Compiled by Michelle Talsma Everson

Springtime in Arizona, it’s the perfect time of year to be outdoors—and, what better way to start your outdoor adventure than in your own backyard? With the weather near perfect, now is the ideal time of year to create a paradise to escape to anytime you open the back door. To learn more about creating a backyard oasis for your family, we checked in with two experts about play structures and pools. Read on for some of their expert tips.

Arizona Parenting (AZP): What are the first steps to creating the right play structure or pool to fit a family’s backyard and budget?

Barbara Butler, a play structure expert and founder and president of Barbara Butler Artist-Builder Inc., says: “First, pick the right spot: ideally a shady spot in the yard; somewhere with good line of site for keeping an eye on the kids but not too close to the house as you want the kids to have it be their place where they can make noise.”

Jay Kelly, pool expert and owner of Palo Verde Pools & Outdoor Living, says: “There are many things to consider when designing a pool such as size, shape, location, equipment, equipment location, water features, material type and more. The best advice would be to consult with a pool professional. They can guide through the process to come up with a design that meets your family’s budget and needs.”

AZP: What are some hot weather tips for play structures and pools?

Butler: “Wood is my favorite for hot climates since it never gets too hot,” she said. “Avoid metal, especially if in direct sunlight. Pick light colors for any metal or plastic. Add a fun roof too! Not only will it provide shade, it makes the play structure more fun.”
Kelly: “Shade is a necessity in order to thoroughly enjoy your backyard throughout the summer months,” he said. “Shade can be accomplished in many ways including pergolas, extended patio covers, sail shade canopies, oversized umbrellas and trees. Pool covers can extend your swimming season by keeping the water warmer and also keep debris out of the pool.”

AZP: What about play structures and pools in small backyards?
Butler: “Keep it simple: a ground-level playhouse entertains kids for hours, especially if it has shutters and a door that actually opens and closes. Put it near the fence but leave enough room for kids to run all around it; the space behind it will become a play space, too.”
Kelly: “For a smaller backyard it is best to go with a geometric form. This does not have to be a basic rectangle. Geometric just means that it utilizes straight lines and basic curves. Utilizing a geometric shape pool with give you the largest pool possible in a smaller yard.”

AZP: Do you have any tips for families who would like to build a play structure or pool but are on a budget?

Butler: “If you have the space but are on a budget, swings are a good choice. Kids never seem to tire of swinging. You can add a misting spray to the top of the swings, too.” She added that her company’s play structures are meant to last for “several generations of play,” so many families sell their used play structures on her website,

Kelly: “An above ground pool is a less expensive option but not necessarily a better investment. An in-ground pool will add value to your home where an above ground will not. Also, many HOA’s do not allow above ground pools so be sure to check prior to purchasing an above ground pool,” he said. “If a new pool is not in your family’s budget right now, check out your local water parks and resorts. Many of them have annual memberships that are very cost effective.”

AZP: For play structures, what else should parents keep in mind?

Butler: Remember, safety first! Provide a soft landing in case kids fall; ‘resilient surfacing’ such as bark chip is the single most important safety feature you can give your kids. You want kids to challenge themselves but not get hurt if they fall.

AZP: Other than a pool, how else can families incorporate water play in their backyard?

Kelly: “In recent years the splash pads you have probably seen at water parks, resorts or outdoor malls are now available for your home. Splash pads are relatively inexpensive compared to a pool and will entertain your children for years.”

Whether it’s a playground or new water features, families have plenty of options for making their backyards one-of-a-kind. To learn more, visit (play structures) or (pools and water features).



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