How Savvy Parents Shop for an Outdoor Playset

Outdoor Playset

One of the best ways to encourage imaginative play and ensure children get enough exercise is to let them loose on a playset, or outdoor swing set. Who doesn’t remember the joy of swinging higher, racing down a slide, climbing up a rope ladder, or pretending the clubhouse was a castle?

Top Things to Consider When Buying a Playset

When shopping for a playset for their own backyard, parents should consider budget, available yard space, playset building materials, playset features, and playground surface material.


Playsets typically range in price from a few hundred dollars to over $5,000, depending upon building materials, number of features, and overall size. Generally, those costing below $500 are made of low-cost metal or plastic, have fewer features, and require assembly. Prices are higher for sets with lots of features and for those made of wood or vinyl, as these materials are sturdier and last longer.

Be aware that using professional installers, which is recommended for larger wooden and vinyl playsets, and preparing the area with proper surface material may add to the total cost.

Unlike other toys that children will quickly outgrow, playsets last years and can grow with the child. So, they are more of an investment. Consider how many children are going to be in the family or visiting to play regularly. If lots of children will likely be using the playset, it might be better to opt for a sturdier, more expensive model that will last longer. Many of the wooden and vinyl sets like ours here at Star Quality Swings are designed such that extra features can be added later when the child or budget grows.

Space Allocation

Before shopping for a playset for a backyard playground, measure the yard and determine how much space should be allocated for a playset. Bear in mind that for safety reasons, there should be a buffer zone around the set of three to six feet. This is to ensure that while children are swinging, there is still enough space for other children to go safely around them.

Also, consider how close the set would be to trees and overhanging limbs. Be sure, too, that there would be room for playset expansion if desired. Finally, select a spot that is in full view of a window, so that when children are old enough to play outside on their own, adults in the home can still keep an eye on them.

Building Materials

Playsets are generally made of metal, plastic, wood, or vinyl. Here’s a little more information about each material.


Metal playsets are generally the cheapest in price. They are usually powder coated to be rust resistant, making them easy to maintain. However, metal playsets can bend if too many children are playing at one time. For this reason, it is best to review and follow maximum weight ratings.

In general, metal playsets are strictly for children and cannot handle the weight of an adult user. Metal playsets also will need to be adequately anchored as they can topple more easily than playsets made of heavier materials.


Plastic playsets tend to be relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and durable. Plastic playsets also have all smooth surfaces. However, they are mostly for children ages eight and under. They make a great first playset for toddlers. Like many metal playsets, plastic ones cannot accommodate the weight of too many children and are not for use by adults.


Wooden playsets cost more because the material is sturdier, more durable, can handle a higher maximum weight of users, and comes in a wider range of features. Many wooden playsets can also be modified and expanded with additional features.

Playsets made of cedar are naturally insect and decay-resistant. Playsets made of pine tend to be treated with chemicals to be so resistant. Be sure to confirm the chemicals are non-toxic. If purchasing a playset made from treated wood, be sure to verify that the hardware in the playset is not susceptible to chemical corrosion. Also, be sure that all nuts and bolts are recessed and not protruding, creating a risk for scrapes or clothing entanglement.

Wooden playsets can handle a larger number of children and can accommodate adults. Their sturdier construction also means, however, they are more complicated to put together and may require professional installation assistance. Wooden playsets can weigh around 800 lbs., meaning they need to be delivered to the home via truck transport.

Though wooden playsets are more durable, they do need a little more maintenance. Specifically, they will need to have their nuts and bolts checked and periodically tightened. They will also need to be sanded and stained every few years to protect the wood from fading under the elements.


In the same price range as wooden playsets, vinyl playsets and swing sets are just as durable but require almost no maintenance. They wipe clean easily. Unlike wooden structures, vinyl playsets never need to be sanded or stained.

Vinyl playsets are constructed from pressure treated wood that is covered in vinyl. The vinyl comes in a variety of colors. Unlike plastic, vinyl’s colors are fade-resistant. Because they are made with wood, vinyl playsets can accommodate the same weight ranges, including adults, as wooden playsets. Also like wooden playsets, vinyl playsets are heavy and need to be delivered to the home. Putting them together may also require assistance from a professional installer.

When it comes to flexibility, vinyl playsets come in an impressive array of styles. As with wooden playsets, vinyl playsets and swing sets can be modified and expanded with additional features as a family or child grows.

Playset Features

Playsets can be as simple as a two-swing swing set or something large with over a dozen features. Popular features include swings, slide, monkey bars, climbing nets or walls, and clubhouses. But, there are so many more from which to choose. Deciding which features are best can be difficult.

Ideally, there should be enough features to accommodate the average number of children who would be playing on it at any given time. Before selecting features, however, parents should visit a few public playgrounds with their children and watch which features they seem to enjoy the most, as well as which ones they avoid. Knowing which features children like will help parents to make better selections for their own outdoor playset or swing set.

Keep in mind that as children age, their physical abilities increase. Parents might want to include a few features their children can grow into. This will extend the number of years that children use the playset.

Surfacing Material

No matter what type of playset or swing set is selected, the entire area where it is to be placed and the safety buffer zone around it should be level and covered with either wood playground mulch, rubber mulch, or sand. How deep those surface materials need to be depends upon the maximum height of the structure, also called the maximum fall height.

A fall height of eight feet, for example, requires that wood or rubber mulch be at least nine inches deep. Sand needs to be even deeper. Be aware too, that each year, more mulch will need to be added due to settling, erosion, and compaction. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a free handbook about backyard playset safety that is well worth reading for additional information. Here at Star Swings, we understand that purchasing a swing set for your child is a big decision, but we love to answer customer questions and will be with you every step (or swing) of the way! Get in touch with us today to begin the process of choosing the best swing set for your family.