Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How To Choose A Backyard Play Set: 5 Helpful Hints

This post is not to be confused with my next post, "How to Assemble a Backyard Play Set in 5,487 Easy Steps!"*

Growing up, our backyard swing set was a staple of my childhood. With its trapeze, double swings, swinging bench seat and aluminum slide, it was the best playground in our neighborhood and the place where all of my friends loved to congregate. When my dad started wax papering the slide to boost maximum slipperiness, it became an even cooler hangout and now I suddenly realize where our middle child inherited his sense of danger adventure. 

I always knew when we had kids that a backyard play set would be a part of their childhood too but when I started to do my research, I quickly became overwhelmed with all of the options. While a swing set is undoubtedly more of a luxury than a necessity, it's something that all three of our boys (and their friends) would enjoy for many years to come and although it took a bit of convincing, it wasn't long before my husband was in agreement and started his own mission to find the best backyard swing set for our current life season. 

Let me tell you. Backyard play sets have come a long way since the late 80's. Very few are made from aluminum any more but instead are crafted from sturdier, natural materials, such as pine or cedar. There are thousands of models to choose from- some with forts, others with cabins, ones with regular slides or tube slides and our personal favorite, twisty slides. Some come with climbing walls and cargo nets while others are much more simple in their design. While I'm certain you could find numerous sets at varying affordable price points, I can remember stumbling upon a castle-like play set that retailed upwards of $11K and couldn't help but wonder who in the world was buying that for their kids! It cost more than my first car! 

While you might be quick to find the cheapest set on the market, it's best to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. That's not to say you should spend your life savings on something that your kids would need to charge their buddies admission for but it's definitely a piece of advice worthy of keeping in the back of your mind.  

Similarly, you may feel led to purchase a set designed to meet the needs of your children now, but the truth is, you really want to maximize longevity by choosing a set they can grow with instead of out of.  

Here's a quick list of things to keep in mind when choosing a swing set:

1. Measure up. Survey the area in which you plan to put the set. You'll need to make sure it's clear of trees, hanging branches, or other road blocks. Does your yard have a fence? That's something to take into consideration when planning swing clearance. Be sure to measure the entire square footage of the area in consideration.Most importantly, the ground must be FLAT.

2. Think ahead. While cost is typically a number 1 concern, it's also very important to keep in mind who the set is for and how it will continue to engage them in coming years. The average lifespan of a backyard play set is 7-12 years if properly maintained so it's very important to invest in a set that grows with your kids and continues to meet their developmental needs.

3. Choose materials. Whether metal or wood, you can't really go wrong. While metal requires much less upkeep, the beauty of a natural wood set can't be beat. It's important to keep in mind that some wood materials are often treated with chemicals- if that's a deal breaker, be sure to check out pressurized wood options that are often chemical-free. 

4. Keep it simple. Many play experts will tell you that kids enjoy the simpler sets and are routinely drawn to them as opposed to the more extravagant, complicated ones. Once again, keep in mind the size and ages of your children and choose accessories that promote their developmental growth rather than hinder it.  

5. Ready to install. Ease of installation is key. The more complicated and elaborate? The more difficult it will be to assemble and if cost is an issue, keep in mind that professional installation can be an added, hefty expense.

After weeks of research, measuring and re-measuring, we chose to surprise our three boys with The Charleston model from Big Backyard and while the surprise was immediately spoiled when the delivery man shouted from the truck, "Got your swing set here!" it was pure awesomeness seeing the look on their faces when the big rig swung by to unload their newest favorite toy.

Next week I'll highlight the installation process and will share my husband's honest opinion on the whole process as well as share some pictures of our boys enjoying their backyard playground paradise!

Disclaimer: This post is the first in a three part series as a Brand Ambassador for Big Backyard. I received a play set for free in return for sharing my honest, upfront opinions on our experience! In the coming months I will be sharing how we chose our set as well as our honest opinion of the set-up process! Stay tuned! 

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