Summer may be coming to its end, but as all true New Englanders know, that only means the best of times spent in the great outdoors are just beginning. School may be in session and those September days tick away faster than seems possible, yet the temperatures remain warm, leaves remain green, and hours spent in nature remain so often the best of a day. Whether hot or cool, summer or winter, such experiences are priceless all year round – and even if school is back in session, that doesn’t mean the kids can’t enjoy the most wonderful aspects of the seasons. With a few twists and ideas, any outdoor space can become oriented to your youngest explorers, and kid-friendly can become family fun for all months and all ages.
For most, a pool of any size is dreamy – an indoor one especially. But the key of this space is actually not in its most glamorous element, but in its most unique instead: indoor to outdoor transition. The lounge and patio are geared towards enjoyable entertainment for anyone, not just children, but its greatest feature is the flawless extension between its interior space and stunning natural setting. On the hottest days, this open layout could not be more perfect for switching into the shade to prevent sunburn or back outside for fresh air; on the coldest, it makes for an ideal perch for parents sipping coffee and delivering hot cocoa to leaf-raking wranglers and snowball warriors.
Sometimes, the most fun comes in small packages. With a playhouse, any outdoor space can become your child’s creativity command center, be it the tiny backyard of an urban townhouse, the rocky terrace of a waterfront retreat, or the chosen portion of an enormous country estate’s lawn. While excellent for any age, it allows for a feeling of independence and clubhouse sensibility for younger children, while also providing a controllable space for watchful parents. By dedicating and delineating an outdoor kid play area, you provide a world all their own – and by locating fabulous choices like oversized outdoor board games, chalkboards, and a playset in one specific place, create the environment of an amusement park of their making.
Of course, there will always be children who love the outdoors not as a full participant, but as a cheering spectator. And children aren’t necessarily the only ones, either! With a few thoughtful considerations, time outside can take on a whole new meaning. Screened in porches most often come to mind for sleepovers on hot summer nights or cups of tea on misty summer mornings – but they can be a magical spot for your littlest bookworm or artist-in-residence. Kids may love the outdoors, but sometimes need a break from black fly season and that burning sun; and on the other hand, you may have kids who are happiest outside, for whom walls are a nuisance but homework a necessity. For each and every one, this is a solution that with seasonal amenities can last far beyond those warm days and into the coldest ones.
If there’s one thing better than fun in the sun, it’s a project at play – so why not do them both at the same time? Have a great time outside now that lasts for years of use to come. Enlist a few older kids or family friends, and in just one day an heirloom and many memories can be created, both at the time and in the future. While a dinghy may be the easiest – and most gorgeous – example, there are nearly endless options in building a repurposed sandbox. The tots can have all the fun in the future, but for now, there’s nothing quite like a fall family project as an outdoor experience and space.
The days may be getting shorter, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had outdoors when the evening rolls around. If there’s one space that’s always a crowd pleaser, it’s the classic fire pit. Some parents may very understandably shy away from introducing their children to open flames – but in reality, it provides space for an important learning experience and fun time as a family, especially when built intentionally with children in mind. Higher stone walls with a slate ledge provides for heat and stumbling protection, while comfy seating and cozy nights are all of your own making. Not only is it a beautiful outdoor space for anyone, kids or no, but it’s an outdoor space that can truly be used all year long.
From play-filled days to s’mores filled night, no one can argue that time spent outdoors is an amazing thing for children of any age, and an important part of growing up well. While the focus may be in providing that time during the summer months, those experiences don’t need to end when the camps close, the school doors open, and the days become cooler. In New England, when the whole family gets involved, it’s where the fun, games, and imagination begin and then can last, all year and every season long.