Best playground

Outdoor Toys

Many parents choose to fill the area beneath a playground with sand or mulch to provide a soft cushion when kids descend from equipment.

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Which playground is best?

Active kids are happy kids, especially when they’re at the park playing on their favorite equipment. If your kids can’t get enough of monkey bars or swings — and going to the park every day isn’t an option — consider investing in a playground for your backyard.

As you compare designs, you’ll quickly discover no two are the same. Some playgrounds feature climbable, multistory platforms, while others incorporate gymnastics equipment like rings or trapeze bars. There are even scaled-down designs intended for indoor use to offer year-round playability. Our favorite set, Lifetime Adventure Tower, features a two-level treehouse with a rock-climber base.

What to know before you buy a playground

Age appropriateness

Playgrounds will list the ages for which they’re recommended. Playgrounds for toddlers through age 5 mostly consist of single-level designs with soft, rounded edges to prevent injury. Those with climbing equipment, like ladders or steps, tend to be geared toward ages 6 and older.

Safety features

A safe playground is stable and won’t wobble, lean or sag when kids play on it. It’s also important to inspect equipment components to ensure there are no sharp edges. More often than not, corners and hardware will be covered with plastic bumpers. Another safety feature to look for are “no pinch” details, in which chains on swings are covered to prevent tiny fingers from getting snagged between rings.

Metal vs. wood

Metal playgrounds remain popular as an affordable option. They usually have a powder coating to prevent UV, weather and water damage. Unfortunately, they’re not as durable as wood playgrounds and depending on their design, they can be an eyesore in the backyard.

Wood playgrounds are far more expensive than metal ones, although they last longer and blend in with your backyard more naturally. They require considerable care and maintenance because you need to treat the wood to ensure termites and other pests don’t infest it or build nests in nooks and crannies.

What to look for in a quality playground

Basic components

Most playgrounds will include two basic components: a swing and a slide. Swings usually have metal or plastic seats and are attached to the frame with rope, nylon cord or chains. Slides are usually made of plastic; however, some playgrounds have metal ones.

Climbing components

Playgrounds with climbing equipment remain popular and are in no way limited to monkey bars. Kids can climb ladders, shimmy up ropes or even rock climb. Given the more involved designs of playgrounds with climbing equipment, they tend to be one of the more expensive options.

Other popular components

Other popular components in playgrounds include tunnels, towels, zip lines, balance beams and seesaws. Many playgrounds now include spider swing or hammock attachments as well. There are also some themed playgrounds in which designs revolve around ships, airplanes or vehicles. These designs often have seats, spinning wheels or movable knobs that simulate those in cabins or cockpits.

How much you can expect to spend on a playground

Single-piece swing sets and some indoor playgrounds cost $200 and less. Midsize sets that offer multiple activities cost between $250 and $550. Well-developed, park-quality playgrounds can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,400.

Playground FAQ

How long does it take to assemble a large playground?

A. It takes several hours for assembly and requires at least two people. To ensure the process goes smoothly, you can hire professional installers to help.

Do playgrounds come with warranties?

A. Yes; however, they’re often limited and may only cover replacement parts and major manufacturer defects. Certain parts of the playground may have different warranties than others as well. Plastic components, for example, may have a shorter warranty than the frame.

What’s the best playground to buy?

Top playground

Lifetime Adventure Tower

Lifetime Adventure Tower

What you need to know: This all-in-one design features a rock climber, swing set and two-story tower.

What you’ll love: With park-quality construction, this set is replete with safety features and has a 1,600-pound weight capacity.

What you should consider: It is very large and may require professional assembly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top playground for the money

Lifetime Playground Climbers

Lifetime Playground Climbers

What you need to know: A simple geometric dome allows for open-ended play.

What you’ll love: Assembly is straightforward. The sturdy, shift-free frame won’t jiggle during play.

What you should consider: It does not include hardware to attach the dome to the ground.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Gym1 Deluxe Bonobo Indoor Playground

Gym1 Deluxe Bonobo Indoor Playground

What you need to know: This downsized indoor set attaches to a door frame.

What you’ll love: It comes with several interchangeable attachments. Handles are contoured for little hands.

What you should consider: It is not recommended for high-traffic areas in the home.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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