How to Choose Kids Playsets
Are you ready to turn your back yard into an adventure land for your children? Today’s kids playsets deliver a wide range of opportunities for active outdoor play. But with so many choices, how do you choose the playset that is both fun and safe for your family?
Here are some basic guidelines for comparing features, evaluating construction, and making the right choice for your yard and your family—both now and in the future.
1. Wood is the best material.
Kids playsets are constructed of plastic, metal, and wood. For safety and durability—as well as eco-friendliness—you can’t do better than wood. Plastic is colorful and inviting but doesn’t last in the outdoors. Metal can rust, bend, and crack, and it needs to be anchored to the ground for stability. And metal conducts heat so a beautifully sunny day could make your kids playset too hot to touch, let alone enjoy.
Meanwhile wood—particularly cedar and redwood—is extremely durable, and it’s the recommended choice of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Cedar and redwood have ample amounts of natural oils, making them resistant to warping, cracking, wood rot, and insect infestation (i.e., termites). And both of these woods are sustainable so they are eco-friendly choices.
There are other woods used for kids playsets but they don’t have the long-term durability and beauty. Some have even been treated to resist the elements, but those chemicals are not the healthiest choice for an area where children are actively playing.
2. Examine the construction.
Kids playsets need to be rock solid so that your children can enjoy years of carefree climbing, swinging, and creative play. Once you’ve chosen a wooden playset, you need to look closely at the construction. The nuts and bolts should be fully recessed so that when you run your hand over them, you feel no edges or protrusions that could scrape your child or catch on her clothing.
Swinging back and forth and jumping on platforms can loosen joints. Limit your options to kids playsets that are built with triple joint construction because it reflects durable craftsmanship.
Next, check the width of the beams. Bigger beams—like 4” x 4”—provide a sturdier foundation that is less likely to warp or crack.
Examine the safety of the climbing features. Are the ladders sturdy? The rungs should have skid-proof protection, be angled slightly, and sized for small feet. The guardrails should be smooth, have sturdy grips, and spaced less than three inches apart or more than nine inches to avoid having curious heads caught between them.
Also ask about the manufacturer’s warranty. If the company that builds the kids playset stands actively behind it, you can feel comfortable having your kids play actively on it!
3. Consider the size of the play area.
Before you fall in love with a kids playset that has all the bells and whistles, remember that the system’s footprint is just a fraction of the area you are going need. The CPSC recommends that you allow six feet beyond the foot of the slide and four feet on either side to provide a safe distance for kids to run around it. The area in front and behind the swings should each be twice the height of the swing (from the base of the seat to the hardware that connects it to the crossbeam). And you should allow about 22 inches between swings; don’t try to squeeze too many swings on a set because you increase the risk of bumping into each other and causing falls.
4. Look for a versatile system.
Kids’ playsets come in a wide variety of sizes, from a simple set of swings to an expansive outdoor activity center. Your space will dictate the overall size of the playset you choose but you have the option to customize it with age-appropriate accessories. Ideally, select a set that will grow with your family. Maybe you want to start simple if you have very young children but will want to expand as they grow. Swings can range from a toddler bucket to a glider or trapeze and even a hammock swing so mom and dad can enjoy the kids playset, too! You can move up from a 10-foot standard slide to a 14-foot wave slide or hurricane tunnel. While you’re comparing systems, ask about the available accessories so you can determine which of the kids playsets will provide the most entertainment for your family.
Kids playsets motivate children to enjoy more outdoor activity and also stimulate their imagination. Taking the time to understand your options and needs is essential to choosing the playset that will turn your back yard into a fun-filled play place.