Best Playgrounds

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

47 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
539 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best playgrounds

Last Updated July 2020

One of the most important things that you can do for your children is teach them how to live an active life. However, creating and enforcing fitness routines isn’t the best solution because it can create a negative experience. Simply providing kids with the tools they need to partake in active play is a far better approach and purchasing a backyard playground is an ideal solution.

The right playground will engage your child's imagination and encourage hours of active play without requiring any prompting from you. It can help your child learn to be a self-starter. The best playgrounds are durable, safe, and age appropriate.

If you're ready to invest in your child's health and personal development, consider one of the playgrounds that we've spotlighted in this article. If you'd like to learn a little more about what to look for, how playtime can help your child be a better student in school, and more, keep reading.

Before deciding on the location for your backyard playground, make sure it has adequate drainage so pools of water won't collect and prohibit play.

Key considerations

When shopping for a playground, there are three questions you need to answer.

Is the playground age appropriate?

Kids not only increase in size as they get older, they also develop different abilities. What may be fascinating to a toddler won't be enough to hold the attention of a grade-schooler. Therefore, it’s important to purchase a playground that matches your child's physical size as well as ability level.

Two-year-olds will benefit more from creativity and problem solving than from physical exertion, so tunnels and puzzles might be best at that age. However, up to age five, kids are pushing themselves physically but aren't yet very coordinated. Any climbing structures should keep the child relatively close to the ground. After age five, your child will most likely be ready for a playground that includes elements that challenge their strength and coordination, provided an adult keeps a watchful eye to help guard against the inevitable tumble.

Which safety features are most important?

No matter what the age of your child, at some point they’re going to fall while playing on your backyard playground. You can't prevent this, but you can cushion the blow by purchasing a playground with no sharp edges and no small gaps that little fingers or legs can get stuck in. Additionally, your playground needs to be ruggedly constructed and able to support the combined weight of all of the children who will be using it.

Metal or wood?

Metal: In the world of backyard playgrounds, metal sets are much more affordable. They are also generally easier to install and maintain. Unfortunately, they aren’t as durable as wooden playgrounds. But if you're looking for a fun starter set that will be good for a few years, a metal playground is the best way to go.

Wood: A wooden playground can be harder to maintain and install, but it will last longer. If you are looking for a more permanent fixture for your child, consider a wooden playground.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Each year, up to 200,000 children require emergency room treatment due to an accident that occurs at a playground. The best thing you can do to keep your child safe is to be there and pay attention.

Features

There are numerous features that may be included with a playground. The following list gives you an idea of some of the bells and whistles available. Ideally, you want your playground to have a mix of these features so that it can engage your child in different ways on a number of levels.

Basics

The standard elements that are typically found on a playground set are swings and a slide. At the very least, you'll want your playground to include these.

Strength and climbing

If you want your kids to burn off some of that limitless energy, you need something a little more intense than swings. There are climbing walls for kids, but also consider monkey bars, rings, or a horizontal ladder. Anything that helps develop upper body strength is a good option.

Other activities

There are various other activities that a playground may include. Ramps, tunnels, a balance beam, seesaw, merry-go-round, and/or zip line are all possibilities. If there’s an activity that your child particularly likes, make sure you purchase a playground that includes it.

Imagination

The best playground for your child will not only encourage physical activity, it will also stimulate their mind. If this is important to you, look for a playground with a creative theme, such as a frontier cabin or medieval castle, and appealing colors.

Sun safety

To be safe, you should install your playground a good distance from other structures and trees. Unfortunately, this means your child won’t be protected from the sun while playing. If you’re concerned about this, look for a model that features some sort of covered structure. Remember, even if your playground offers some protection from the sun, your children will still need to apply some form of sunscreen before playing outside.

EXPERT TIP

Your child doesn't have to be at the beach to be at risk for sunburn. Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin before allowing your child to play outside.


Staff  | BestReviews

Playground prices

When purchasing a backyard playground, it’s possible to spend as little as $200 or as much as $3,000 (or more), depending on the quality and complexity.

Inexpensive: On the lowest end, you can get individual components, such as a swing set or monkey bars, for $100 to $200, so you can build your own playground one piece at a time.

Mid-range: Playground sets that include multiple activities and are constructed from metal cost roughly $250 to $550.

Expensive: A high-quality wooden playground with all the activities you can imagine costs between $1,000 and $4,000.

DID YOU KNOW?

Theodore Roosevelt is credited with officially introducing the concept of playgrounds to the United States in 1907.

Tips

  • Consider purchasing modular playground equipment. That way you can add to the setup as your child grows and develops. Things like bar thickness can be a safety issue because children with smaller hands won’t be able to grip a thick bar securely. With a modular set, you can make sure the playground is always age appropriate.
  • Install the playgrounds on level ground. Read all the installation instructions, especially when it comes to anchoring your playground to keep it from tipping over during vigorous play and strong winds. Maintain a sufficient safety zone around the play area, too. Consult the instruction manual for the exact distance needed for the safety zone.
  • Choose the right playground surface. Wood chips, gravel, and sand are affordable but not highly desirable. Consider rubber mulch or tiles instead.
  • Inspect the playground before children use it. Before letting your kids loose on the playground, inspect the equipment for damage and the play area for rocks, sticks, and other hazards that might have accumulated since the last play session.
  • Supervise playtime. Even the most cautious kids can feel the urge to break the rules or push their limits when playing. If several children will be using the playground at once, look for a one that has the more advanced equipment a safe distance from the play areas for younger children to help limit the chance of collisions. Enforce commonsense rules such as no roughhousing, feet-first jumping only, no hazardous clothing (drawstrings, scarves, necklaces, purses), no daredevil challenges, and no bikes on the playground.
  • Keep kids off the playground in bad weather. Don’t allow children to climb when the equipment is wet or icy.
  • Fence it in. Consider installing a fence around your playground or yard to help keep neighborhood children from playing on the equipment unsupervised.
When in doubt, stick with the basics: slides, swings, and climbing equipment will hold a child's interest for a number of years.

FAQ

Q. What are the benefits of having a backyard playground?
A.
A backyard playground delivers the obvious health benefits that any active lifestyle offers. Beyond that, children learn how to interact with each other and can hone their social skills when playing together on a playground. Additionally, the multitude of challenges available on a quality playground allow each child to find something they can excel at, which can raise their self-esteem. Interestingly, elementary schools that offer more vigorous playtime throughout the day produce children who consistently rank higher in assessment scores. Finally, insufficient playtime is closely linked to ADHD and behavioral issues.
 

Q. Do I need a permit to install a backyard playground?
A.
The answer to this depends on where you live. Your first step should be to check with your local municipality or homeowners’ association to learn what is permissible.
 

Q. How long does a playground last?
A.
That depends on two factors: quality and care. The higher the quality of the playground, the greater the chances that your purchase will still be around when your child starts high school. However, even the best, most durable playgrounds can prematurely fail if they aren’t regularly inspected and properly maintained. On the low end, you may get as little as a couple years out of a budget playground set. On the upper end, a quality playground could last a decade or more.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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