One thing we miss about living in New York is the awesome city playgrounds. You could walk to a different one every day of the week—and we did. On the upside, now we have enough space to put up our own little playground in the backyard. We’ve been planning to do so since we moved into our house nine months ago, but we never thought the shopping process for a swing set could get so complicated! There are a stunning number of choices and gradations in quality. It’s very hard to decide. After three or four months of research, here’s what we think are the most important considerations when choosing:
Think long-term. Try not to buy something that’s “perfect” for your kids right now, because in a year or two, they will have outgrown it. A bigger set requires more vigilance in supervision early on, but pays off in the long run. Consider buying a modular set that you can add pieces onto in the future.
Space. Swing sets require six feet of clearance around them for safety, so factor that in when you’re thinking about size. Also, think about orientation. Will you be able to see the slide from the kitchen window?
Construction. There are oodles of variations in materials and construction. Wooden sets blend into your landscape nicely but require staining each year to look nice. Sets made of recycled materials take less maintenance and won’t give your kid splinters, but they are much more expensive. Softer woods get easily dinged. Hardware strength and quality is important. Do your research.
Installation. Delivery and installation can cost as much as the swing set itself. Some installers charge by the hour, and some charge by the number of steps in the instructions. Beware—many sets take up to 40 man hours to install! If you plan to do it yourself, know what you are getting into. It’s apparently more challenging and time-consuming than most people expect. So if you think your marriage may not survive the task, look to purchase something that includes installation in the price.
Timing. Play set sales are cyclical. You’ll pay top price shopping in early spring for an early summer installation. You’re more likely to get a discount at the end of the season as dealers unload their inventory, or you might get a deal on an older demo as new models come out.
We are hoping to grab a deal sometime in September/October, when we may be able to get more for our money than we could earlier in the season. Until then, we’ll continue to mull over the endless options. Whatever we decide on, we know it will be a worthwhile investment in years of fun for both our kids and for us.
For more on the swing sets/play sets featured, visit Kids Creations.
For more on kids’ outdoor entertainment, consider: