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Setting up a backyard play set

Outdoor play is a highlight of childhood. Being able to run, jump and swing outside is an excellent form of exercise and a way for kids to interact with their friends.

One staple of youthful play is spending time on a play set in the backyard. Parents without a play set in the backyard need only look into a neighboring yard with a play set to witness these prime congregation spots for the neighborhood children. And play sets don't just benefit kids. Parents who want to keep tabs on their children can do so much more easily with a backyard play set, and knowing they are having fun close by alleviates worries.

The decision to purchase a play set is one pondered by parents all across the country. There are scores of ready-made varieties available or sets that can be custom designed. The choice of which one to buy should be based on a number of factors, both in desired features and also models that offer safety.


The first decision parents face is which material to use for the play set. The main materials used to build play sets are plastic, metal and wood. Plastic sets tend to be very basic and may be reserved for young children's sets. While they can go outside, they may not last more than a few years and are often best relegated to indoor toys.

Metal sets are some of the most durable and strong. They are frequently seen at parks and playgrounds. Metal play sets are often cemented down to a foundation for stability, which doesn't make them ideal for a temporary set that will be removed when the kids outgrow it. Also, you cannot generally add onto a metal set.

Wooden sets are usually a compromise between the two. They're good for backyards because they can be taken down when they're no longer used. They can also be made more useful with add-on attachments, such as extra slides, rock walls and different swing variations.


Play sets are designed for children, so all of them should be safe, right? Not exactly. Some manufacturers cut corners or create somewhat questionable designs. Look for recessed hardware and bolts so that clothing doesn't snag on pieces that stick out.

Choose play sets that have handles for extra stability while children are climbing. Avoid ones with metal hardware that can rust and weaken over time. Wood-to-wood attachments won't rust and will be more durable.

When choosing wood sets, be sure to select hardwoods that will not soften and warp. In addition, choose designs that feature rounded edges so there will be less chance for splinters or injuries from hitting blunt edges.

Be sure to have plastic-covered chains on swings and other moveable parts so that fingers cannot get inside of the links and be pinched.

Check to make sure treated and stained wood does not contain harmful material, like arsenic, that can leach out of the wood into the surrounding soil.

Some parents also may want to look for a wooden play set that is made from materials harvested following sustainable forestry guidelines. This gives parents some peace of mind knowing their child's play set is eco-friendly.

Play sets can be fun additions to the backyard. They come in many different sizes and configurations, so it's possible to find one that will fit in any backyard.