Creating a Kid-Friendly Back Yard
The back yard can be a child’s best play space, especially in the early years. If safely fenced off, a toddler or preschooler can explore the great outdoors and try his or her hand at smaller-scale play equipment before mastering the huge slides and climbing structures of a neighborhood playground. Later on, the back yard becomes a child’s personal domain – a place for imaginative and energetic play.

Play Equipment

Parents looking for backyard play equipment have many options to choose from, including metal or wooden swing sets that also feature tube slides, small climbing structures and sandboxes.

According to Consumer Reports:

Backyard play equipment usage tends to be higher among younger kids, ages 3-5. When they reach age 10, most children start to lose interest in or outgrow their swing sets.

Children prefer platforms, swings and ladders, as well as equipment they can play on with other kids, such as a glider swing. They least like gymnastic equipment, such as trapezes, rings and horizontal bars. They prefer swings with flexible “sling-type” seats to the hard plastic ones.

More people buy metal swing sets, but wooden sets tend to be sturdier. Metal swing sets have a weight limit of 75 pounds per child. Wood sets typically support 120 pounds or more per person.

Play Area Safety

If you’re considering adding a swing set or play area to your back yard – or you already have one:

Don’t cram play equipment into too small a space. For swing sets, jungle gyms and multi-colored activity cubes, allow for a minimum of 6 feet of free space in all directions around the equipment. This means no walls, no objects, no plants, etc. Allow a bit more room in front of swings and slides as a kind of drop zone.

Set up swing sets on level ground. Otherwise, they can become dangerously out of balance. Swing sets must also be firmly anchored in the ground. If you have granular, sandy soil, take extra precautions to ensure a good grip in the earth.

Use a soft, resilient material on the ground around play equipment. The best surfacing material is high-quality bark mulch spread to a depth of at least three inches. Grass or lawn is also a good choice, but it will get stomped on, pounded down and probably look rather ratty. Sand may look good, and it’s certainly soft enough, but it tends to migrate into the house via shoes and folds of clothing. Peastone is used in some playgrounds, but it is potentially dangerous since handfuls can be thrown. Never use asphalt, concrete or decking as a surface material around play equipment.