Choosing the Right Playset

This is where I grew up, in the orange dot in the middle of the black circle.  We lived on a double lot with nothing but grass and a couple white birch trees, and behind us were fields of horses and sheep.  Space to run and play?  My town cornered the market on space.

Then I moved to the city because the grass is always greener, even in places with no grass whatsoever, until we realized that our future family would need room and I would need the outdoors that I grew up loving so much.  Here in the DC suburbs, unless you have a million dollar budget, you are forced to choose between space inside your house and space outside of your house.  Seven years ago we bought a small house with a great yard in an okay neighborhood, and then two years ago we bought this amazing playset from Backyard Discovery.

And then we moved.

We had to leave that awesome playset behind because our new house is much larger, which means that the backyard is much smaller. We promised the kids that we would buy another playset once we got settled in the new home, but with a smaller yard that is not completely level, we’ve been struggling to find the best playset for our new yard.  From discussions that we’ve had on Facebook, I’ve found that a lot of people are in the same situation. When there are so many choices, sometimes it becomes impossible to make a decision.

Thankfully, Backyard Discovery, the brand that I’ve enjoyed working with in the past and whose playset I purchased previously, agreed to an interview to help answer some of the questions that readers have had.

Interview with Tom Reed, eCommerce Manager, International Sales Manager, Backyard Discovery

Q1: What are the most important factors for a family to think about when choosing the right playset?

While most people immediately think of cost, we recommend thinking first about where the set will go and who it is for.  Obviously, cost is important and people have budgets to work within, definitely keep that in mind, but it’s just as important to know where you will place the set.  If you have a yard that only a certain amount of flat space to accommodate a playset and the surrounding play area, than that will help you determine which sets you can feasibly add to your yard.  Then, it’s also important to think about how many people will be using the set, as well as their ages.  You want to make sure that the set meets the developmental needs of the kids playing on it, so if you have two children ranging in ages, the set should have accommodations and features to appeal to both.  By keeping these factors in mind, it’s much easier to narrow down your options and find a set that meets your needs.

Q2: What is Backyard Discovery’s most popular playset?

Since we offer a wide variety of playsets in terms of both size and cost, we have discovered that each of our playsets appeal to their own group of people.  However, last year we found the Highlander to be our most popular set, and while 2011 playsets were only recently released, we’re already seeing an overwhelming interest in the Montpelier playset.

Q3: For those who may already own a wooden playset, how difficult is it to care for a wooden playset, and what yearly maintenance should be done?

One of the great things about all Backyard Discovery playsets is that they are made of 100% cedar lumber, which is a naturally decay-, rot-, and insect-resistant wood.  Therefore, the use of such a high-quality and enduring lumber ensures that our playsets last.  Still, our playsets require some regular maintenance to not only ensure that they stay in tip top shape, but also to make sure they are a safe for children to play on.  Given this, we recommend regularly checking for rough spots that can result from dry weather or general wear and tear and sanding them down.  We also recommend sealing your playset once or twice a year as a preventative measure that will protect the wood from weather damage or splitting.

Q4: For families with smaller backyards, what are the best options available from Backyard Discovery?

We know that every family has different needs; therefore, we try to offer a range of sets will accommodate a variety of situations.  For families with smaller yards, we certainly have smaller sets that they may find suitable, including the Prescott and the Tucson Cedar Swing Sets.  In addition to these playsets, we also have the Winchester Playhouse.  This set is smaller than your average playset, but still offers children to home away from home where they can play and explore.

Q5: Is it possible for a family with a yard that is not quite level to own a playset?

Unfortunately, in order to ensure that the playset is securely anchored and will not tip over, a flat surface is necessary.  Therefore, those with a non-flat yard but really interested in having a playset will need to find a way of leveling the yard space.

Q6: Are there certain styles of Backyard Discovery playsets that are better suited for a not-quite-level yard?

Since none of the playsets are tiered, with one side resting higher than the other, they all require a flat surface in order to be securely anchored and safe for play.

Q7: How large should the safety perimeter be around any backyard playset?

We recommend setting the playset a minimum of six feet away from all obstacles on all borders, with obstacles including items such as the house, a shed, low-hanging branches, electrical wires and clotheslines.

In the end, we were able to find an area of our yard that meets all of the requirements mentioned above and are now waiting approval of our Home Owner’s Association to be able to purchase the Patriot Playset.  We made this choice based on the “fort” feel of the deck, the rock wall that my son loved on our old playset, and the shallow depth of the set due to the side slide.  This set will allow us to have all of the features our four and seven year olds want, but also the safety area on all four sides.

What are the features that you most look for in a playset, what are the challenges you face in your own yard, and do you have a playset that you love and would recommend?

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  • LOVE this post! In our new neighborhood EVERYONE has a play set and I’ve always wondered how they decided on the ones they have.

  • It’s funny because we finally have a huge yard to place one of those things! We have moved every time I got pregnant and I have 5 kids so we moved alot. Each time into a bigger rented home with either no yard or all cement!

    We finally purchased our first home 2 years ago and the first thing we did, even before painting and such, was go to Lowes and buy a Swing n Slide set. It is very sturdy and has held up awesome.

  • We LOVE your blog! we are Thrilled to say we are your newest followers and {blog} friends! my sister and I just created a blog and would LOVE for you to come take a peek and let us know what you think. Don’t forget to follow us and become our newest {blog} friends as well;) (family blog)

  • These play sets really are beautiful but as you point out not everyone is fortunate to have enough space for them. Our garden is situated on a slope and even with terracing I’m not sure we could accomodate one. We got round it by putting up separate rope swings and building a living willow den!

  • Great interview!

    We are looking to get a backyard playset and I will look into Backyard Discovery!

  • My kids will be quite surprised next weekend when we get their very first playset built. I have waited since they were little to get into a home I knew would be home forever! Playsets are a must have for any parent!

  • This is a really helpful way to think about buying swing. I have several friends with smaller yards (one who actually just moved from DC where they too had no yard) and it’s hard to know which swing sets will work best in smaller spaces.

    Really cool that Backyard Discovery was available to ask these questions. Where they easy and approachable to contact?