How to host the perfect child-friendly backyard party

23 February, 2015

Whether it's time to celebrate a graduation party, a summer holiday party or a good old-fashioned birthday party, having the entire extended family over for a backyard barbecue can not only be a rip-roaring good time, but it can also bring distant relatives together. Where once you might have been the shy child patiently waiting for your hot dog or the wild child waiting for the right moment to launch your water balloon, now it's your turn to be the adult and host the annual family gathering. Inevitably, there will be children present. Probably lots of them. Whole herds of children ready to chug gallons of pop and stuff their faces with cupcakes. And, despite all the planning and cooking, it's trying to keep so many children safely occupied in your backyard that could be the trickiest part of all.

Childproofing your backyard
Childproofing your backyard is the first step in hosting a gathering where children will be in attendance. Start by combing the area to ensure that any potentially troublesome objects will not interfere with anyone's good time. A quick pre-party clean-up can remedy serious problems before they even happen. Objects such as bottle caps, leftover building or construction materials like nails or screws or just some items waiting for recycling or reclamation can wreak much more damage than their tiny size suggests.

Securely lock cabinets, sheds or any other doors to dangerous places (a cellar, garage, etc.), while also keeping all garden tools stashed away in safe places, such as the garage or tool shed, so that no curious hands end up trying to play with them.

The grill should be kept at a safe distance from the other partygoers, not only to stop the smoke from irritating people but also so that no children unexpectedly burn their hands on the flaming hot metal. Stacks of firewood are also potential danger zones, not only because children like to play on anything that looks fun (and wood stacks are prime targets for climbing), but also because wood stacks are excellent hiding spots for raccoons, mice and other small wildlife.

If the children are exceptionally young, it wouldn't hurt to put up some protective fencing around other potential danger areas, like a firepit or a pond.

Creative uses for outdoor furniture
Thankfully, family-oriented gatherings are not all safety checks and finger-waggling, since you are hosting a party, after all. Even once the kids have lost all the lawn darts, ripped through all the kites and have gotten their water guns taken away, there are still plenty of ways to keep the rambunctious and riled-up kids occupied with everyday backyard equipment. Whereas some things like jungle gyms and swimming pools can keep children busy for the duration of the party, not everyone has the means to purchase and install such extravagant features. There are easier and more affordable ways to make use of everyday backyard furniture, especially durable patio furniture that can take the kind of punishment children tend to dish out.

Outdoor rocking chairs can provide countless hours of entertainment for children who long to be playing in the park instead of at a grown-up party. And what kid doesn't marvel at the easy-breezy lifestyle afforded by spending some time lazing around in a hammock? At the same time, the more pieces in a sectional couch, the more time children can spend rearranging the furniture. A standard four-piece couch can hold their attention for a little bit, while a bigger ten-piece sectional can occupy energetic kids for hours, almost like a game of Tetris mixed with a jigsaw puzzle.

From naptime to pillow fights, kids use cushions and pillows for all sorts of reasons, so it never hurts to have a couple extra on hand for when it comes time for the children to crash or get back at someone for an earlier water gun loss.