by Mike Lanza
I recently wrote about our efforts to make our front yard into a neighborhood hangout. Well, we have a back yard, too. We live in Northern California, a land of high, unneighborly fences. Beyond our fences on all three sides are four homes with seven kids my kids’ ages.
Unlike many parents these days, I have no desire to invest in expensive play equipment, then have it used only by my children and the kids they invite over for playdates. So, my number one goal for the features I installed in my back yard was enticing neighbor kids to freely go around, over, or through our back fence to use them on a regular basis. That means they have to be very attractive, and also that means that I need to reach out frequently to those neighbors with whom we share fences to establish and maintain good relations.
Indeed, we have three very attractive features in our back yard:
- 1. playhouse: Our log cabin-design playhouse has two stories and lots of extras. Inside, the first story has all whiteboard walls. The second story, with a pitched roof like a house attic, can sleep at least five kids. I put two super-comfortable memory foam mattresses in there that, unfolded, come together to make a bed larger than a king-sized bed. I’m sure our kids will have amazing sleepovers there in a few years when they get older. The second story is also the starting point for two slides – a straight slide coming out of the front, and a turbo (corkscrew) slide coming out the back. Outside, the playhouse has a front porch with a porch swing and rock climbing toe holds to climb up the front and back.
- 2. swing set: Our swing set is very sturdy due to its heavy-duty A-frame design, and has places for three different swings. We swap in and out four different swings there: a conventional swing, a glider, a baby swing, and a horizontal tire swing.
- Our back yard is indeed a huge hit with visitors and with the neighbor kids I’m keenly interested in attracting. Pretty much every time kids come back there they have a fabulous time. We’ve had kids’ parties there, including two birthday parties, that are the best kids’ parties I’ve ever attended in terms of the amount of fun kids had. Regarding neighbor kids, our back yard is the most sought-after destination in our block. They sometimes come by spontaneously and ask to play back there. Of the four adjoining neighbors, I’ve convinced one to agree to a gate in our fence thus far. Also, three kids from two other adjoining houses climb over the fence to play there on occasion, thanks in part to a great ladder we’ve placed on our side of the fence.