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One of the biggest challenges we faced as townhouse dwellers was making the backyard a fun playspace for our daughter. We have a decent sized backyard for a townhouse but with a space of eleven feet by thirty feet, we needed to be creative with making our outdoor area an enjoyable space for the whole family.

The beauty of a small space is that you can’t rely on the big swing set or playhouse to make the yard “child friendly”. We were forced to get creative with our outside play space. Here’s a few things we’ve incorporated into our backyard to make it an appealing and inspiring place.

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Creative playspaces for small backyards. How we designed our townhouse yard to be a dynamic play space for our children.

The Mud Pie Kitchen

As you all know, I finally created the mud pie kitchen that I had been dreaming about for months.

Playspaces for small backyards - a mud pie kitchen.

The Balance Beam

My husband made this great little six foot long balance beam for my daughter. She loves balancing on it and flicking the doorstops with her feet (they are mounted halfway across the beam).

Playspaces for small backyards - a balance beam.

The Play Garden

Our daughter has her own “garden” to play in. It’s simply a planter with a few plants, rocks, toy people and lizards. It’s a great little space for a child to use their imagination.

Playspaces for small backyards - a play (fairy) garden.

The Easel

The great outdoors is the perfect place to be inspired and to create. We have a double sided easel in our backyard. My daughter usually draws on the chalkboard side. We placed the easel under the patio overhang so that the drawing implements could left outside without being damaged.

Playspaces for small backyards - an easel.

A Basket of Books

We also leave a basket of nature books outside year round. These too are kept under the patio overhang. We rotate the books seasonally and my daughter can often be seen curled up in a chair, reading one of her books.

Play spaces for small backyards - books and art supplies readily available.

A Water Table

Water play is such a great part of playing outside. Every day we fill a large Rubbermaid bin with water and add various elements to make it interesting (i.e. boats and waterwheels; bubbles, cloths and dishes; coloured ice cubes; coloured glass pebbles and toy geckos, etc.).

Playspaces for small backyards - a portable water table.


I love this set of blocks. They were a great find at a thrift store (the whole set for $14)! My daughter has made chairs, tables, a stage, an airplane, a desk and beds out of her blocks.

Playspaces for small backyards - building blocks.

Movable Pieces

Our backyard is full of things that my daughter can maneuver and utilize in her play. Pine cones, rocks, sticks, shells and dirt are abundant and are the cornerstone to many outdoor play activities.


This year we took a break from gardening and left the plot of dirt for my daughter to explore. It’s been an amazing space full of ants, spiders, beetles, centipedes and worms. We also have magnifying glasses and clear plastic containers to encourage scientific exploration.

Every backyard needs a big pile of dirt to muck around in.

Functional “Tools”

We make sure that there are various “tools” so that my daughter can help maintain her outdoor play space; a child-sized shovel in the winter; a broom, watering cans, and gardening shovels for the summer, etc.).

Functional tools are essential to backyard and outdoor play.

A Container of Bubbles

Don’t forget the ultimate outdoor activity for children. Bubbles! We make sure the bubble container is always full (and available year-round).

Every backyard needs child-sized furniture and a bucket of bubble solution.


We have a variety of hardy, easy to care for plants in our yard. Most of the plants were selected by my four-year-old and much of their maintenance is done by her. She’s always eager to water the flowers (and pick the strawberries).

Plants and herbs are essential to every outdoor play space for children.

So there you have it… a great outdoor environment, with multiple playspaces, all within a small yard!


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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, and Deliberate Homeschooling. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

Jennifer Bly is the creator of Becoming a Deliberate Mom: A Reflective Parenting Workbook. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram for parenting updates and inspiration.

Every mom needs this parenting workbook! Buy once, use always!

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