Outdoor activities are important for young kids. When a family doesn’t have a nearby park, it makes sense to install a play set in the backyard that the children and their friends can use. Swing sets offer children a host of health and social benefits. They give them a safe structure to climb, allow them to exercise their arms and legs and provide a place to interact with other children from the neighborhood.
Many adults had swing sets when they were children so they instinctively choose this option. However, there are several other outdoor play sets that could be just as beneficial and cost a lot less than swing sets. Here, you’ll find some great alternatives that will save you money, space or time setting up. With a wide variety of options, you’ll be able to find the perfect outdoor toys for your child regardless of the amount of space you have in your yard or the amount of money in your bank account.
Why Are You Considering an Alternative?
For a lot of families, the cost of a high-quality swing set is simply out of reach. In the time it might take to save enough to buy the play set with cash, the children might be too old to enjoy it. On the other hand, you may be able to afford it but don’t intend to stay in your home for long enough to justify the cost of a high-quality structure. Installing a cheaper swing set that might result in injuries doesn’t make sense either.
Another reason parents look for an alternative to swings is space. If you have a small backyard, it might not be feasible to install a large swing set for your children. A smaller play set or one of the many other options might be perfect for the size of your yard.
Finally, the age of your children or the amount of time it would take to install and maintain a large swing set might make other choices more appealing. In addition to the initial cost of a large swing set, parents also need to devote a lot of time or money to ensure it is installed properly. Many of the alternatives available today are easy to put together and very affordable.
Playhouse, Clubhouse, or Cottage
A playhouse is ideal for younger children who like to play pretend. This type of toy costs the fraction of the price of a large swing set and doesn’t require much space in a back yard. A great thing about these toys is that they are light enough to carry inside the house so the kids can play with them in the basement or playroom on cool or rainy days.
Playhouses are available in many different sizes, styles and colors. Some are more appealing to boys or girls and others are more unisex. The best ones come with a variety of accessories so you and your children won’t have to spend a lot of time decorating the interior of the house.
You may fondly remember playing in your own or a friend’s treehouse as a child. If you or someone you know is handy with a hammer, you might be able to save a lot of money and offer your kids the same experience you had as a child. Treehouses range from basic to elaborate and the right one for your family will depend on the time, money and amount of effort you are able to put into it.
The best treehouses are those that are decorated by the children. Older kids can even help design their own play house so it will be functional for them and their friends. It’s important to ensure the structure is safe and the tree it gets put in is stable. Because the treehouse might not be enough to keep kids entertained for hours, you could purchase a couple of used tires and attach them to the strong branches on the tree. Another option is to install a zip line. Depending on the height of the zip line, you may need to provide supervision while the children play.
A tower is an excellent choice for an older child or children that might not be interested in swinging. These outdoor play sets offer opportunities to climb on ropes or a simulated rock wall. They are sturdy and could be made of wood or plastic. Although the price for a play tower is similar to that of a swing set, it will be a lot more fun for your older children and their friends.
These types of play sets come with a variety of options that may appeal to families with both older children and preschoolers. Some towers include a sandbox at the bottom and a slide that would be fun for young kids as well as the high tower and climbing opportunities for older kids. This kind of toy can grow with your children so for many families that can afford it, it’s a good investment.
A bounce house can provide a ton of fun because it is so versatile. Your children might like to simply bounce inside or you could add balls and turn it into a ball pit. You could purchase a bounce house with a slide and add water to help kids stay cool in the summer. Bounce houses are ideal for smaller children so you’ll have to sell it or give it away when your kids get too big. Fortunately, there’s a thriving secondary market for these toys. Just place an ad on Craigslist or let your social network know you don’t need your bounce house anymore and someone will be happy to buy it from you.
Young children love to dig and build sand castles. This is one of the least expensive options for your backyard and makes a perfect addition to any other outdoor playthings. You could purchase a sandbox specifically designed for that purpose, with seats for the children and a cover to keep it dry or a sand/water table that is more versatile. If you aren’t sure whether your kids will enjoy it and don’t want to invest a lot of money, simply buy a plastic baby pool and fill it up with sand.
Play sand is fairly inexpensive so you won’t have to worry much about the sand getting out of the sandbox. However, if you opt to use a wading pool instead of a toy sandbox, you’ll have to purchase something to cover it as well. If the sand gets wet, it will get muddy and need to be replaced. An uncovered sandbox could also be very attractive to stray cats or other wildlife.
Instead of purchasing any expensive equipment for your kids to use to play in the backyard, you could simply take advantage of the natural landscaping to create a fun area for the kids to play and explore. You can begin by watching your child play in the yard without any large equipment. Pay attention to the things they enjoy doing and spend more than a couple of minutes interested in.
After you know what your child likes to do, you can create a safe environment for them to play in naturally. Installing stepping stones, a small pond with fish that might attract other small creatures, a garden for the children to tend on their own or even giving them a separate area where they are free to dig can keep kids occupied for hours and won’t cost much money.
A good landscaper can help a family plan their yard so it will look nice and also provide opportunities for kids to play without disrupting the garden or harming any young trees. However, families don’t need to hire a professional to set up their backyard for play. Instead of an expensive irrigation system, sprinklers can give kids without a swimming pool the chance to run and get wet in their own backyard while the plants get their daily dose of water.
All children need to exercise their bodies and engage with other kids. The most effective way to do this is to spend time outdoors where there is enough space for them to run and play as well as make as much noise as they want. Many families make sacrifices to purchase swing sets for their young children but those who can’t afford an expensive play set or whose children aren’t the right age for this type of equipment can still arrange for their kids to play in their yard.
Whether you choose separate equipment for the various age groups in your home or one play set that can grow with your children, it’s important to provide them with toys that are engaging and allow them to strengthen their bodies and minds through play.
Fortunately, creative parents don’t have to spend a lot of money to give their kids a backyard where their friends love to come to play. There are a wide range of large outdoor toys available that will meet the needs of just about every family. By adding in a few elements to enhance the play experience, you can make sure your kids have fun every time they go outside to play.
Nikki is a full-time homemaker with a love for plants, nature, and the outdoors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in education, combining her talents and favorite hobby to write educational material for other plant and backyard enthusiasts. Co-founder of Backyardville, Nikki seeks insight for her blogs through reading along with hands-on research in her own yard and garden. Her experiences as a child growing up in a farming community and spending time with her gardening grandmother sparked an interest in growing plants and seeking ways to beautify the spaces around her. Nikki lives in a quiet suburb in Iowa with her husband and their two outdoor-loving children.