This paper explores how aligned arts and play experiences can extend child and family engagement in a public outdoor space. The importance of outdoor play for children is strongly advocated and in response local governments provide playgrounds and recreational open spaces. To extend further the experiences afforded in such spaces some local governments now employ "play workers," whose role is to prompt exploration and facilitate connections. With the intention of animating an uninviting and underused outdoor public space, the ArtPlay Backyard program presented a series of artist-facilitated experiences that encouraged children and families to explore, interact and transform. Research into this program, undertaken through observations and in-situ interviews, mapped the views and actions of children, parents, early childhood professionals and artists. The study concluded that the program was highly engaging to families who were animated by "artful play": experiences guided by artists, who, acting like "play workers," stimulated imaginative, aesthetic, creative and social encounters with people, place, and materials.