How to Choose the Best Backyard Playground Equipment for Your Home

As a kid, if I wanted to swing or slide, I just walked across the street to the neighborhood park.

A fortunate few of my friends, however, had their own gym sets that consisted of metal poles that supported swings, slides, and gliders.

A vertical picture of a children's playground on a summer day in bright sunshine with trees and blue sky in the background. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

If we pumped hard enough, we could pull those poles right up out of the ground – and of course, that’s how you won the swing contest.

After growing up and having my own kids, I wanted them to share those same experiences.

We purchased a pressure-treated pine model playground that we had installed right in the backyard. I also took out a contract to have it tightened and inspected each year, and it was well worth the peace of mind.

We’ve come a long way, with playgrounds and swing sets available today have grown to sprawling (and safer) configurations of mythic proportion!

And today, kids are spending a lot more time in the backyard, making playground equipment more important than ever for keeping them mentally engaged and physically fit.

Are you looking to buy your own playtime centerpiece, and spark a new generation of wonderful childhood memories for your own kids?

Read on to learn what you need to know to pick a system that will rock your kids’ backyard adventures!

First, we’ll discuss what’s available. Then we’ll consider the decisions you’ll need to make, so you can pick the one that’s best for your family.

After all, play sets come in several different materials with a wide array of options to choose from!

1. Kids Creation Redwood Grandstand Swing Set

Check out this Kids Creation Redwood Grandstand Swing Set. Made in the USA with real redwood, the quality of this set is way above that found at most garden centers.

The Redwood Grand Stand Swing Set installed in a large garden on the lawn, with children playing on a sunny day, and blue sky in the background.

Kids Creation Redwood Grandstand Swing Set available on Wayfair

Besides the three swings (which have weight capacities of 250 pounds), this kit includes a playhouse zone with a ladder (250-pound weight capacity) along with a colorful green plastic slide that allows for “quick escapes.”

Although the playhouse or “fort” area can be entered via a ladder, a climbing wall with rock grips, and a set of monkey bars provide additional entrance.

A wooden sandbox that can be filled with either sand or a rubber mulch encircles the base.

Made with nontoxic materials including natural redwood, this playset will provide hours of backyard fun for your elementary age children and their friends as an attractive addition to your outdoor space.

See it now on Wayfair.

2. Backyard Discovery Woodridge II

The Woodridge II by Backyard Discovery has every kind of activity your elementary age kids could want in a play system, and you can feel good about the quality of this set.

The wood parts are 100 percent cedar that’s decay resistant, durable, and pre-stained, and the plastic is UV resistant.

A picture of the children's playset Woodridge II by Backyard Discovery, set up on a lawn with a lake and blue sky in the background.

Woodridge II by Backyard Discovery, available at Home Depot

The company stamps components with part numbers to facilitate easy assembly with their own Safe-T-Fuse hardware included to maximize safety.

Able to handle the vigorous play of up to nine children at a time, this full-scale set has an upper fort with a wood roof, open lower porch, sun deck, crow’s nest, and a high-rise tunnel accessed via a rock-climbing wall.

A sandbox and bench nestle in the shaded lower level, and two belt swings and a trapeze complete this extensive system of fun.

Read customer reviews and check prices now at Home Depot.

3. Step2 Clubhouse Climber

Perfect for the younger kids ages two through five, the Step2 Clubhouse Climber accommodates up to four children for a fun play date.

A plastic children's playhouse from Step2, called the Clubhouse Climber, set up on a lawn with blue sky in the background.

Step2 Clubhouse Climber, available at Wayfair

Kids can climb the stairs to the playhouse where they’ll find a porthole and steering wheel, then cross the bridge to a tower where they can peer out opposite portholes, before sliding down the slide to do it all again.

Crawlspaces below the bridge and tower add to the fun! Made in the USA.

Read customer reviews and check prices now at Wayfair.

4.  Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse Climber

The Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse Climber is a terrific choice for toddlers.

Children love to repeat tasks that please them, and with broad stairs, a platform, and a slide, they can take turns climbing up and sliding down, over and over again.

There’s even a nifty periscope for peering out onto the world around them.

A close up of the Step2 Lookout Treehouse Climber Playset for young children made from plastic.

Step2 Naturally Playful Lookout Treehouse Climber

A roof provides shade and the cozy security little ones crave. It’s a great place to snuggle up with a picture book when their batteries wind down!

This product is made from durable, BPA-free plastic that’s weather- and UV-resistant for hours of outdoor fun.

Maximum weight is 50 pounds. Made in the USA.

See it now on Wayfair.

5. Swing-n-Slide Grandview Twist Complete Swing Set

The Grandview Twist Complete Swing Set by Swing-n-Slide is stained a redwood color, and crafted from imported cedar wood.

The Grandview Twist Complete Swing Set providing lots of fun for children in a sunny backyard.

Grandview Twist by Swing-n-Slide

This model features two swings, two slides, a rock-climbing wall, covered play deck, open deck, monkey bars, and a glider swing, making it great fun and exercise for elementary age children.

The slides are made from durable, UV-resistant plastic and are available in yellow or green.

With a total weight capacity of 1155 pounds, both slides can support up to 250 pounds, and the swings 115 pounds each.

Installation is also available with purchase, depending on your location.

See it now on Wayfair.

6. Lifetime Monkey Bar Adventure Swing Set

The Lifetime Monkey Bar Adventure Swing Set with 9-Foot Wavy Slide has features elementary age kids love.

There are three belt swings, a trapeze bar with gym rings, a wavy slide, and a fire pole, to keep kids busy for hours.

Lifetime Monkey Bar Adventure Swing Set, Primary Colors

Galvanized, powder-coated steel and high-density polyethylene and UV protection make for a durable product that contains no lead. Made in the USA.

This model is available on Amazon in either brown and green earth tones, or bright primary colors.

7. Backyard Play Systems Castle Rock Swing Set

The Castle Rock Swing Set by Backyard Play Systems is available from Wayfair, and it is perfect for elementary age kids.

Castle Rock Swing Set by Backyard Play Systems

Castle Rock Swing Set from Backyard Play Systems

It’s constructed of high-quality premium preserved southern yellow pine.

And it has a 10-foot scoop slide, generous play deck, captain’s wheel, telescope, tire swing, rock wall with rope, two adjustable swings, a trapeze bar, a rope ladder, and a canopy for shade. Wow!

UV resistant and made for years of outdoor play, this model is made in the USA.

See it now on Wayfair.

8. KidKraft Meadowvale II Wooden Swing Set

The Meadowvale II Wooden Swing Set by KidKraft is a playset with a profile that’s just what you need in a small backyard, and it’s available at Wayfair.

Within a footprint of 12’10” x 10’6” this system is packed with play areas including an upper clubhouse, rock wall, high rail wave slide, oversized sandbox, two swings, and an acrobat bar.

Big Backyard Wooden Play Set

Big Backyard Meadowvale II Wooden Swing Set

This set is made from 100 percent premium cedar, except for the durable plastic slide and swing seats. And it can accommodate up to eight children, at a maximum weight of 110 pounds each.

Check current prices and read reviews now on Wayfair.

9. Step2 Game Time Sports Climber

Here’s a model that’s sure to be a hit with preschool sports fans, and it’s available on Amazon.

Step2 Game Time Sports Climber

Climb the ladder ramp to a landing and swoosh down the slide! Grab the ball and make a basket, or crawl through the tunnel and up the climbing ladder again for a cycle of rollicking good times.

This product is made from durable, UV-resistant plastic and holds up to 60 pounds. Made in the USA.

Read customer reviews and check prices now on Amazon.

10. KidKraft Ridgeview Deluxe Clubhouse Wooden Swing Set

The Ridgeview Deluxe Clubhouse Wooden Swing Set by KidKraft will make your home the most popular one on the block.

Geared toward the elementary age group, it can hold up to nine children at a maximum of 110 pounds each.

The manufacturer notes that the slide is removable, and swings may be exchanged for baby swings – a customizable model that can grow with the kids!

Big Backyard Ridgeview Deluxe Playset

Ridgeview Deluxe Clubhouse, available on Wayfair

This is the system of your child’s wildest dreams. It has an upstairs clubhouse with a roof, window, and flower box, and a lower clubhouse with an awning-covered snack counter and two stools.

Kids can write messages on a chalk wall, climb a rock wall, and swing from monkey bars. There are two swings, a glider, and a high rail wave slide.

This product is constructed of 100 percent premium cedar (Cunninghamia lanceolata), and is coated with a child-safe stain.

See it now on Wayfair.

11. Little Tikes Hide and Seek Swing Set

The Hide and Seek Swing Set by Little Tikes is suitable for the under two age group and is available from Wayfair.

Features include a molded seat swing with three-point harness, junior rock-climbing wall, clubhouse landing with peek-a-boo windows, and steering wheel.

A close up of a family playing outdoors on the Little Tikes Hide and Seek Swing Set with lawn and a wooden fence in the background.

Hide and Seek Swing Set by Little Tikes

And for ground exploration, there’s a soft fabric tunnel for baby to crawl through while you take the sweetest pictures ever!

This product has a weight capacity of 135 pounds and is made in the USA.

Take a closer look now on Wayfair.

12. Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set

For the preschoolers at your house, consider the Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set, available on Wayfair.

With two saddle swings, two ladders, and a slide, the kids are sure to have hours of fun and fitness.

This model features a clubhouse platform with steering wheel and roof which can be accessed via one of the two ladders.

A plastic backyard swing set with three children playing, set on a white background.

Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set

It can accommodate up to four children, and is made of durable plastic that’s easy to clean. Made in the USA.

See it now on Wayfair.

13. Sunny & Fun Portable 50-Foot Slackline Monkey Bar and Ladder Kit

The Sunny & Fun Portable 50-Foot Slackline Monkey Bar and Ladder Kit is available from Wayfair.

Fun for kids ages six and up, this portable obstacle course is easily installed between two sturdy trees or posts.

A close up of the Portable Slackline Monkey Bar and Ladder Kit from Sunny & Fun, pictured on a white background.

Sunny & Fun Portable 50-Foot Slackline Monkey Bar and Ladder Kit

It features a rope ladder, monkey fists, monkey bars, and rings that may be arranged as desired for a challenging series of activities for your little ninja-in-training.

Mounting equipment includes a ratchet and carabiners. Tree protectors and a carry bag are included.

The weight capacity is a generous 250 pounds, so mom or dad can give it a try, too!

Find it now from Wayfair.

14. Gym Dandy Tilt-A-Swing Set

You’ve never seen a swing like this! The Tilt-A-Swing Set by Gym Dandy is available from Wayfair.

It looks like a glider, but in addition to moving from front to back, it goes from side to side and around in a complete circle.

A metal backyard Gym Dandy Tilt a Swing set pictured on a white background.

Gym Dandy Tilt-A-Swing Set, available at Wayfair

Kids from 4 to 12 are sure to have fun making it go in all directions. And with a 300-pound weight capacity, the adults in the family can have a go, too.

This product is made in the USA of imported materials.

Find it now from Wayfair.

15. Gorilla Playsets Frontier Swing Set with Wood Roof

Gorilla Playsets makes an excellent cedar system called the Frontier Swing Set, available at Wayfair.

It features a wave slide, ladder, picnic table, sandbox, rock wall and rope, tic-tac-toe board, ramp, steering wheel, and telescope. In addition to tire, belt, and trapeze swings.

So many fun things to do!

Gorilla Playsets Frontier backyard swing and climbing set on a lawn in a sunny garden.

Gorilla Playsets Frontier

This is a great choice for a quality system to promote exercise and imaginative play for elementary age children.

See it now on Wayfair.

16. S & S Worldwide Figure 8 Balance Beam Set

From precocious preschoolers to children up to 110 pounds, there’s fun for all with the Figure 8 Balance Beam Set by S & S Worldwide. It https://www.amazon.com/Figure-8-Balance-Beam-Set/dp/B01KQH58XK?ref is available from Amazon.

S & S Worldwide Figure 8 Balance Beam Set

They’re sure to enjoy taking turns to see who can stay on top of this colorful twisty beam the longest, and enjoy a rich sensory experience.

Made of polyethylene, there are 18 curved sections, eight straight sections, and one “x” for the middle.

With a textured surface only two inches wide, staying on top may not be as easy as it looks!

Find it now from Amazon.

17. Laegendary Colored Rope Swing with Platforms

For kids of all ages up to 120 pounds, the Laegendary Colored Rope Swing with Platforms, available from Amazon, is a fun way to improve balance and exercise core muscles, as well as the imagination.

Laegendary Colored Rope Swing with Platforms

Sit or stand on the 12-inch disk to spin or swing. Climb the braided polyethylene rope using the colorful footholds for a bird’s eye view of the yard.

The rope measures 6.6 feet and may be adjusted to heights as low as 4.3 feet.

A 4.2-foot tree strap and carabiner are included for easy suspension from a sturdy post, slackline, swing set, or tree limb.

Made in the USA.

Find it now from Amazon.

Matching Age to Equipment

Your first consideration when choosing a play system is age appropriateness.

Children’s physical statures and motor skills vary by age, and matching their characteristics to those of the equipment is essential not only for enjoyment, but for safety.

As you explore options, you’ll find that equipment falls into one of three age categories: toddler to age 2, preschool ages 2 to 5, and elementary ages 5 to 12.

Toddler to 2 Years

Keep things close to the ground with baby swings, ramps, and simple stairs. Children who crawl soon take their first steps, and then begin to climb, with no fear of falling.

Help kids experience the joy of movement with equipment made especially for them.

What to Buy?

A terrific choice for toddler to twos is the Step2 Lookout Treehouse Climber Playset, available from Wayfair. Fun for climbing and sliding, over and over again!

Preschool (2-5 Years)

Systems in the preschool group resemble those of the elementary age, but are constructed on a smaller scale with close proximity to the ground.

Preschoolers have come a long way. They’re stronger and more limber, learning to balance, and feeling very confident in their movement.

A close up of a little boy dangling from a green plastic swing and laughing, with sand and grass in the background.

This means they can negotiate narrower steps and ladders, and shorter slides. They shout, “Push me!” as they tighten their grip for a swing ride. Not babies anymore, these kids are in constant motion, eager to master a task and put their own spin on it.

What to Buy?

For the preschoolers at your house, consider the Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set, available from Wayfair.

Elementary (5-12 years):

Think monkey bars, cable walks, tire swings, and fire poles. Children from five to 12 years of age are building agility and body awareness, so give them a little challenge with some activities to master.

A close up of a young boy on a blue swing with a climbing frame and garden scene in the background.

Kids at this age are energetic, and their movement is fluid and confident. They’ll race around with their friends for hours, and then, just like the little ones, will find a cozy retreat in the clubhouse platform. Large systems may accommodate 8 or more children.

Systems for this age group come in wood and metal, and can accommodate the weight and wear-and-tear of several children using multiple activity zones at once.

What to Buy?

The Frontier Swing Set from Gorilla Playsets is an ideal option for this age group, and is available at Wayfair.

Managing Various Age Groups

Matching ages to equipment is useful when shopping for a play system, but what do you do when your children are in multiple age brackets?

You could purchase more than one system, and create a custom play area for each age group. This is a terrific investment for a large family, or one where the children’s ages are widespread, and is much safer and better for your sanity than trying to keep the little ones off the big kids’ play equipment.

Or, you can purchase a quality system with interchangeable accessories. For example, standard swings come in three types: buckets for the youngest, back-supported for preschool, and belt-style for elementary age children. Switching them out as a child matures is an easy way to let your kids’ playset grow with them.

Custom modular systems, not only offer interchangeable accessories, but they may be expanded structurally as your children grow.

Getting Started

Are you with me so far? Great!

Once you’ve gotten some idea of the age group or groups that your kids fall into, take a look out the window at your yard.

Where do you have the best line of sight to keep an eye on your kids when they’re outside? Wherever that is, that’s the very best location for your new playtime setup.

Where do you have the best line of sight to keep an eye on your kids when they’re outside? Wherever that is, that’s the very best location for your new playtime setup.

So you’ve found that perfect viewing spot – but maybe the ground’s not completely level?

This can usually be remedied with some installation adjustments. Be sure to consult the manufacturer of your selected system to learn what’s possible with your chosen model.

Safety First: Home Playground Safety Tips

This brings us to our next and most important subject: safety.

A close up of a small brown teddy bear sitting at the top of a blue plastic slide on a soft focus background.

There’s a lot you need to know about your playground choice, such as its need for level ground, clearance for swings, and how far apart railings should be.

So read on, and let’s find out what you need to take into account for the safety of your kids.

Here’s a summary of safety essentials from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take seriously when setting up a backyard playset:

Protective Ground Surfacing

You will want the surface to be sturdy enough to be able to safely install the equipment, and soft enough to minimize injury in the event of a fall.

For Stationary Climbing Equipment and Slides:

Ensure a minimum of 6 feet around the perimeter, surfaced with soft, protective ground for safe use and prevention of injuries from falls.

For Swings

A minimum of 6 feet of protective surfacing should be laid out from the support structure on either side – and even more extended from the front and behind the set, at a length approximately twice the height of the swing from ground to support beam.

Swing Set Spacing

Ensure a minimum of 8 inches between swing and support structure, and between swings. A minimum of 16 feet should be maintained from swing support frame to pendulum seesaw.

A close up of a swing with metal chains and wooden seat pictured on a soft focus background.

Minimum clearance from the underside of swings to the ground should be 8 inches.

Elevated Surfaces

Platforms more than 30 inches above the ground should have guardrails to prevent falls.

Potential Entrapment Standards

Openings that are closed on all sides should be less than 3 1/2 inches, or greater than 9 inches.

Be sure to close “S” hooks as tightly as possible, and eliminate protrusions or any catch points on equipment.

9 Tips for Playground Maintenance

Keep the following in mind, to maintain a safe and fun backyard play space:

1. Inspect protective surfacing and maintain proper area and depth.

2. Replace or repair any hardware that is loose, worn, or protruding.

3. Maintain equipment footings, and remedy any potential tripping hazards.

4. Keep the area free of debris, toys, and litter.

5. Be sure that the children’s area is free of natural obstacles, like branches, weeds, rocks, and tree roots.

6. Keep metal components free of rust and chipped paint.

7. Remove wood splinters if possible. If wood is cracked or decayed, the structure may be unsafe. Stop use and contact the manufacturer.

8. Inspect for deterioration and corrosion on structural components that connect to the ground. Stop use if found, and contact the manufacturer.

9. There should never be any missing or damaged equipment components, such as handholds, guardrails, and swing seats. Repair or replace as needed.

A close up of a metal swing attachment on a soft focus background.

So far, so good. Now you know:

  • How to dedicate an area of the yard for safe fun
  • What to look for when you select a system
  • What to expect in terms of maintenance

Get Out Your Tape Measure

Now, you’re ready to mark off the area for your playground!

A children's playground with a colorful playset in a summer garden with houses and trees in the background.

Watch out for tree roots, and make sure there are no branches over the area. If you want shade, consider the shadows cast by your home at various times of day. Or, consider a system that casts its own shade with UV protected canopies.

Plan to place a cushioning layer or protective surface beneath the structure, according to the safety clearances recommended in the previous section of this article.

Rubber mulch or rubber tile are highly recommended for soft landings. Grass and dirt surfaces, on the other hand, are not recommended – they are just too hard and potentially unsafe.

So Many Options

And now for the exciting part – shopping for the new playground that your kids are going to love!

A close up of a little girl smiling as she climbs a metal playground ladder, with blue sky and clouds in the background on a summer day.

It’s a lot of prep, I know. But it will pay off, I promise you.

As you scroll through these photos of happy kids swinging, sliding, climbing, and having a fabulous time, you’re going to see that playgrounds are available in several different materials. And prices can vary widely.

In a nutshell, equipment might be made predominantly of either wood, metal, or plastic. Simple enough, right? But wait – which is the best?

Way back in my day, it was metal all the way. While that’s still a tempting option, wood and plastic are some of today’s most popular choices, if your budget allows.

My favorite sets are made of wood, so let’s begin there.

Here are the basics on some wood options you’ll see:

Redwood

Redwood is a hardwood, grown predominantly in California.

A close up of a piece of redwood, a common wood used in playground sets.

It is a durable option with an attractive reddish-brown color. Over time, if exposed to the elements, it may turn a silvery-gray color.

Pros

  • Consistent top-notch quality
  • Strong and durable
  • Naturally resists insects, decay, and rot
  • Minimal shrinking and swelling
  • Great appearance

Cons

  • Most expensive
  • Requires routine cleaning and staining and/or sealing to preserve appearance – otherwise color fades to gray over time

What to Buy?

The Kids Creation Redwood Grandstand Swing Set, on of our 17 recommended products, is a top-quality redwood playset, built to last. It’s available from Wayfair.

Cedar

There are several grades of cedar to choose from, most being more affordable than redwood. This option is also naturally resistant to decay, rot, and insects, like the former.

A close up of a cedar wood wall that has been stained, clearly showing the grain of the wood.

Cedar varieties include Pacific, Western Red, Alaskan Yellow, and Northern White.

Known for its aromatic scent, cedar quality does vary – with both good values and high quality options available.

Pros

  • Less expensive than redwood
  • Strong and durable
  • Naturally resists insects, decay, and rot
  • Not as likely to warp as pressure-treated lumber
  • Aromatic scent

Cons

  • Quality varies
  • Requires routine cleaning and staining/sealing
  • Without routine maintenance, color fades to gray over time

What to Buy?

The Backyard Discovery Woodridge II All Cedar Wood Swing Playset is one of our top 17 picks, and it’s loaded with activities for years of outdoor play. This model is available at Home Depot.

China Fir

Also called Chinese cedar, this is actually a type of cypress that naturally resists decay, pests, and rotting. It varies in color from yellow to white, with attractive red highlights.

A close up of roughly hewn Chinese fir, showing the grain of the wood.

Pros

  • Unique and beautiful colors not found in other woods
  • More affordable than redwood
  • Small knot structure
  • Soft but durable
  • Smoother than cedar woods
  • Less likely to warp than pressure-treated lumber
  • Naturally resists decay, pests, and rotting
  • Pleasant scent

Cons

  • Softer than redwood and true cedar
  • More prone to bowing and splitting than other options

What to Buy?

The Grandview Twist Complete Swing Set by Swing-n-Slide, one of our top 17 recommendations is available from Wayfair.

Pine

The quality of pine may vary, since it is a cheap and very readily available soft wood.

A close up of a pine wood wall with grain and knots in the wood clearly visible.

Look for “Premium Preserved” pine to ensure a top quality variety. There are other types of pressure-treated pine structures on the market as well, deemed safe and reliable for playgrounds. Also be sure to buy “green” treated wood that’s child safe if you go with this material.

Beware of models made of “wood” with a pine finish, as they are poor-quality imitations.

Pros

  • More affordable than redwood
  • Premium Preserved has an excellent reputation and guarantee
  • Premium Preserved pine advocates say it rivals redwood in durability
  • Premium Preserved pine requires no staining/sealing

Cons

  • PVC wrapping may cause water accumulation and deterioration
  • Pine quality varies
  • May warp, crack, or splinter
  • Pine is not naturally decay, pest, or rot resistant
  • Chemically pressure-treated
  • Older chemically-treated pine contains arsenic
  • Preserved Premium is usually more expensive than cedar

What to Buy?

The Backyard Play Systems Castle Rock Swing Set is available from Wayfair, and it’s one of our top 17 selections.

Professional assembly is available, provided by Wayfair’s network of experts.

Metal

Sets can also be made from heavy-duty, high-carbon steel pipes – each powder-coated or oiled to resist corrosion, discoloration, and heat retention.

A close up top down picture of a row of kids climbing up a metal playground ladder.

Pros

  • Strong and durable
  • No splinters or rough edges
  • Affordable
  • Powder-coated or oiled for weather resistance
  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • Gets hot to the touch
  • Requires anchoring in concrete
  • Considered old-fashioned or unattractive to some

What to Buy?

The Lifetime Monkey Bar Adventure Swing Set with 9 Foot Wavy Slide is available on Amazon. This elementary age set is one of our top 17 picks described above.

It requires no anchoring and is a great value in a galvanized steel product.

Plastic

Like metal, plastic components also pose no danger from splinters or rough edges, and are quite low-maintenance.

A close up of a child playing on a plastic backyard swing set, hanging from a red monkey bar.

Equipment for small children these days is usually made from plastic, as are slides and activity pieces in structures for older children.

Be aware that plastic parts do get hot in the sun! There doesn’t seem to be a particular color that stays cooler than the rest, although some will tell you that yellow is preferable.

The bottom line with any plastic playground material: unshaded equipment can reach temperatures in the 100s, sometimes even up to 200°F! So shading recreational areas at least at some point in the day is highly recommended.

Pros

  • Easy to maintain
  • Plastic is cooler than metal

Cons

  • May fade
  • Becomes hot to the touch in direct sunlight
  • May deteriorate in extreme heat
  • May crack in extreme cold

What to Buy?

An excellent example of a durable and easy to clean plastic model is the Little Tikes Clubhouse Swing Set, described above. It’s available from Wayfair.

Composite Decking

Modular components may also be constructed with a combination of wood and plastic called a “composite” – a mixture of two materials, or of unspecified wood treated with a polymer coating to increase its weather resistance.

A backyard playground set with yellow slide and tunnel pictured in bright sunshine with a garden scene in the background.

Pros

  • Low maintenance

Cons

  • More expensive than wood alone
  • May fade or stain
  • May crack
  • May trap moisture and promote mold growth
  • Mold leads to deterioration over time

Customization

Next, let’s take a look at the basic structure of your playground, and outfit it with fun features for perfect playtime and outdoor memories!

A close up of a little girl playing on a wooden backyard playset holding a rope and climbing up a ramp.

What are your kids into? Twisty slides, tire swings, rock-climbing walls, and themed modular sets (like pirate ships and clubhouses) only barely scratch the surface of what’s available.

Here’s a partial list of the many options from which to choose, for initial installation or adding on later:

  • Wavy slides, tube slides, double slides
  • Gliders, spinner swings, tire swings, infant swings
  • Acrobat bars
  • Fire poles
  • Steering wheels

A close up of the Gorilla Playsets Steering Wheel, in yellow, attached to a wooden fence, with lawn in the background.

Gorilla Playsets Steering Wheel in Yellow, available from Wayfair

  • Tic-tac-toes, chalk boards
  • Ladders, bridges, decks
  • Rings
  • Canopies
  • Crow’s nests
  • Telescopes

Pirate Telescope Swing Set Accessory, available on Amazon

  • Monkey bars
  • Picnic tables

DIY or Pay to Install?

Still with me? We’re almost finished.

Are you handy and ready to construct this baby yourself, or will you have it professionally installed? Most kits are pre-drilled and come with everything you need, so it’s completely up to you.

A close up of a green electric drill making a hole in a piece of timber held down by a gloved hand. In the background is a spirit level and further household tools in soft focus.

The most important part is the safety of the kids, so keep that in mind if you take on this project yourself.

Here’s what you need to do…

If you go the DIY route:

1. Upon the arrival of your unassembled playground equipment, read the entire owner’s manual.

2. Take inventory of all parts and their condition.

3. Contact the manufacturer immediately if there are any missing or damaged parts.

4. Gather all tools recommended by the manufacturer, and have additional basic tools handy including a tape measure, a level, twine, ground stakes or other markers, a hammer, flat head screwdrivers, Phillips screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. Be prepared for a trip to the hardware store, in the event that you do end up short a nut or a bolt.

5. In a level location, mark off the area required to install your playset (bearing in mind the necessary safety clearances).

6. Clear away all debris from the area.

7. Enlist the aid of a strong family member or friend, and read all of the manufacturer’s instructions again.

A close up of three kids on a sunny day climbing up a rope frame, with blue sky in the background.

8. Begin assembling the upright support structures and cross beams as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Level as needed. Tighten as recommended.

9. Attach all activity accessories such as swings, slides, and ladders.

10. Attach the canopy, if included.

11. Frame the play area as desired, and fill with soft-landing mulch of your choice.

If You Choose Professional Installation:

1. Select the location for installation, and be ready to show the pro exactly where you would like your equipment to be constructed. They will usually charge by the hour, so you can save some time by doing a little of the prep work yourself.

2. Mark off a level location, and clear away all debris. If you feel up to the task, you can even mark off the area required for your set using twine and stakes, bearing in mind the necessary safety clearances.

3. With your installer, participate an inventory of all parts and their condition, and contact the manufacturer immediately if there are missing or damaged parts.

4. Supervise installation, including leveling, tightening, and adding of accessories and canopy.

5. Thoroughly inspect all aspects of your product before signing off on the installation and permitting the installer to leave.

6. Frame the play area as desired and fill with soft-landing mulch of your choice. Depending on who you hire to install, this service may be included.

7. Set up appointments for regular maintenance if this is offered.

I’ll leave you here with some final advice, and then you’ll be ready to make the best decision!

5 Useful Tips for Playset Installation

1. Always buy products for children from reputable manufacturers who adhere to high standards for quality and safety, and warranty their work.

2. When selecting a modular system, investigate how components are fastened together. Wood should be smoothly sanded and bolted – it should not be glued, nor should there be laminated layers.

3. Hardware should be recessed, not sticking (and posing a potential hazard).

4. Look for models that have met the highly respected safety standards of an organization such as the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM).

5. Consider professional installation and a maintenance contract to ensure expert installation and upkeep. The life of your system depends upon both.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Your new apparatus is likely to be a neighborhood sensation!

A vertical picture of a little boy on a swing, pictured on a sunny day with trees and a fence in soft focus in the background.

That’s right: if you install a stellar playground, it could attract many kids from all around your community, not just your own.

So take my advice for the safety of all, and remember to do the following:

Inspect

Police the set for hazards before allowing children to enter.

Ask First

Have your children’s friends get parental permission to use your new set.

Fence It In

Fence in your home play area to keep out uninvited guests.

A close up of a young girl playing in a rope playground tunnel, on a sunny day.

If a child is drawn to your playset and plays without your permission and supervision, he or she could get hurt – and this could be your responsibility, especially if the playset is in disrepair.

It’s Go Time

Use this guide to choose a system that will provide your kids with many happy hours of fun. As you search online or discuss your thoughts with a salesperson, keep the following in mind:

  • Age-appropriate features
  • Safety
  • Solid construction
  • Installation
  • Maintenance

Okay, people, it’s time to get this project off the ground! Armed with information about what to look for and how to maintain your new set, it’s time to get out there and have some fun.

A close up of a red swing with a plastic seat and metal chains with a child in soft focus in the background.

What will you build in your backyard? What have been some of your children’s favorites over the years, and what models and materials have lasted the test of time? Let us know in the comments!

And for more outdoor furniture to brighten up your backyard, check out these guides next:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Backyard Discovery, Backyard Play Systems, Big Backyard, Gorilla Playsets, Gym Dandy, KidKraft, Kids Creation, Laegendary, Lifetime, Little Tikes, S & S Worldwide, Step2, Sunny & Fun, and Swing-n-Slide. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

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Max
Max (@guest_317)
3 years ago

I really like how you talked about different playground eqiupment that is available and better for different sizes of backyards. My wife and I are looking for some good equipment that will help our kids be able to enjoy the outdoors a little bit more, but we don’t have a ton of space. I really like that you talked about there being options available that fit well in a small backyard! I’m going to have to check that out.

Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie (@guest_2780)
1 year ago

Really nice blog! Choosing the right playground equipment helps to development kids’ social skills. Though games they can interact with other children.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams (@guest_3741)
1 year ago

Great article Nan! Safety needs to be the top most criteria for selecting playground equipment for children. Good equipment allows children to use their imagination, which is essential to growing up. Certain materials get tricky in winter due to snowfall and ice, which should be taken into consideration in places that have heavy winters, so that kids can have a little playtime in those months too.

Playground Fitness Equipment
Playground Fitness Equipment (@guest_4294)
1 year ago

This is an amazing product for children. Thanks for sharing

Sarah Conley
Sarah Conley (@guest_4569)
1 year ago

Great article, Nan! You go over all of the major considerations very well in this article! I think understanding the pros and cons of the different types of wood is something most people don’t know, and I love the insight you give into professional installment. I recently wrote a blog about playground equipment, too! If you have time, I’d love for you to take a look and tell me what you think – one PA girl to another 🙂 ! https://happylittletadpole.com/best-kids-playground-sets/

Best,
Sarah from Happy Little Tadpole

Minlin
Minlin (@guest_6930)
5 months ago

Thank you for this well organized and explained listing of children play sets.

However, we all know how FAST these children grow and move on and hopefully out.
Now, what about backyard exercise components for teens and adults that would be attractively integrated into our backyards?Remember the monkey bars, climbing rope, balance beam, uneven bars, parallel walking bars, etc…
Wouldn’t such a backyard be a lifesaver during this long pandemic?

Beverly
Beverly (@guest_7059)
5 months ago

I cannot find any retail source with a play set for 6 year olds (wood or otherwise) that is not out of stock…….any suggestions?
Thank you,
Beverly

Royal Play
Royal Play (@guest_7371)
5 months ago

Hello Nan, your blog is superb. I really liked it. You described all the playground equipment which we can use in our backyard. This post is very helpful for those who eagerly want to install a playground but they don’t know how to choose the right equipment and then install them.