eight ways to utilize your backyard for outdoor awesomeness this September.


1. Create outdoor living spaces

One of the easiest ways to enjoy your backyard is by creating outdoor living spaces. Designated places to eat, read or relax beckon homeowners outside. September is a great time to start investing in outdoor furniture to make those spaces comfortable. By this time of year, most retailers are trying to move summer inventory out to create space for cold weather products, so you can find some sweet deals on patio sets, tables, umbrellas and outdoor rugs. Having comfortable outdoor living spaces makes your own yard inviting. But seating doesn’t have to be expensive. Hammocks, foldout chairs or even tree stumps can make for unique places to park yourself!


2. Lighting is everything

Daytime isn’t the only time to get outside. Good lighting can make nighttime the right time to enjoy your backyard. A simple strand of cafe lights mounted above a deck, patio or within a tree can dress up any space. Solar lights create an ambient and welcoming glow, guiding feet and protecting landscaping from trampling. And motion sensor lights not only ward away unwelcome visitors, but also can provide just enough light when using your yard after the sun goes down.


3. Build a fairy garden or toad abode

Kids of all ages love creating spaces for little creatures (imaginary or otherwise!). Knots and holes in trees lend themselves to becoming perfect little pixie palaces. Or if your crew would rather engineer some little critter real estate of their own, terra cotta pots fit the bill. A simple Google search offers tons of pictures for inspiration. Just make sure to do some research about which plants and mosses will thrive in your own yard first (a local nursery can make suggestions) and don’t forget to drill holes in the bottom of any container for proper drainage. Paths can be paved with mosaic tile or aquarium stones, and doll furniture makes perfect miniature furnishings.


4. Bring the indoors out

Imaginative play can seem so much more inspired in the great outdoors, so move that toy kitchen outside and let mud pies fill the shelves. After all, most plastic structures simply can be hosed off when the kids have had their fill of fun.


5. Jumbo-size game night

If spray paint is the medium and grass the canvas, the sky’s the limit on what games can be played in the yard! Make a larger-than-life version of Twister by painting multicolor circles on the lawn. (Simply use a paper plate as a guide for the circles. Once you paint around the outline of the plate, lift the plate and fill in the remainder of the shape.) Or spray a checker- or chessboard grid; sets of red and black disposable plates make perfect larger-than-life checkers! One or two mowings later, you’ll have a clean slate to work with again. The yard’s not the only source of game play inspiration. Leftover 2x4s can be cut to produce your own giant version of Jenga. If you happen to find yourself low on inspiration or time, retailers like Bass Pro Shops offer premade yard games like croquet, badminton or jumbo lawn Connect Four.


6. Build a play set

Maybe you’re saving up to buy a play set, but in the mean time, there is good news! If you have a raised deck or mature trees on your lot, you already have the frame for a great play space! Install a slide to your deck space for rounds of endless fun (running a hose on a hot day turns it into an instant slip and slide!). Trees not only provide the perfect structure for treehouses and swings but make excellent posts to anchor hammocks, slacklines, a simple zip line or homemade ninja warrior obstacle courses. My boys’ personal favorite is the Swurfer, which looks much like a surfboard suspended by rope and can be used by several children altogether or an adult as a stand-on or sit-on toy.


7. Cruise out back to a drive-in

Nothing caps off a week like family movie night, and making your own outdoor movie theater has never been easier! PVC pipes and a white bed sheet make an easy DIY movie screen (provided you already have a projector). Better yet, hire a local service like Movies2U to do the legwork for you. Looking for the full movie theater experience? Lie back in the lap of luxury by giving those inflatable kids pools a second purpose: outdoor lounge stations. Simply inflate with air and fill each pool with blankets and pillows! The walls of the pool provide back support while protecting you and your clothing from itchy grass and creepy crawlers!


8. Camp out

Why trek out into the great unknown when you can experience all the perks of camping without leaving home? Pitch a tent in the backyard or simply blow up an air mattress on the deck, then make dinner over the fire pit (who doesn’t love tin foil dinners and s’mores?). Do some research on constellations. My favorite resource is H.A. Rey’s Finding the Constellations–that’s right, the Curious George author wrote a science book! Another option is downloading an app to navigate the skies and find the Big Dipper or the North Star.


----------------Did You Know?-------------------

The average American spends more than 70 hours a year on lawn and garden care. It only makes sense to intentionally use those spaces to get the full benefit of that hard work!



Lauren Greenlee can be found camping and apple picking this September with her three boys. She writes and resides in Olathe.

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