Adventurers wanted: This project in a Chicago suburb was all about creating a backyard waterpark everyone, especially the children, could explore. So it is that Dan Lenz packed many fun components into the small yard. At one end of the 40-by-16-foot, T-shaped pool is a standout feature, a cave that leads to a shallow kiddie pool. A custom slide wraps around the adjoining loveseat/waterfall. The yard also includes a splashpad, a bean-bag game court and an outdoor living room. Dramatic LED lighting and a fog system to cool everyone on hot days complete the scene.

Dream come true: The 14-foot-long, concrete cave lit by color-changing wall sconces delights explorers. The walls are adorned with dinosaur fossils (made by Fossilcrete), including one that one looks like Mickey Mouse in honor of the family’s love of Disney World. The project was completed in winter, and much of it was built under a heated tent. The children had no idea what was being created in their backyard until spring, when it was time for “the big reveal.”