Everyone likes to get outdoors on a warm, spring day to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. If you have kids, outdoor activities are a big part of daily life, so why not create a family-friendly landscape design?
This way, everyone can spend time outdoors year-round. Take a look at five family-friendly landscaping ideas in northern NJ that can turn your back yard into a magical outdoor space.
Though most children love to spend time outdoors, not all outdoor landscapes are suitable for children. Whatever landscape design you choose, it’s important to make sure it’s a family-friendly environment and a safe space for your kids to play and explore their surroundings.
1. Outdoor Features
Whether your back yard is large or small, creating a fun, inviting area for playful activities will encourage your children to spend more time outdoors. Depending on the layout of your yard and the age of your kids, think about landscaping ideas in northern NJ with fun, safe activities and special outdoor features you can add to your back yard.
Many professional landscape companies can provide special design/build features that will turn your back yard into an amazing family-friendly space. Just think about the endless hours of family fun and activities you can enjoy with these outdoor landscaping ideas in northern NJ that you can add to your back yard:
- Swimming pool with kid-friendly water slides or waterfalls
- Spa or hot tub
- Outdoor pond
- Outdoor fireplace or fire fit
- Outdoor kitchen
Any of these great outdoor features will provide years of enjoyment for your family. Your kids will love having friends over for a swim and hot dogs on the grill. You’ll love inviting family and friends over for a backyard barbeque or quiet dinner on the patio. Outdoor design/build features will encourage numerous family-friendly activities for all kinds of special occasions and events. Talk to your landscape contractor about the possibilities of adding great outdoor features to your back yard. If you have a large yard, consider several features. If you have limited space, choose one that offers the most enjoyable activities for your family.
2. Play Area
With some planning and design help from a professional landscape contractor, you can create a special play area in your back yard that your kids will love. Choose a backyard location that’s easy to monitor, level with good drainage and sunny at least part of the day. Create a soft, grassy area that’s easy to maintain and turn it into a play area with activities that your kids will enjoy. Depending on available space and the age of your kids, here are some fun landscaping ideas in northern NJ for your play area:
- Mini golf or putting Green
- Tumble mats
- Sandbox with outdoor toys
- Lawn Games (horseshoes, badminton, lawn bowling, croquet)
- Relaxing hammocks
You don’t need a huge area in the yard to create a special play area for your kids. If you design a special area that’s dedicated to your kids’ outdoor fun, even if it’s small, they will love it! Remember to keep the play area free from hard surfaces like stone or concrete pathways, stepping stones, rocks, gravel and pebbles that can cause injuries, especially to small children if they fall. Design the play area in a location that’s easy to monitor from the house so you can keep an eye on the kids while they’re having fun. Your landscape contractor can help you choose a good location and design a special landscape space for years of family fun.
3. Organic Lawn Care
When you want a family-friendly back yard, it’s important to use landscaping ideas in northern NJ that provide a safe, chemical-free environment for kids and pets. Many landscape companies offer organic lawn care that focuses on chemical-free products made with natural, organic ingredients. To maintain a year-round, healthy, green landscape for your Bergen County home, you need to use fertilizers, plant food and pesticides. Without these products, your landscape can be quickly taken over by weeds, plant diseases and insects, especially in warm weather when you want to spend time outdoors. Organic lawn products will prevent landscape problems without posing any risks to children and pets.
Organic lawn care promotes a healthy lawn without the use of chemicals. Since insects and plant diseases like to invade unhealthy, malnourished lawns, a healthy lawn is essential to control diseases and pesky insects that can ruin your outdoor activities. Your grass must be thick and green with strong, deep roots. Unlike a traditional lawn that uses pesticides to defend itself against common lawn diseases and insects, an organic lawn creates its own natural ecosystem and defenses with the use of green lawn care.
Like any lawn, an organic lawn requires regular care and maintenance. Organic maintenance usually falls into two categories: Regular lawn maintenance and seasonal lawn maintenance. Regular green lawn care maintenance includes routine weekly or bi-weekly procedures like mowing, watering and fertilizing. An organic lawn is typically mowed at a higher height to promote photosynthesis which feeds the roots and helps shade the soil. It’s also usually watered deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth for nutrients. Talk to your landscape contractor or a professional landscape company about using safe, natural organic lawn care for your landscaping ideas in northern NJ.
4. Child-Friendly Plants
When you have kids, especially young ones, it’s important to design your backyard landscape with low-growing shrubs and plants that encourage outdoor activities, and plants that are safe and non-toxic if ingested.
Planting tall, dense trees, shrubs and plants can block your field of view, which is not what you want when you’re watching your children play in the back yard. To avoid losing your kids behind the shrubs and plants, choose low-growing plants or those with more open growth patterns. Ground covers, for example, will add interesting color and dimension to your yard without creating visual barriers. Ground covers, like verbena, sedum and dianthus will add shades of bold, beautiful colors and blossoms to the yard, while staying low to the ground. They only grow to a height of 1 to 2 feet.
For family-friendly and kid-friendly landscaping ideas in northern NJ, it’s important to choose non-toxic plants that won’t harm children and pets. Many common plants and flowers, like daffodils (Narcissus species), as well as weeds and vines are toxic and can result in illness or death if ingested:
- Bittersweet Nightshade – A common weed that’s especially dangerous to have around kids, since they are attracted to its brightly colored purple berries.
- Foxglove – Produces a lovely white row of blooms, but it’s one of the most toxic plants for your landscape. Don’t plant them if small children will be spending time in the yard.
- Mountain Laurel – Common to many northern NJ landscapes, mountain laurel, as well as rhododendrons and azaleas (part of the heath family) are extremely toxic.
- Yew Shrubs – Because of easy to grow, shade-tolerant features, yew shrubs are found in many landscapes. They have bright red berries that contain toxic seeds.
- Easter Lily – These beautiful plants are used in landscaping ideas in northern NJ, as well as in container gardens and potted plants. They are toxic to humans and deadly to cats!
- Lantana – Lantana produces colorful orange flower clusters, and it’s a common landscape plant in cold climates. It’s a hardy plant that grows quickly, but it can be fatal if eaten.
For family-friendly landscaping ideas in northern NJ areas, discuss the importance of using non-toxic plants with a qualified, professional landscape company. If you have small children and pets, don’t risk the hazards of using toxic shrubs and plants in your landscape.
5. Specialty Gardens
Creating a backyard garden that attracts colorful birds, butterflies and wildlife can add beauty and endless hours of enjoyment for your family. Specialty gardens are a great way to teach kids about nature and provide a hands-on approach to learning.
What could be more beautiful than colorful butterflies fluttering around in your garden? They’re not only beautiful to watch, they’re also beneficial to the environment. By growing specific plants that caterpillars like to eat, and that adult butterflies feed on, you can create a wonderful butterfly garden that protects the butterflies and promotes a healthy, green landscape. You’ll need a backyard that gets 5 to 6 hours of sun each day, an area that’s sheltered from wind and plenty of water. Butterflies need sun to warm themselves, but they won’t feed in windy areas because it’s difficult to stay on the plants. They also need water, so add a beautiful fountain to your garden. Never use pesticides in your butterfly garden! Butterflies require a pesticide-free environment to thrive.
Wildlife gardens use plants and flowers, ponds, birdhouses and natural surroundings to attract small animals and insects. A wildlife garden is fun to watch and provides a natural habitat for interesting little critters. The perfect wildlife garden should provide two important things – a safe habitat for wildlife to breed and adequate year-round shelter. In a wildlife garden, use low-maintenance landscaping ideas in northern NJ with grasses, flowers, trees, shrubs and water that provide a natural habitat.
- Long Grasses – Provide an excellent place to lay eggs and nest during the winter
- Thorny Shrubs – Provide excellent nest sites and shelter for various wildlife species
- Dead Wood – Creates a great habitat for beetles and beneficial insects
- Water Features – Provides shallow water areas where birds can drink and bathe
If you have small children or pets, you may want to create fencing around your wildlife garden to protect both the kids and pets, as well as the small animals that may venture into your garden. A wildlife garden is a great way to create a balanced ecosystem in your backyard landscape.
Edible gardens are a great way to put healthy, inexpensive food on your table each day. Cooking from your garden with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is a perfect way to create a fun, family-friendly landscape. With the right plants, the entire family can grow an abundance of edible flowers, berries, fruits and vegetables right outside the kitchen door. The three most important things you’ll need are good sun most of the day, fertile soil and sufficient water. When choosing your garden location, consider all three things and look for a spot that’s somewhat protected from the wind.
For edible landscaping ideas in northern NJ, you can design a formal or informal edible garden theme with in-ground planting or raised container beds. When you’re planting in the ground, check your soil conditions. You may need to add compost to create rich, fertile soil for healthy crops. Begin your garden by planting heirloom seeds that are easy to grow like tomatoes, peppers and radishes. Herbs like basil, thyme and chives do well in almost any sun and soil conditions. Pansies, violets and nasturtium make wonderful spices for foods and sauces.