Buying Guide for Outdoor Play Equipment

Author: Teresa Opdycke Date Posted:24 July 2013

Your Play Outdoor Play Equipment Buying Options

Children of all ages love the outdoors and finding fun things to do in the fresh air and sunshine can try the patience of many parents. Make it easy on yourself and fun for the kids with an area in the yard just for them with some get their attention items. Read on for a buying guide to outdoor play equipment that will aid in figuring out just what's right for you and yours.

Consider Your Yard before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment for Children 
Before you begin looking at actual outdoor play equipment take a walk in the yard with a tape measure, notepad, and pen in hand. Measure your yard. The size of the yard determines what will fit and what there isn't enough room for to be included in the outdoor play equipment. Would a play area be better suited in the back yard or side yard? Is there a slope to the yard? Will standing water become a problem or is there enough drainage? Consider how the new play area will look. Will it blend in with other structures you may all ready have in your yard like a deck or an outbuilding for lawn care equipment? Will outdoor play equipment interfere with the garden or flower beds? Answering these questions will resolve any issues involving the yard before you approach your children with the good news.

Consider Your Budget before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment for Children 
Providing outdoor play equipment for your children doesn't come cheap. Prices range from a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand for the more complex redwood play gyms with all the bells and whistles a kid could want. Sit down with the calculator and figure out what the budget allows and how much you want to spend before you take the next big step. Make a pact that you will not budge on the budget no matter how much your child wants the elevated cubby with the yellow and white striped awning covering it.

Consider Your Children before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment 
Now's the time to get the children involved in the decision making process. Ask them to list all the things that they'd like to be included in outdoor play equipment. Remind them that they will not get everything they want, but together you'll decide the best items. Once lists are made, ask them to choose one thing they like the best. Do your utmost to include at least one thing each child desires.

Consider Various Materials before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment 
Before buying outdoor play equipment for your children consider the various materials that are used to build the play sets. You'll also want to think about the capability to add new items as the children grow. It's doubtful that what excites a child of four will do the same for a 9 year old. Allow for the growth of your children as well as the play area. Bear in mind one of the most important aspects of anyoutdoor toys is durability. Children play rough and the elements play rougher. Whatever materials you decide upon, make sure they can withstand the onslaught of hard play and inclement weather.

Plastic is great for toddlers. Outdoor play equipment for this age group may include swings, slides, or sandboxes all made of hard plastic in bright colors. These items are easily found and a cinch to put together. There's little allotment for growth, though. By the time a toddler reaches 4 or 5 they've outgrown the plastic swing.

Cedar or redwood tops the list as the most durable and most desirable woods to be used for outdoor play equipment. Both woods are naturally resistant to rot and chewing insects. A little pricey but the advantages of redwood or cedar outweigh the dollar signs if money is not an issue. A plus to using redwood or cedar…it can increase the value of your home.

Pine is another wood that can be used to create some great play areas for children, but use only 100% chemical free pine. Pressure treated wood causes illness in children and must be avoided. A downside of using pine for outdoor play equipment is that it must be treated with a sealer every year.

Make sure the hardware used on the play set will be flush with the wood used. Protruding objects are potential hazards for injuries. You'll find some fantastic buys when it comes to choosing metal sets. Just make sure that heavy duty galvanized steel is used. Make sure the metal outdoor play equipment comes with a lifetime warranty against rust.

Consider Safety before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment 
Check out the safety features of the outdoor play equipment set you're interested in before buying. Also be aware of the following safety rules. A 9 inch cushion of mulch, wood chips, shredded rubber, pea gravel, or sand is necessary to absorb falls while playing. The protective surface for beneath the play equipment should extend 6 feet beyond all units in every direction.

No play area would be complete without swings, but make sure there is plenty of space between each swing. Also anchor the swing set securely to prevent the swing set from lifting off the ground and tipping over. If the play area is large, you may need to secure it in concrete. Choose swings that are age appropriate. Infants and toddlers 9 months to 2 years and under 40 pounds require high backs and a front bumper as well as a safety belt to keep them falling out. Ages 3 to 5 need lower back support along with a safety belt to keep them secure. Children five and above do well with a rubber U shaped swing.

Take a look at the thickness of the slide. It should be at least ¼ inch thick and come with high sides to prevent toppling over the side. Stay away from metal slides, a hot sun glowing down on a metal slide creates heat that is retained. On a hot day a metal slide burns children. If you're planning a tree house or an elevated platform install railings to protect children from falling. Little hands and feet can get caught in railings that are too close together and heads have been known to get stuck between railings. Keep all railings at 3 and ½ inches or less apart or at least 9 inches apart. The rungs of ladders should be the same distance apart for safety reasons. Outdoor play equipment that includes climbing apparatus or ladders should be at an angle for young children, but the upright position is ok for older ones. If you've decided the budget allows for the darling cubby with the yellow and white striped awning, make sure the fabric used is breathable and not vinyl. Vinyl traps the heat and is less durable than cloth made for the outdoors.

Consider the Details before Buying Outdoor Play Equipment 
Once you're at the store and you've spotted the perfect outdoor play equipment for your children start asking questions. Do they deliver and install or should you plan on installing it yourself. It may be wise to have some basic carpentry skills and knowledge before tackling a huge project like a cedar play area. Did you make sure to include at least one request from each child? Is there a warranty? What is their return policy should something go awry? Jot down all measurements and bid the store salesman a good day. Go home with the measurements and mark out the area needed to house the play area. Does it fit? Sleep on it and then go back to the store and check the play equipment you've chosen one last time. Now it's time to buy.

Consider the Fun Your Children Will Have on the Outdoor Play Equipment 
Once the outdoor play equipment is happily ensconced in your yard with children swinging, sliding, and climbing in jubilation and joy, don't forget to supervise. Make sure your children know basic playground rules. Periodically do a maintenance check on the play equipment and the cushioning surface beneath the play equipment. Sit back and watch with a smile as your children reach for the stars and imagine fantastic scenarios while they skittle and scamper on their brand new outdoor play equipment.