When you’re ready to make an investment into a backyard playset, it can be tempting to add all the bells and whistles at once. After all, your child will grow into it and use the playset for years to come. But you’ll want to resist the urge of purchasing an amazing play structure that does not meet your child’s developmental needs. This could leave you with a frustrated kid, or even worse, an injured one.
The good news is many playsets can be upgraded or expanded as your child grows and is ready to tackle new physical challenges. Think about what your child is capable of today, not years from now when buying the right playset.
Swingsets For Kids Younger than Two Years
Toddlers are just learning to navigate the world around them and trying to become steady on their feet. It’s important that much of their play can be done while crawling or cruising. Focus on fun spaces that are low to the ground and that are easy to navigate, like small sets of stairs or ramps. It’s safer for toddlers, under the age of two, if they do not climb more than 3ft from the ground.
Consider these play options to ensure you’re buying the right playset for your youngest children:
- Bucket swings or baby swings
- Glider swings
- Tunnels with bubble panels
- Open slides
- Sand or water tables
- Accessories like wheels, telescopes or megaphones
For Kids 2 to 5 Years old
Preschoolers are a little more sure-footed; always ready to jump, leap and climb. At this age, their playset can mimic that of school-age children, just smaller, shorter and lower to the ground. At this age, no pieces of playground equipment should be higher than 6ft. And remember, if you have to lift your child onto the equipment, then it’s not age-appropriate.
For this age group, plan on expanding into:
- Short ramps with rock-climbing inspired grips
- Short ramps with ropes
- Lower swing beams or horizontal ladders
- Tube and spiral slides
- Belt swings, tires swings or horse rider swings
For Kids 5 Years and Older
For school-age kids, outdoor play incorporating playsets helps them develop muscle strength, balance and build hand-eye coordination. But there are safety precautions to take, even at older ages, and your playset should not include pieces that are higher than 8ft off the ground.
For school-age children, your playset can include:
- Large rock-climbing ramps
- Cargo nets or ropes courses
- Taller horizontal ladders
- Trapeze bars or rings
- Fireman’s poles
- Buoy ball or disc swings
Safety at Any Age
Keep your children, at any age, safe when falls inevitably happen. Grass and dirt are not appropriate surfaces for your playset, as they provide no cushion on impact to protect a child who falls. Instead, opt to place your play structure on material like shredded rubber, mulch, sand or pea gravel.
Additionally, check your playset periodically for hazards, developed over time, that could potentially harm children at play. Look for splinters in untreated wood structures or rust on metal structures. Better yet? Purchase a playset constructed of vinyl, which will hold up from wear and tear for much longer. Also, check for open S-hooks, protruding bolts or anything with sharp edges.