We all know the pain of a bored kid at home during summer, having played with all their toys, demanding screen time, and ignoring any of your activity suggestions.
With kids only having so much energy for the park, playground, and public pool visits; a swing set at home in your very own yard can be a serious lifesaver for you this summer and for many summers to come.
Imagine just sending your little one outside to enjoy hours of fun in the sun. They can run amuck, burn energy, and easily come inside when they’re hungry, thirsty, need more sunscreen, or just need some quiet time.
It eliminates the need for you to pack their whole bag and instead gives you some of your own quiet time as you keep an eye on them from the comfort of home.
The decision to buy a swing or play set is a big one and one which you shouldn’t take lightly. Lucky we’re here to guide you in making the right decision for you and your family!
When you’re done here be sure to check out my post on The Best Backyard Swing Sets for my current top picks for both wooden and metal swings!
Wood Versus Metal Swing Set – Which is Better?
First and foremost, you need to decide whether you want to go for a wooden or a metal swing set. This may be a no-brainer for you, but there’s a bit to consider when it comes to this decision.
First and foremost there’s aesthetics to consider. Many wooden swing sets and play sets come treated, but often unpainted, meaning you need to paint or stain the wood yourself unless you’re happy with the simple pine timber look.
That being said, with a little effort, a wooden swing set can really blend nicely in your yard and won’t be as much of an eyesore as some metal models can be. You can also make a wooden swing set your own, whereas with metal you’ll be stuck with the manufacturers choices.
Metal swing sets come ready to go and with no need for any painting or staining. Similarly, wood often needs to have some ongoing maintenance to keep it looking nice and to prevent rotting, especially in extreme weather environments.
If you take good care of your wooden swing set and are diligent with it’s upkeep, it will last for many years and stand up to your children’s usage just fine.
Metal is strong and stronger than wood, but you do need to make sure you’re getting good quality, because cheaper metal swing sets can feel very cheap and are often flimsy, which is never something you want in a swing set.
Many people go for metal over wood because of the cost difference, but often you’ll need to pay a similar price to get a quality metal swing set that lasts.
When it comes to longevity, metal rusts and wood rots, but with upkeep both will last a long time. You can usually replace anything that rots on a wooden swing set, while you’ll be stuck with your rusty metal.
Metal tends to be more lightweight and easier to set up than wooden sets. Both should meet safety standards (more on that later).
If you’re wondering why I’m not talking about plastic, it’s because generally, plastic swing sets are for babies and toddlers. You can check out our buying guide for them here. You can also check out our article on Plastic versus Wooden playhouses here.
How Long Will They Use the Set For?
This is a personal choice, but an important consideration when choosing a swing set. You know your kids best and it’s important to know whether they’ll be using this for a few years or for many, many years because this will determine the type of swing set you get and how much you spend.
If your babies and toddlers are incredibly active now, chances are that won’t change and you might want to opt for a swing set with some climbing ladders or monkey bars to keep them active, interested and engaged for many, many hours.
Number and Types of Swings
As a general rule, you can swap out any individual swing, meaning that the actual swings that come with the sets are less important than the number of swings and other accessories that you think your kids will use.
That being said, bucket seats are a great starter option for toddlers, although many toddlers do love the flying saucer type of swing. It’s definitely worth looking for dual usage swings that kids can use with a friend.
Speaking of friends, you can buy a single swing set, but all kids will have a friend over at some point, so we think it’s more fun to buy a set with at least two swings.
Other Additions & Accessories
Consider also what your kids enjoy doing now when you take them to the playground. If your kids are climbers, look for sets with monkey bars because you can always swap in a trapeze swing.
If they love slides, then look for a swing set that comes with a slide. If their play is both active and imaginative, then consider a swing set with a clubhouse to fulfil both sides of their play lives.
It’s also worth opting for a company that offers additions and accessories (such as Lifetime of XPD) so you can build your swing set as you go, especially if you don’t want to commit to a larger set straight off the bat. This way you can purchase a more basic set and customise with the accessories you want as your kids grow.
Buy Big Now For Later?
If you know you plan to have a big family and your little ones are pretty active now, then you’re probably better off opting for a bigger, sturdier swing set now that they can all use together down the track rather than having to upgrade as they grow.
You can swap out toddler seats for belt seats and keep the same frame, which will save you money in the long run. That being said, if you opt for a swing set with a club house, make sure you consider the deck height because an active 3 year old will climb anything in the back yard that they have access to!
Generally heavier swing sets are sturdier, as are ones that you can anchor in the ground, especially if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions.
Size & Site
Before thinking about the size of your swing set, you need to determine the usable space in your yard. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission handbook of Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Home Playground Equipment, your space must be level, free of obstacles such as low overhanging tree branches and 6 feet from any structure or obstacle.
Additionally, swings should be further away from structures to the front and rear of the swing – a distance ‘equal to twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is suspended’.
This means that you cannot use all of your usable space for your swing set, because you need a safety zone around it. Once you have established your safety zone, what is left over is the size you can use for your play equipment.
Safety is the number one concern of parents when it comes to purchasing a swing set. All of the sets we recommend meet ASTM safety standards for home playground equipment, but there’s other things to consider when it comes to owning a swing set.
What’s under the swing set?
Believe it or not, plain old grass probably isn’t the best option to have underneath your swing set. The ground is pretty hard and kids love to jump out of their swings to impress their friends with a cool landing. You’re much better off having wood chips, sand or a soft rubber surface under your swing set, especially if you plan on having it for a long time.
Teaching safety & supervision is key
Teaching kids the safest way to use their swing sets from the get-go will save you a lot of pain later. Teach your kids swinging etiquette including how much space to give a swinging sibling when walking around the play area.
Also to never stand on the swings, or put their fingers in the chains (although most chains should have protective sleeves over the top) and never to tie anything to the swings.
It goes without saying that all little ones must be supervised when using any play equipment, but hopefully teaching them safety will cover you if you happen to look away for a quick second.
Swing Set Anchoring
All swing sets will be safer if they are properly anchored in the ground with solid stakes. Most swing sets come with anchors, but if not, it’s worth popping off to your local hardware store and purchasing some, even for peace of mind.
If you want to go all in, you can cement in your swing set to really ensure your kids safety, but this isn’t necessary for the vast majority of swing sets.
Ease of Assembly and Installation
As a general rule, most swing sets will be a two person job for assembly and installation. This is because of the side and awkwardness of navigating long poles. You’ll also usually need an hour or two for even the most basic set. If you’ve gone and bought the Taj Mahal of swing sets, then you’re going to need some buddies and almost a full day to get that thing build and installed.
Most sets will come with a rough time frame and be warned, some of them will be up to 10-12 hour with three people. The manufacturers aren’t kidding with these times, so be prepared to dedicate this amount of time to the project.
You will want to lay out all components and check that you have everything you need and it’s arrived in good condition before you start building. Power tools will usually come in handy and create an extra layer of sturdiness to the swing set too.
Look for sets that include anchors because this is a safety consideration as mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to pick a day when your ground won’t be hard and dry as this will help immensely with getting your anchors in place.
If you simply don’t have time to be building a swing set and anchoring it in place, there are swing set building experts who you can pay to get the job done. Most manufacturers will have a company they recommend, so keep that in mind if you do decide to go for the most epic option.
If you’re not sure if a swing set is the right choice for you, then check out our article on the best wooden playhouses to see if maybe a playhouse is a better option.