Answer: Congratulations on moving into your first home! My answer will seem pretty general, but it should give you some ideas and resource to get you started.
It sounds like you have your hands full, and since you just bought a house, are probably on a tight budget. First, take some time to draw out a rough plan. Then think about improving the yard area in stages. What is your first priority? Probably, it'll be choosing a place for the kids to play, so figure out where their playground will be situated so they can play safely. If you want to grow a lush lawn for them to play on, they will have to stay out of the seeded or sprigged area until the grass is growing well enough to take traffic. Another option is to spread a mulch around their play area. Many schools and public playgrounds are using colorful bark mulches these days.
Next, figure out where you and your family will be spending time outside (patio, deck, picnic table), and situate that on your written plan. You can then see where you can locate plants to your best advantage, in a way that suits your lifestyle. If you want the play/family areas to be shady, you can install some fast-growing yet sturdy trees to serve this purpose. Then you can figure where shade/sunshine will fall on your property, and site plants according to their need for light.
All plants need some attention until they get their feet under them, but if you choose plants that are considered low-maintenance, they will be little trouble after their initial period of establishment. Also, the better suited the plants are to your particular situation, the less attention they'll require in the long run. Your soil is the foundation for healthy plant growth, so as soon as that is put in good shape, you're halfway home. Call your cooperative extension office for information on soil testing. The extension office can also direct you to your region's Master Gardener program. Master Gardeners can offer a wealth of information about gardening in your area.
I wish you luck with this exciting project!
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