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A Complete Parent’s Guide to Residential Playground Equipment

    Getting our kids outside is one of the best things we can do for them. Playing outside boosts imagination, improves gross motor skills and fosters imaginative play. Studies observe higher creativity, increased problem-solving abilities and better concentration among children who spend unstructured time playing outdoors, and The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and CDC recommends a minimum of 1 hour a day of free play and activity for children 6 to 17 years old. Most of us would probably guess, correctly, that today’s kids don’t get outside enough. A 2021 study found kids aged 8 to 12-year-olds spend 5 hours and 33 minutes of screen time a day. Given these results, shouldn’t we encourage the kids we know to get outside and run, climb, slide and play? Sometimes, though, real life intervenes. Safety concerns often mean parents are reluctant to send their children out unsupervised in the neighborhood, and sometimes the hassle involved in packing young children into the car and driving them to the park means such trips don’t happen as frequently as we’d like. Situations like these are where residential playground equipment can improve outdoor playtime dramatically. Home play equipment is customizable enough to provide hours of inspired outdoor play, durable enough to last for years and trendy enough to make a whole neighborhood of school kids jealous. Best of all, it’s right outside, safe in the privacy of your backyard.  

What to Consider When Buying Residential Outdoor Playground Equipment

The variety of options available for residential playgrounds can seem daunting, and sometimes parents feel lost as to where to begin. What factors should you take into account when you’re thinking of searching for residential playgrounds for sale?
  • Number of children: Who will use the equipment? Just a kid or two? In that case, you can probably go with a smaller playset with fewer bells and whistles. If you have a larger family or anticipate frequent young visitors, you’ll need to invest in a playset that has options for multiple children to play at the same time.
  • Age of children: To a certain extent, you must consider the ages of the children who will be using the equipment — your kids, of course, but potentially relatives’ or neighbors’ kids too. You don’t want to spend money creating a unique structure full of innovative sliding, climbing and hideout features, only to discover your kids don’t want to use them because they’re too young or they lack the coordination to use the features properly.
  • Potential upgrades: You also don’t want to spend money creating a structure custom-designed for preschoolers, only to have them grow out of it rapidly as their abilities develop. It’s helpful to invest in a modular playset you can expand or modify as kids grow up — by swapping out bucket swings for band swings, for instance, or by adding on a tall, twisty slide when that will seem appealing rather than scary.
  • Space: Do you have a large, open backyard where there’s room to accommodate a sprawling structure and the buffer zones of space and safety surfaces it will require, or do you have a smaller yard full of odd corners and tree roots sticking up here and there, where more compact playsets would fit better? The size of your yard will go a long way toward determining what type of play equipment you can install.
  • Features: What will your kids love most? Are they climbers who get onto all your furniture and somersault off? Would they leap headfirst into new adventures, or would a ramp or some steps help them get there with less stress? Are they obsessed with pirates and would go nuts for a nautical theme? Thinking about how to customize playground equipment to your kids’ abilities and passions will help narrow down some options.
  • Safety: Though fun is important, for most parents, safety is the top priority. Sure, you can order cheap residential swingsets in a box and put them together yourself, but will they hold up to repeated use as your kids swing, slide, jump and swing some more? Will they rust in the rain or warp in the sun? Will they hold the weight of growing kids with ease? Will they have a safety-first design that prevents kids from getting stuck between bars, cutting themselves on sharp bolts or falling from heights? Choosing a playground structure you know has been professionally engineered and rigorously tested may incur a little extra cost, but the peace of mind it provides is invaluable.

Importance of Safety Features in Playground Equipment for Home Use

We cannot emphasize enough how crucial safety features are in the residential playground equipment you consider. The extra pennies you may pay for these features are well, well worth it. Consider that every year in the United States, emergency rooms treat 200,000 children aged 14 or younger for playground-related injuries, from abrasions to broken limbs to traumatic head injuries. Furthermore, 30% of those were home-playground injuries, occurring right in the children’s backyards. Fortunately, many injuries are entirely preventable with quality equipment designed for optimum child safety. Below is a list of the features you’ll want to look for in equipment you can trust.
  • A dedicated team of designers, engineers and installers: You need the people who work on your equipment to feel invested in the safety of the children who will use it. They should use the highest-quality materials and work with care and precision. They should be willing to partner with you on development and happy to come out to survey your yard and help you figure out what sort of playset will fit safely in your space. They should have spoken with a variety of kids and parents to find out how those people use their equipment, what they need it to do, what features they use and what new features they’d like.
  • Solid beam construction: Solid beam construction is vital for durable, long-lasting playset equipment. Wood residential playground equipment consisting of laminated layers packed together is more likely to splinter, warp or otherwise contribute to an unsafe structure. Hardwoods like redwood — which can be expensive — or cedar are less likely than softer woods to deteriorate in this way. They are also naturally resistant to mold and pests, a quality that makes them extremely durable over time.
  • Robust hardware and soft ropes: The screws and bolts used in your equipment should be rust-resistant since corrosion can weaken the metal and make it unsupportive. The ropes should be soft so they don’t fray or scratch young hands, and they should be specially treated for resistance to UV damage.
  • “Less ouch” features: These include features like rubber- or vinyl-coated chains that don’t pinch kids’ hands — these also stay cooler in the sun than metal chains. Recessed bolts that will not snag on clothing or skin, closed S-hooks and a design that minimizes sharp edges all likewise contribute to safe equipment. Double-walled slides, in particular, are critical. Because the sides are reinforced, they don’t require bolts that could catch on clothing or scratch children’s skin.
  • A deep safety surface: The right safety surface is crucial to minimizing the injuries — especially traumatic brain injuries — kids often incur in falls. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends a raised bed with nine inches of “loose-fill material,” such as cedar chips, rubber mulch or a poured rubber surface. They recommend starting with an initial 12 inches, which will compress to nine over time. Rubber mulch and poured rubber surfaces, in particular, make for high-quality safety surfaces. Rubber mulch is heavier than wood mulch and results in stable surfaces kids cannot easily displace while playing, and rubber is also more resistant to insects and mold than wood chips.
  • Zero entrapment hazards: It’s astonishingly easy for kids to get their heads stuck in small spaces, and when this happens, they tend to panic and become unable to free themselves. For this reason, the CPSC recommends all spaces in home playground equipment — for example, the spaces between bars or between the strands of climbing nets — be either wider than nine inches or smaller than three and a half. This spacing ensures children’s heads can either pass through freely or not pass through at all.
  • Buffer space: The CPSC also recommends maintaining a buffer space of six feet between outdoor playground equipment and any other structures, such as house walls and fences. Be sure to cover this buffer space with a safety surface. Around swings, the buffer zone should ideally extend in all directions to a length equal to twice the height of the swing bar. If your swing bar is six feet high, the buffer area in front of and behind the swings should be at least 12 feet for safety.
  • Guardrails and protective barriers: These safety features are essential to make sure small bodies don’t accidentally tumble to the ground. Ideally, any platform of 30 inches or more should have a 25-inch protective guardrail. Additionally, any protective barrier should be free of toeholds or crossbars that might encourage children to climb.
  • Textured grips: Galvanized steel rods that are dimpled and powder-treated for a good grip ensure young hands and feet won’t slip when they reach for rungs and handrails. The CPSC recommends the rungs for ladders should be one and a half inches in diameter or less, so they’re easy for small hands to grip, and that they should be round and secured so that they cannot turn. Any ladder steeper than 65 degrees should have side hand grips as well.

Residential Playground Equipment Essentials

Now that you know the best features to choose to ensure the health and safety of your kids, you can think about the best features to have to provide hours of fun. Not sure how to choose among the abundance of options? Remember a modular playset is a fantastic choice to allow you to mix and match features, customize them for your kids’ ages and enable you to upgrade the playset as the kids grow. Below you’ll find a list of suggestions to help you create a playground your family will use again and again.
  • Base: Knowing what type of base you need for your playset is the first step. A square base is perfect for including a sandbox or a picnic table below and a canopied or roofed fort to hide out in above. An angled base gives kids more freedom to run and play at ground level, and it allows swings, slides and other fun accessories to stick out in any an all directions so you can create a sprawling, versatile play space for kids of all abilities and ages.
  • Swings: Swings are a must-have for kids who love to swoop and soar in the air. You can choose bucket swings for toddlers and switch them out as they grow. Classic belt swings are always a hit, or you can upgrade to a glider, a daydreamer swing, a tire swing, a rope-and-disc swing or even a pirate swing to give your kids’ airborne adventures an extra boost.
  • Slides: You can go with a classic slide here for a smooth, comfortable ride, or choose a wavy slide or curly tube side for an added thrill. Double slides are great for siblings or best friends — they can share the ride while remaining safe in dedicated spaces.
  • Climbing walls: These fun features are essential for developing upper and lower body strength and dexterity. Choose a solid cedar wall with toeholds for a climbing experience similar to what you’d find in a climbing gym, or go with a rope wall — these go perfectly with a pirate-themed playset because they resemble the rigging of a ship!
  • Fun add-ons: You can include monkey bars, bridges, tunnels, a tic-tac-toe board, a telescope, a periscope, a steering wheel and even a ninja-readiness kit for kids who are ready to take their playtime superpowers to the next level. The number of possibilities makes it a snap to create truly unique residential playground sets for kids to enjoy.
  • Lounging options: Add a picnic table, a hammock or Adirondack chairs for a space to snooze, read or enjoy a glass of lemonade and a favorite snack.

Try Home Play Equipment for Yourself

Does residential playground equipment sound like an appealing option, but you’re not sure you can make that big a commitment without more information? If there’s a Superior Play Systems® showroom near you, you’re more than welcome to come in with your family and try out some of the best residential playground equipment for sale. This hands-on option is a convenient way to get a feel for how the features hold up to true play, and our staff is happy to talk you through some specifics. You’ll be sure you’re making the right choice for your family — one that will be a fun, comfortable place throughout years of life’s ups and downs. After experiencing our indoor playground equipment for your residential setting, you can always talk to one of our knowledgeable sales staff. Our staff members will be happy to answer all your questions and offer suggestions for how to find the playset that’s just right for you. If you’re interested in adding outdoor playground equipment to your family, please send us a message or chat with us at your convenience.
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