5 Things to Know when Comparing Playground Sets

How to Compare Playground Sets

Playground Set

Staycations are all the rage now, particularly with families. Enjoy an at-home vacation by installing a playground set and creating a backyard resort for your kids. With a wide variety of options and accessories to choose from, you can convert even a small space into an “imagination station” that encourages healthy, entertaining, and safe outdoor play.

But how do you choose from all the playground sets available? Start with safety first and then go for fun. Here are some tips to help you decide.

1. Wood is the best choice.
When comparing playground sets, you can choose from plastic, metal, or wood. Although colorful, plastic can’t withstand the elements and lasts only a few years. Metal playsets can rust and crack, and unless you effectively anchor it to the ground, a metal playset does not offer sufficient stability. Also, metal conducts heat, which can hurt small hands.
Wood is the most durable material for a playground set. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends wood for playground sets because of its ability to withstand the outdoors as well as heavy-duty activity. Not only is wood a sustainable, eco-friendly resource, but it lasts far longer, giving you the most return on your investment. Woods like cypress, cedar, and redwood naturally resist decay, insects, and wood rot.
When looking at wooden playsets, opt for larger beams, like 4-by-4, which are sturdier and resist warping and cracking Make sure the building materials have been certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Avoid any woods that have been chemically treated because they may have toxins that are unsafe. Finally, rub your hand along the wood to be sure it is smooth and splinter-free.

2. Check the construction

With all the rough and tumble play your set will need to endure, be sure to study the construction. Look at the joints because they take the most pounding. Be sure the playground set features triple joints. Through-bolts are another sign of solid construction.
Hardware is another feature to consider. To avoid injuries or snagged clothing, your playground set should have recessed hardware. All hardware should be commercial grade—heavy-duty and galvanized or coated to resist rusting. Avoid plastic caps on the hardware, which the ASTM has determined to be a choking hazard for small children.

3. Look for child-friendly design.
A playground is an exciting place for children of all ages. It’s natural for them to explore new ways to have fun. Your job is to make sure those adventures are safe.
Look at the ladder. Are the rungs skid-free? They should also be flat, not round, so small feet have more stability when climbing.
Are the guardrails smooth and sturdy? Many systems offer additional handles that you can place for added safety.
Are there hazardous spaces where hands, feet, heads, and bodies can get stuck? Get in touch with your inner child and imagine where you might be prone to pushing those limits.
Are the ropes safe? Ropes can stretch, weaken, and break. Choose double-braided rope that is at least one inch in diameter. It allows for better gripping and maintains its size. Rope should also have a UV-protectant so the fibers don’t weaken from constant exposure to the sun.

4. Choose age-appropriate accessories
Today’s manufacturers offer a wide range of options and accessories to customize your playground set. From simple to sophisticated, you can choose from an array of swings, slides, climbing walls, tunnels, ladders, and more. Go from a toddler bucket swing to a glider to a hammock swing that’s strong enough for an adult to enjoy. Move up from a wave slide to a 360-degree, fully enclosed hurricane slide. Look for a system that features flexibility so the activities can keep up with your growing family. Just remember, as tempting as these many add-ons can be, stick to those that are appropriate for your children right now.
5. Know your space limits
Playground sets come in a variety of sizes. Even if your play area is limited or not quite level, there are options to suit your needs. When measuring, remember to allow for sufficient “landing area” beyond the slide and swings.

A playground set can be a wonderful investment in your family fun. When chosen carefully, one purchase can provide many years of safe outdoor activity.