Sandbox: Even if you can't get to the beach this summer, you can still have the sun and the sand. Buy one or build one to your specifications. Show here is a terrific shaded sandbox. Angela calls this her son's backyard beach. See how she made it at Better Together.
Swing: If a big playset isn't realistic for your yard, how about just a swing? It's always been my favorite part anyway. There are dozens of ways to diy a swing including this version made from an old skateboard. Get the tutorial at Little Bit Funky.
Play Kitchen: If you have a roofed outdoor area like a large porch, consider moving your play kitchen outside for the summer. Or, create a simple outdoor kitchen that they can get really messy in. There's no need for play food as nature is their kitchen. Shown above is one by Garden Mama. We also rounded up 10 more here.
Water Table: These are favorites with toddlers and preschoolers and can even work in tiny outdoor spaces. It can be as simple as filling a large plastic container and brining it outside or you can go another step and buy or build something more permanent (like this terrific one at The Inspiration Thief).
Zip Line: You need the space and an incline for a Zip Line, but it's one of those enviable features that will keep the neighborhood kids knocking at your door. See how this family at Green Change made theirs.
Outdoor movies: Taking the whole family to the movies is expensive and there are usually only a few kids' movies out every summer. Set up your own outdoor screen and pop your own popcorn. Here are 7 tips for setting up your backyard movie theater.
Sprinkler: Kids graduate from the baby pool pretty quickly and the next logical step is a sprinkler. Buy a traditional one or get creative and make something like this "kid wash".
Playhouse or Fort: This is the most ambitious project on the list but everyone I know who has built one has told me their kids played in it every day of the summer for years. If a roofed house is too much to bite off, how about a fort made from fencing posts? Find the tutorial at This Old House.
Lawn games: Lawn games are a great way to get the whole family playing together and even the whole neighborhood. Growing up, we had croquet and badminton. Others to consider are bocce, horseshoes, and lawn darts. These are great things to pick up at yard sales if you don't want to buy them new.
Hammock: Summer isn't just about playing - it's also about rest. A hammock in a shady spot will be the new family hangout for reading, napping and literally hanging out.
Originally posted May 28, 2012
(Images: 1. Better Together 2. Little Bit Funky 3. The Inspiration Thief 4. Garden Mama 5. Green Change 6. Flickr user plural licensed for use under Creative Commons 7. J. Good Photography via Instructables 8. Wendell T. Webber for This Old House 9. Shutterstock 10. Flickr user popofatticus licensed for use under Creative Commons)