10 Backyard Must-Haves For Summer

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Who doesn’t love summer? The days are longer and warmer, family camping and adventures are in full swing, and we finally get to feel the warmth of the sun on our face. But if you have a backyard that’s less than prepared for the long, sunny days ahead, you may find yourself spending more time indoors than taking advantage of the gorgeous weather outside.

Rather than secluding yourself to your living room all summer, consider adding these 10 backyard must-haves to encourage your family and guests to spend a little time in the great outdoors.

1. Laid Back Ambient Lighting

And when the sun goes down, rather than retreating to the indoors, consider adding some solar lights to keep the party going for just a little bit longer. Solar string lights are easy to install and don’t require any extra electricity.

Solar path lights will illuminate the way and make getting in and out of the backyard safer and easier. Not to mention, solar lights, in general, add a soft, comforting ambiance to your backyard space that your guests will love.

2. Cool Down Zone

Some days in the summer it’s so hot that a shady area still isn’t enough. Rather than sweating it out, think about building a kid-friendly cool down zone that the whole family can enjoy!

You can really make this project whatever you want it to be, but some clever ideas include setting up a “kid car wash”, adding a DIY splash pad, and for the adults, Target is now selling what they call the first “designer inflatable pool”. Whether you think that’s silly or not, you’re totally going to love it when the temperature gets up into the high 90s.

3. Outdoor Movie Setup

Nothing says summer quite like outdoor movies. But for many of us, drive-in movie theatres are either a thing of the past or the closest one is still too far away to go to it regularly. Why not replicate that nostalgia in your own backyard?


Once you invest in a movie projector, the rest of your outdoor movie setup will come together pretty affordably. Find a nice white sheet, attach it to the side of the house, add a bunch of comfy chairs, pillows, and blankets, and kick back and relax with the whole family.

4. Welcome Feathered Friends

There’s nothing like the sweet sound of a songbird to welcome summer with open arms. Watching birds is a fun and relaxing experience that encourages your family to spend some quality time outdoors.

There are a variety of affordable bird feeders and seed to get started, but if you want to make a project out of it, there are numerous free bird house plans to make your own.

5. A Shady Space to Relax

If there’s anything that prevents people from going outside in the summer, it’s having to sit in an area that’s directly in the sun with no shade to cool it down. Rather than subjecting your guests to a sunburn, consider adding a cool, refreshing, shady space for everyone to hang out in! Find some comfy chairs, invest in a backyard pergola, and if you really want to take it to the next level, consider adding a few outdoor ceiling fans.

6. Grow Some Pops of Color

Just because spring is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean that you can’t add some bright pops of color to take your yard from blah to beautiful. There are numerous flowers that bloom in the summer as well as some beautiful foliage that will make a statement in your garden beds year round.

7. Outdoor Dining Area

One of the best parts of summer is gathering the whole family together and throwing a backyard BBQ full of laughter, fun, and of course, some tasty food. Rather than barbecuing outside and taking the food indoors, why not establish an outdoor dining area to enjoy the food outdoors?

Consider investing in a patio dining set or building your very own picnic table to offer plenty of space for your guests to sit at. Finish off the look by adding an outdoor rug and some seasonally-appropriate dishes and cutlery.

8. Kid-Friendly Garden Bed

If your kids haven’t had the opportunity to try their hand at gardening, consider building a garden bed that is all theirs! Plant some easy to grow vegetables like beans, carrots, spinach, and radishes, and see their face light up as little sprouts start to make their way out of the soil. 


Giving them their own garden bed rather than having them share a space with your current garden beds let them have a bit of ownership over the whole process and they’ll get to see what happens when they care for their plants, and what happens when they don’t.

9. Stone Path Walkway

Is the pathway to your backyard full of those pokey, uncomfortable gravel rocks that feel absolutely horrible underneath your feet?

Don’t suffer another summer of aching feet! Embrace that barefoot lifestyle by adding stone steppers and soft, plush groundcovers to establish and elegant, and functional walkway.

10. Built-In Fire Pit and Smores Bar

After the sun has gone down and dinner is over, keep the party going with an outdoor fire pit! There are numerous different fire pits in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit your space as well as both propane and wood-burning options. And what’s a fire without some smores? Set up a smores bar at your outdoor dining table and watch the kids go wild with excitement.

Bio: Leigha Staffenhagen is the managing editor of Insteading.com, a homesteading and sustainability site focused on everything from gardening and raising chickens to tiny homes and off-grid living.


  1. Antoinette M says

    Great ideas. My favorites are the string lights and picnic table.

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