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Buying a playground set for your backyard? 5 questions to ask yourself

Summer is here and your kids are ready to get outside and play! If you have enough space in your backyard or simply don't want to trek to the local park, you might consider getting a playset for your home. Purchasing your own playground may seem like an exciting and fun idea, but make sure to ask yourself the right questions before making the big decision.

Ask yourself these five important questions before making that big purchase.

1. Will it fit our space?

Be realistic and practical about where you will be putting what, even if you have fantasies of a play space in your home that rivals the grandeur of a theme park. You will need to tailor your playset to the size of your yard and the specific location you plan to put up the playground.

Take measurements before buying any equipment, and allow some room to change or expand things as your children grow. A general rule of thumb is that you will need a cleared area that extends six feet from all sides of your playground. And, swings need clear space at least twice the height of their beams.

Even if you don't have much space, innovation and creativity can be your tools. Remember the days when a rubber tire on ropes tied to a tree branch was enough to keep kids happy in the warm months? You can bring one element of an entire set to your backyard if you're limited on space.

2. Is it age-appropriate?

Playground equipment falls under three age groups: Toddler, (6 months old to 2 years old), Preschool (2 years old to 5 years old), and school age, (5 years old to 12 years old).

Playground manufacturers are supposed to design their sets and equipment with these groups' physical, intellectual and social skills in mind. Doing this prevents potential injuries resulting from kids playing on equipment not meant for their age group.

Consult manufacturers' guidelines for the correct age group. Toddler sets typically include full bucket seat swings, single-file step ladders, ramps and climbing equipment that are no more than 32 inches high. Preschoolers can have merry-go-rounds, full bucket seat swings, rung ladders and horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60 inches high for kids 4 and 5 years old. School-age kids will enjoy horizontal, rung and step ladders, overhead rings to swing from, and seesaws and slides.

3. Has it passed safety standards?

Perhaps the most important consideration you have to make regards safety and durability. Aside from choosing age-appropriate equipment, you should carefully look into the manufacturer's background.

Check if any of their products have been recalled or deemed substandard by the ASTM, an international standards organization, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision, and other product safety reviewers. The CPSC has a safety education page on their official website that gives alerts, guidance, information and the latest news on playground safety, so that's a good place to start.

4. Will it protect my kids from injuries?

As previously mentioned, consulting safety experts is a good idea before making a playground purchase. Aside from the equipment, you will need to invest in proper surfacing material that acts as a cushion for potential falls and spills. Rubber mulch is a great option because it offers the best shock absorbency, as well as the least maintenance, among all playground surfacing materials.

However sturdily built a playground is, you are going to have to commit to keeping your kids safe while playing, especially if they are very young. Constant supervision is a must if you want to prevent injuries and accidents from happening.

5. How much maintenance is involved?

Of course, the price tag is also a good consideration, especially if you are paying for a good design with quality materials. (A playset is more of a luxurious investment than a necessity, after all.) After deciding to buy a playground set, remember to keep maintenance in your budget, as well.

You could need some re-coating, re-varnishing and sealant to protect your playground's wooden parts as seasons roll by. Commit to regular inspection, too. Check for rotting wood, rusting metal, loose parts, peeling paint, and other hazards. And, test surfaces constantly to see if they are too hot or too cold for your kids to use.

A playground is a fun addition to any home with kids, but it's always best to do research and make sure it's a good option before taking the leap. Once at your home, make sure to keep an eye on children playing and check to make sure all equipment is working properly. Then, enjoy your summers outside with the whole family!

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