All of us who have kids and a decent sized backyard like to see the kids playing nicely in there. Outdoor play is healthy, fun, helps keep the indoor space ordered and gets the wiggles out. And the backyard is the most convenient and safe place for that. But the kids won’t just play outside because the fresh air feels nice. They need something fun and entertaining out there, like a playground set, for example. Fortunately nowadays you can find nice playground sets for backyard to fit all budgets and spaces available. So, here are
7 Things to Consider When Shopping for Playground Sets for Backyard
Measure the space you have available to set up the play-set and try to make the most of it. Online shopping is very convenient, but photos can sometimes be deceptive. Always check the dimensions of the set you are looking at and make sure it fits the allotted space. Besides the space occupied by the equipment, keep in mind that you need to plan for use zones.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, stationary climbing equipment and slides should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6′ in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment. This area should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto which a child might fall.
Swings should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6′ from the outer edge of the support structure on each side. The use zone in front and back of the swing should extend out a minimum distance of twice the height of the swing as measured from the ground to the swing hangers on support structure.
This leads us into the next thing to consider:
The most frequent playground related injuries are caused by falls to the ground, that is why it is important to have protective surfacing under and around the playground equipment. Some of the most common materials you can use to create a shock absorbing protective surface would be wood chips, double shredded bark mulch, or even fine sand.
To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings, swings should not be too close together or too close to the support structures. Swing spacing should be:
-at least 8 inches between suspended swings and between a swing and the support frame.
-at least 16 inches from swing support frame to a pendulum see-saw.
-minimum clearance between the ground and underside of swing set should be 8 inches.
Swing sets should be securely anchored.
Openings that are closed on all sides should be less than 3′ 1/2″ or greater than 9″ to avoid potential head entrapment.
Any moving parts which may present a pinching or crushing hazard should not be exposed.
When purchasing playground sets for backyard, the manufacturer needs to provide you with written material to indicate that they have tested their product in an independent lab and that it meets the safety standards set by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). If it does not pass, you should not purchase the product.
The three most used materials for playground sets for backyard are wood, metal and plastic. Each one has it’s advantages and disadvantages.
WOOD has a natural look, it is easy to repair and easy to attach elements to. It is inexpensive and can be used in creative ways for various designs. While not as durable as metal or plastic, it can definitely last for a long time if properly maintained. The only disadvantage that I can think of is that it can have splinters or splits.
PLASTIC has no splinters, it is smooth and friendly to hold, which makes it great for toddlers playgrounds. It lasts a long time and does not get hot. Initially it can be bright and attractive, but beware, colors fade over time, that is why I would advise going with natural colors that blend in the landscape, rather than artificial ones that show wear more obviously. Cost wise plastic can be expensive, but on the other side, you will find small plastic play-sets which are affordable and fit smaller spaces.
METAL (steel or aluminum) is strong, lasts a long time, is sturdy and can be painted in any color. The disadvantages would be that it can get hot, it is expensive and it hurts to fall against. Metal playgrounds are also harder to add to as you wish.
Most playgrounds use a combination of several different materials.
Click on any of the images for more details.
4. Design/ Features
I was going to put design on top of the list, but I got a dose of realism and went for safety and space first :). Now, we get to the design, which is my favorite part. Of course the way the playground looks matters. It’s gonna be there for a looong time, so it’d better look good! 🙂 But that’s not actually what I’m thinking of first and foremost. When I talk about design, I mean features, the type of activities children can have on it. You know your child’s skills and preferences best, so go for the features that your child loves most. Some of the most popular are:
- climbing wall
- monkey bars
- sand box
- picnic table
- play house
- trapeze bar
There is a variety of types of swings and slides -standard belt swings, baby swing, swing glider, straight slide, curvy slide, covered slide, etc.
Please try to look at the playground set from the perspective of your child, and not only considering the aesthetic elements. Let me give you an example. A new playground had recently been built in our neighborhood and my kids couldn’t wait to go check it out. My daughter had been on tons of slides, she is agile, rarely falls or has accidents. The first time she went down the curvy slide at the new park she smacked her face against the side of the slide where it curved. She cried, and she does not cry out of nothing. She got a bruise on her face like never before! While I was still comforting her, another girl about the same height went down the same slide and had the very same type of collision. That made me realize that the accidents were due to the angle the slide was at and the way it curved. I wonder if that slide was tested for such incidents. There was a smaller straight slide that would have been perfect for younger kids. The only thing was that the steps led to this bigger (and dangerous!) slide. The only way to get to the small slide was by walking on a rope to an island a few feet away, and then go down the small slike. The younger kids were not even able to hold to the sidebars when walking on the rope, since the sidebars were too far away for their reach. Do you get the picture? This playground looked all nice, but it wasn’t functional, and it was even dangerous. I’m sure it was put together by some guys who knew everything about plastic, wood, metal, and even design from an aesthetic point of view, but close to nothing about children, whom the playground was designed for! I bet there was no mom on the team! A mother would have noticed those things. What a pity to have invested into a playground that was a failure, from a child’s perspective, from the start!
5. Long Term Use
If you invest in a good quality, big size playground set, you will obviously want to make the most of your money and have it used for many years. Besides buying sturdy equipment made with good quality materials, think about the way the playground is going to be used and how you can make it grow with your child. Some sets allow you to add on new components and subsystems to keep up with the increased activity levels and new play interests of your child. On the other hand, some playground features, like the swing, monkey bars, play house, are classical, all time favorites, that young and older children enjoy alike.
A playground set is not something you can fit in your trunk, even if you have an SUV. Look for places that deliver the play set for free.
Take into account the fact that the playground set will need to be assembled. Some stores offer professional installation, you can hire someone to do it, or you can do it yourself. Usually the set comes with all the hardware you need to put it together and with instructions. Think of putting everything together as part of the fun. After you put your own time and work into it, you will be proud to see the beautiful playground, your kids happily playing on it… it will be a special kind of satisfaction.
Best Places to Shop for Playground Sets for Backyard
Amazon is a great place to shop for playground sets for backyard. It offers a wide selection of play sets, free shipping, and most of the time the best price. You can take a look at a bunch of options from the comfort of your home, and you can also read a lot of reviews from other people who have purchased those playground sets.
Toys R Us offers a wide selection too, but is a little bit pricey. If you have a nice discount coupon, then this might be the way to go. Unfortunately, even if you do go to a physical Toys R Us location it’s unlikely that you will be able to see one of these playground sets set up, so you would still have to order one online.
Home Depot sells good quality playground sets and have quite a few options too. They also have a few set up for display, so that would give you a better idea of how the playground will actually look.
Backyard Fun specializes in playground equipment. They have a wide selection of play sets available, you can even make your own combinations depending on your children’s preferences and space available. Backyard Fun has showrooms in quite a few locations, so visiting one of these would again, hopefully, give you a good chance to see actual products before purchasing them.
My Favorite Playground Set
After looking at tons of playground sets for backyard, my top choice is the Southampton Swing Set Kit.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT:
It has all of my kids’ favorite things to play with on a playground:
- two swings (so there’ll be no fighting about who goes in the swing first, plus swinging with a buddy is better than swinging on your own!),
- two different slides (my son loves the enclosed tube slides so this one is a must)
- climbing rock wall with rope assist
- ring/ trapeze combo bar -my kids both do gymnastics and they love the ring/ trapeze bar
- picnic table and clubhouse -what’s better than having a snack outdoors on a nice day. The table is also perfect for crafts. I prefer to see my little artists work on their projects out there than inside the house. I love to see their creativity, but they can make quite a mess. The outdoor playhouse is so much better for some projects than the dining room table!
Other things I like about this playground set:
- meets and exceeds ASTM safety standards
- the slides come with a lifetime warranty against cracks and breaks
- looks absolutely wonderful!
The dimensions of the assembled set are: 19 Ft. W x 16 Ft. L x 12 Ft. H.
The recommended safety use zone for this assembled unit is 31′ x 16′
3 years – 10 years
Hope you find this information useful! If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.