Fun Backyard Play Set Ideas

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Backyard playgrounds offer a family and children an incredible amount of outdoor fun and pleasure, from a simple tree swing to a large and adventurous tower and clubhouse playground set. The options for playgrounds have moved beyond the traditional swing set to full and elaborate structures including climbing capabilities and creative play spaces. Creating a backyard playground is a healthy home design element to get children outside and moving around and away from video games and televisions. It also can be very educational for social, motor and creative skills development.

When deciding upon a backyard playground, there are several things to consider.

  • If living in a condominium or housing community, find out if you can use your green space to create a playground.
  • Check with homeowners and associations to abide agreements especially if permits are required for any construction or earth tilling.
  • In addition, nearby neighbors should be consulted if it's a structure that would cause a disturbance to their property or is unsightly to from their property.

When everything is approved, decide upon what type of backyard playground to create. Options for backyard playgrounds include a plethora of materials such as:

  • Plastic
  • Recycled materials
  • Reclaimed materials and wood.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

The playground structure should withstand seasonal weather changes for years to come. It's best to choose wood that does not cause splinters and is not prone to drying out and cracking.

Playgrounds and play spaces can be built from scratch, bought as kits and gathered elemental. Playground kits and apparatus are available to buy at a variety of stores including garden centers and the options available online are also an avenue to explore for the best possible structures and equipment for your children.

  • Consider safety elements for slides, climbing, monkey bars, swings and zip lines.
  • Create a space that is age appropriate and can be modified as children grow.
  • Trees, chains, ropes and rubber elements must be durable.
  • Look for coated chains, recessed bolts and rounded and smooth edges when purchasing a playground because these elements will help prevent injuries.
  • If choosing plastic or vinyl, pick colors and materials that will absorb heat in the summer.
  • Some primary colors can heat-up like a frying pan. If using wood products, make sure the wood elements are treated with a stain or sealant and will not make children sick or allergic.
  • Most wood playgrounds are made of cedar and are treated wood. In addition, if purchasing a kit check to see if lumber is included.
  • If a metal playground is considered, make sure it's durable and rust resistant.

Playgrounds can be customized to include as many elements as you would like your kids to have. Online kits will allow you to create a playground to fit your backyard and children's desires. Kits can also be bought ready to go. Buying online or through a manufacturer will allow you to design for your budget as well. Store bought playgrounds can be limited and DIY kits can also require certain amount of carpentry skill. Nonetheless, ask your children what they want and love about playgrounds to get an idea of what would make them happy.

Most backyard play areas include:

  • Towers
  • Sand boxes
  • Forts
  • "Store" spaces
  • Clubhouses
  • Swings
  • Ropes
  • Climbing apparatus
  • covered and exposed slides
  • Zip lines

Ground material is also a consideration for erosion and aesthetics. Wood chips and mulch that don't give splinters, shredded rubber, "pea" gravel and surface mats should be several inches thick and generously spread out several feet from the playground structure. Check swing heights for an idea on how far out protective surfacing should be considered. If planning a sandbox, make sure the sand or sand material is safe for kids. In addition, if including any water features such as splash zones or water tables consider placement and safety issues as well as water sources. Make sure that the playground materials are safe and preventive for passing illnesses.

Another educational element to consider for a playground is a garden. Children can learn about nature and science from tending small gardens. In addition, gardens add an attractive design element to the playground structure. Other playground features to consider are:

  • In-ground and aboveground trampolines
  • Bouncy houses
  • Bocce ball courts
  • Horseshoe throwing range

It's also not a bad idea to consider fencing in a close quartered neighborhood to keep neighbors happy who may not want to look at a backyard playground. In addition, a fence will keep strangers away and will limit vandalizing. As a parent, you may want to join in on the fun with your kids so consider how the structure will handle adults and stay safe. Strong playgrounds will last for years and create strong family and friendship bonds if maintained and cared for properly.

Last Updated: August 28, 2011
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About Sabina Dana Plasse Sabina Dana Plasse holds a bachelor's degree in history from Bucknell University, a master's in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a master's in film and video from American University. She is an award-winning writer and editor living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Besides writing on fine arts, lifestyle, home and garden, entertainment, philanthropy and business, she enjoys teaching film and writing screenplays. Sabina has served as the arts and events editor and living writer for the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, a twice weekly national award-winning newspaper serving Idaho's Wood River Valley. Sabina adores mountain town living where she is an active snowboarding, skier, mountain biker, hiker, supporter of the arts and an avid seeker of practical living ideas.  

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