July 2010: Kids


Sticks and stones

Problem: Creating play space in a small backyard

“We couldn’t get grass to grow,” says Trisha Willingham of her tiny, shaded backyard, “so we laid down stones instead.” Her home is located in a neighborhood off Rose Hill Drive, and the backyard—in addition to being small—is mostly covered by the overhang of a two-story deck. 

Needing a safe and convenient outdoor place for her two preschoolers to play, Willingham then hung swings from the deck and stashed a sand table and playhouse underneath where her girls can frolic outside but stay cool. The deck itself also serves as a natural play area with a water table and plenty of potted plants and kid-sized watering cans. With the surrounding foliage so close in the confined space, the deck actually feels more like a tree house than a suburban stereotype. 

As the stairs leading down from the deck land outside the gate into the yard, Willingham had the idea to attach a slide as the girls’ yard access. Once the little ones are down, the entire area is fenced, so Willingham doesn’t have to worry about keeping too close a watch.

A couple of trees and planting beds carved into the lower landscape keep the spot green, while a small patio circle makes for a quaint kids’ picnic area. The shady hideaway under the deck also makes a great outdoor environment for Willingham’s oldest, disabled daughter—7-year-old Esprit —who’s too sensitive for much direct sunlight. “Esprit can sit under here and watch the other girls,” says Willingham.

The stone surround also keeps the “yard” low maintenance. Though undesirables occasionally peek through the rocks, they’re easy to pick off even with the littlest of fingers—Willingham says her youngest daughter, 3-year-old Harper, often says, “’Mom, I’m going to pick weeds.’”

If only yard work were always that easy.—Katherine Ludwig 

Rack ’em up

School’s out for summer and sports activities abound, which is to say, so does sports equipment. This metal rack organizes balls, bats, sticks and shin guards, so you’ll never again have to field questions from the kiddos about where stuff is before the next big game or street league match. Deluxe Sports Rack, $49.99, at Bed Bath and Beyond.–K.L.