As a mommy of 5, I am well aware of the countless hours of fun a swing or playset in your own backyard can provide children. In fact, I may be 40 now but I remember my swingset from childhood like yesterday. A swingset is a vehicle to much needed outdoor exercise and activity. They become boats, planes, rafts, forts, and castles within the minds of the young.
(A follow up to this post was added on 11/11/2013)
We had a wooden swingset when our oldest 3 were younger, but we took it down a few years back because it was badly splintering and wobbling beyond repair. It was originally my youngest brother's swing set from when he was little. He's 13 years younger than I am. It was just a basic 3 swing arm structure with a slide on one side and climbing thing on the other. It was good fun while we had it, but it was beyond it's time.
We knew we were going to want to buy and put a new one up by the time the twins hit two. With two approaching in June, now was the time to do it. BTW, where did those two years go?
We began the hunt by visiting all the local dealers and sending away for all the top seller's catalogs online. My head still hurts a touch from trying absorb all the features, options, designs, and selling points. Honestly, who knew there were so many choices when it came to buying the kids a swing set or playset for the backyard?
Budget and Assembly
I would highly suggest you first come up with what your budgeted financial amount is for this playset purchase. After you have determined your maximum budget, I would decide if you plan to assemble the set yourselves or want the set installed by someone else. You can save a pretty penny if you are handy enough to assemble it yourselves, but it's not for the impatient or "non direction reading" types. Most places have assemblers available for a charge, if you decide building it yourself is not in the cards. Don't forget about shipping costs and tax where applicable as well.
Once you've determined the money related basics, you should really measure your space for the swing or playset. We personally have gobs of land to work with, but this is essential if your area for this structure is limited. You'll want to keep in mind that most of the sets sold ask that you add on around 6 ft. around the perimeter to allow for a truly safe play zone.
Wish List vs. Priority List
We had the older kids help with a wish list for this play structure. They told us about all their dream items they would want on it and then with our help, we got them to "star" the priority items. Our list read something like this, "a spot for two infant swings to be switched out to normal swings later, a 3rd swing option, a rock climbing wall, a gangplank style walk up ramp, and a slide." Sturdy enough to handle even the big kids was real important to us too.
Warranties, Maintenance Requirements, and Reviews
Next it was time for the real grunt work ... Figuring out exactly which sets were priced within our budget and had what we want. Once that was done, we began comparing them all based on reviews we found, maintenance requirements, maximum weights handled, and warranties.
We ultimately chose the Cedarworks Playaround Frontier Fort. It's a beautiful set. It is maintenance free, fairly easy to assemble, has everything the kids wanted, and quite a few extras too. It features a 10' Wave Slide, a Climbing Wall, a couple Leaning Ladders, a Picnic Table & Bench, a Telescope, a Steering Wheel, Ramp & Rappelling Rope, 2 swings, a Trapeze Bar & Ring, Safety Fences, a 2 Wooden Roof fort areas, a Tire Swing, and a Double Yarmarm with both a Firefighter's Pole and a Knotted Rope.
We love it! It's been a huge hit with our kids and with the rest of the neighborhood too. How could it not be? The slide is speedy, the rock wall is just hard enough, the plank is a blast to dash up, and there is plenty of room for everyone to spread out and try something. The picnic table is even ample sized for adults and provides the perfect shaded spot for me to hang out as they go up, down, and all over.
It's made exclusively from Northern White Cedar. According to Cedarworks, this is the only wood species that meets their requirements for strength, long life, and no splinters without added chemicals. Additionally according to the National Forest Service, Northern White Cedar is classified as "highly decay resistant" and will last up to 20 years untreated. This means staining the set yearly is not needed unless you want to do it to keep the color from turning gray.
Having 5 kids, the oldest a football player in high school, we were very concerned with how low some manufacturers weight limits were. (Be sure you read them, it's pretty surprising how low they are sometimes!) The reality is I didn't want to worry our set would collapse each time J.C. and his buddies decided to test the slide or something. To my relief, the Cedarworks swing area weight limits are 200 lbs. for a single user and a 320 lb. maximum load for all three swing positions when used simultaneously. The play deck weight limit is 250 lbs. for a single user and 1,000 lbs maximum total load. It's clear why it can handle larger kids/ adults by looking at it. The wood beams and poles themselves are thicker than other sets in this price range.
With this in mind, I'm happy to report it exceeds my expectations in regards to sturdiness. It can take anything my kids or the neighborhood throw at it with flying colors.
I'm so happy that all the time "doing my homework" on playsets paid off in the end. We found exactly what we wanted in terms of function and fun within our budgeted price.
The Serendipity and Revelry lines by Cedarworks allow for full customization, however the Playaround line that we chose a set from does not. Add-ons for the Play-a-round line are limited to toddler swings and a couple other basics.
Cedarworks offers a few independent backyard toys as well. In fact, we fell in love with the idea of their Cedarpede and added it to our playset order. It's basically an outdoor balance beam that comes in movable configurable sections maximizing play options. The kids have made up countless games with it and it's been a wonderful compliment to our new set.
This post still draws a fair amount of attention 3.5 years later and I often get emails asking how our Cedarworks playset has held up. I'm happy to report that we are still quite happy with our Cedarworks set. The twins are 5 now and using it more than ever. It's held up well and was definitely the right choice for us. Good luck on choosing!
* Please note I was not provided with any products for this review, I purchased them all myself. However, I would like to thank Cedarworks for providing the Cedarpede prize for our reader giveaway.