Parents, Are Your Kids Ready for a Swing Set? Read This First!

If your kids are like most, they want to go to the playground ALL THE TIME.  It's understandable why they want to be there, but it's not always practical.  One possible solution?  A swing set for the backyard.  A swingset is an investment and before diving in you need to be sure to ask the right questions to be sure you wind up with the right type of swing set for your lifestyle and your space. These questions include all equipment involved, correct measurements, spatial and safety considerations, and other issues.  Rhianna Miller, a Home and Landscaping Design Expert at Rubber Mulch has some guidance she thinks all parents should heed before taking the plunge.   

swing set
Image via Pixabay

{ MORE: Creating a Safety Culture at Home }

Will it fit our space?

Be realistic and practical about where you will be putting your swing set. Even if you have fantasies of a swing set with all the bells and whistles big enough for all of the neighborhood kids, you will need to tailor your playset to the size of your yard.

Take careful measurements before buying equipment, and allow some room to change or expand things as your children grow. You will need a cleared area that extends six feet from all sides of your playground. Swings need cleared space at least twice the height of their beams.  Even if you don’t have a big yard, innovation and creativity can be your tools. Remember the days when a rubber tire on ropes tied to a tree branch was enough to keep kids happy in the spring and summer?   Think creatively about how you can use what you have.  
 
Is it age-appropriate?
Playground equipment falls under three age groups: “toddlers” (6 months-2 years), “preschool” (2 years-5 years), and “school age” (5 years-12 years). Playground manufacturers are supposed to design their sets and equipment with these groups’ physical, intellectual, and social skills in mind. Doing this prevents potential injuries resulting from kids playing on equipment not meant for their age group. 

Before buying a set, consult manufacturers’ guides for the correct age group. Toddler sets typically include full bucket seat swings, spring rockers. single-file step ladders, ramps, and climbing equipment that are no more than 32 inches high. Preschoolers can have merry-go-rounds, full bucket seat swings, rung ladders, and horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60 inches high for kids 4 and 5 years old. School-age kids can have horizontal, rung, and step ladders, overhead rings, fulcrum seesaws, arch climbers, and more.  Some sets have attachments that can be switched out as your children get older, such as swapping bucket swings for regular swings.  
 
Has it passed safety standards?
Perhaps the most important consideration you have to make regards safety and durability. Aside from choosing age-appropriate equipment, you should carefully look into the manufacturer’s background – check if any of their products have been recalled or deemed substandard by the ASTM, CPSC, and other product safety experts. The CPSC has a safety education page on their official website that gives alerts, guidance, information, and the latest news on playground safety, so that’s a good place to start.
 
Will it protect my kids from injuries?
In order to ensure your kids stay safe while playing you will need to invest in proper surfacing material that acts as a cushion for potential falls and spills. Rubber mulch is a good option because it offers the best shock absorbency, as well as the least maintenance, among all playground surfacing materials. 

However sturdily built a playground is and what you use to protect against falls, you are going to have to commit to keeping your kids safe while playing, especially if they are very young. Constant supervision is a must if you want to prevent injuries, accidents, and other untoward incidents from happening.
 
How much cost and maintenance is involved?
Of course, the price tag is an important consideration when buying a swing set, especially if you have the budget to pay for a good design with quality materials. A playset is more of an investment than a necessity, but it is one your children will likely love for years to come. After deciding to buy a playground set, remember to keep maintenance in your budget, as well. You could need some re-coating, re-varnishing, and sealant to protect your playground's wooden parts as the years go by to ensure your swing set lasts for as long as your children want to use it. Commit to regular inspection. Check for rotting wood, rusting metal, loose parts, peeling paint, and other hazards. Test surfaces constantly to see if they are too hot or too cold for your kids to use. 

Some other considerations are the material used and how you will assemble your playset.  The first choice to make is whether you will use wood or plastic.  Wooden swing sets tend to be sturdier and longer-lasting.  Some families are even able to pass along wooden swing sets to other families once their children have outgrown them.  However, wood comes at a cost.  They are also more complex to assemble and install and many require professional installation to ensure safety.  Many families prefer the affordability of plastic which, while not quite as durable as wood, should be durable enough to last through your children's childhood.  Plastic sets are also easier to move and assemble, which make them a great choice for families who may want to redesign their backyards at some point or may relocate.    

Whatever you choose, your kids will love having a mini-playground in their own yard.  Do you have a swingset you love?  Tell us about it!

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Parents, Are Your Kids Ready for a Swing Set? Read This First!

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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