Since most families practically live outside during the warmer months, the patio or deck becomes an outdoor room where the kids play from dawn to dust and the parents hang out and relax. (What a wonderful concept!)
Since we're out there so much, we'll need to organize our seasonal "room" to make it as livable as possible.
Think about what you do on your patio or deck. Then arrange the furniture so that you can do it more easily and efficiently.
This part's a breeze. All you need are a table and some comfy chairs. This is not the place to scrimp.
Sink-in-and-stay-a-spell kind of comfortable chairs will make your moderate investment pay off big time. Top it all of with an umbrella for shade, and your parlor is open for business.
Optional furniture includes a storage chest for adult toys and stuff you always need outside - such as sunscreen, hats, and bug spray - and folding tables by the grill for serving and cooking.
An ice chest would be nice, too. Steaks, anyone?
For safety's sake, set up the play area away from the grill and the table. You might even want to make the kids their own little outdoor room delineated by container plants.
I have a sturdy blue kid-size table with six multicolor chairs in the family room that's easy to take outdoors for just such occasions.
Keep favorite toys in a wheeled container or a wagon so kids can roll them outside to play. Or consider a deck storage chest for them to use as a toy box.
Another way to keep your yard tidy is to provide ample, accessible toy storage in the kids' corner of the garage.
Consider what you would put in a conventional room. For little ones, provide protection from the sun with a "ceiling" (umbrella or awning), a "floor" (a quilt, splat-mat, or old blanket), and "walls" (some sort of barrier such as container plants, toy chests, or fences) that will keep them from wandering off. (Or at least slow them down.)
The older kids might want more privacy, but keep the little ones in view.
If you have a yard and small kids, you're probably running out of room. Outdoor toys, for some reason, tend to be big - very big. It takes only a few gifts from the grandparents to seriously junk up the yard.
Let's see, there's the swing set, the plastic playhouse, the sandbox, the wading pool, and the bikes and trikes. Just moving the stuff to mow the lawn can take an hour.
Unless you're running a day care, set some limits on how much plastic you want in your yard. You wouldn't fill up your lawn with junked cars, why is a trashy swing set any different?
Try setting some boundaries. Give the kids one are of the patio and yard as their play area. Confine toys to that space.
Help the kids keep their area tidy by limiting the number of toys that can be out at any given time, just as you do indoors.
Just because your kids have more room outside doesn't mean they can play with 10 toys at a time. And the sheer quantity of toys strewn about also reduces the odds they will actually pick them all up at the end of the day.