Thu, Feb 21 2019

Published: 02/02/2007

Play sets get kids excited about outdoors

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After a long winter of being cooped up indoors, on that first warm spring day, all the kids are going to want to do is run outside and play. But where will they go? The park, a friend's house or the backyard?

If they have a play set to climb around and have fun on, they're sure to stay close to home. Numerous studies have shown that kids who have play sets of their own tend to be more imaginative, have an easier time adjusting to social situations, and do better in school.

With all the benefits they offer, it's easy to make the decision to go out and buy a play set, but what kind should you get? There are basically three types on the market - plastic, metal or wood.

Plastic backyard play sets are a great match for small children and small backyards. They are safe and can be easily set up or moved around. If you decide on metal equipment, make sure it's galvanized or painted to prevent rust. Check to see that the metal used in the swing set is thick gauge steel. Wood sets are perhaps the most popular choice because they are sturdier, generally more attractive, and last longer than plastic or metal play sets.

After doing all his research, Karl Jessen, a dad from New Jersey, decided to invest in a wooden set for his sons. "I couldn't find an affordable one that met my standards, so I decided to build one on my own," he says. That first set, which had swings, tunnels, a spiral slide, fort and sandbox became the prototype for a company Jessen started up in 1998 called Detailed Play Systems.

The Internet-based company provides its customers with complete kits including the Detailed Plans needed to build their playground, the hardware, swings, slides, and accessories. The wood is not included, but each kit contains a Lumber Purchase Guide that shows exactly what wood needs to be purchased to build each configuration.

Kits from Detailed Play Systems range from $169 for a basic Jungle Fort Builder Kit to $900 and up for the works - a dual fort plus swing set combination. The company's most popular kit, the Jungle Fort Swing Set kit, sells for $389. It features a large 6 foot by 6 foot fort with sandbox beneath, complete with inclined step ladder, gangplank ramp, and an attached 3-position swing set. Accessories such as periscopes, telescopes, steering wheels, sandbox covers, and specialty swings - full bucket or flat swings - can be added on to kits or purchased individually and used to upgrade an existing backyard playground.

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