Many parents view the backyard as a haven, a place where the kids can go and entertain themselves for hours on end when the weather is nice. For moms and dads who work from home or have chores to get done around the house, the backyard can be a huge help nearly all year. For families of children who are on the autism spectrum, however, it can be one more cause for worry and stress.

Making sure your home is safe and comfortable for your child is important, and that includes the exterior as well as the interior. The backyard can be a wonderful place for your child to explore and have fun, but there are several considerations to make before they do. For instance, swingsets and other play equipment should be secured and in good shape; these can become weathered throughout the seasons and require a checkup once in a while.

Keep reading for more great tips on how to create a fun and functional backyard for your child on the autism spectrum.

Check for Hazards

Since all children on the autism spectrum have very different needs, the way your backyard is set up should be specific to those. Little ones who have a tendency to wander may require secure latches on fence gates or motion sensors around the pool area (for specific pool safety tips, click here). Look for new plant growth that might be toxic, nails or screws that have fallen to the ground and can hurt small feet, and play equipment that needs maintenance.

Create a garden space

Kids love learning how things grow, and a small garden space can help teach kids of all ages responsibility and math and science concepts. Whether you want some colorful flowers or an edible garden that the entire family can enjoy, it’s important to do a little research first to make sure your garden will be a success. Preparing the soil, planning for the right amount of water and sunlight, and making sure you have the right tools are important parts of the gardening process. Read up on how to get started here.

Set up a birdwatching station

A fun, safe activity for kids of any age is birdwatching, and it can be done nearly year-round in most states. Set up an area for the birds — a feeder, a birdbath, a small house in a sturdy tree — and invest in a good set of binoculars so that everyone can take turns watching these fascinating creatures. Look for a book that will help you learn about the different birds that come through your yard, and encourage your child to look up some info on his own. The internet is a great resource for tips on fun activities that can be done in the backyard.

Go camping

Camping is a great way to get the family together for some bonding time, but you don’t have to take a road trip to do it. Set up a tent in the backyard, bring out the flashlights, and tell some spooky stories over hot dogs and s’mores. If your child is interested in joining a wilderness organization, this is a great opportunity to start teaching him about the outdoors and how to make nature work for you.

Creating a fun, functional, and safe backyard takes a little work, but once it’s done, you and your family can have a great time learning about nature and making memories all year long. Keep your child’s specific needs in mind when looking for safety hazards; this will give you peace of mind and keep your little one incident-free as he’s having fun.

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