How to Choose the Right Swing Set for Your Kids

When you’re little, there are few things more exhilarating than swinging through the air, pumping your little legs harder and harder against a blue-sky backdrop. A swing set is a summer staple for children, but for parents, there’s a lot to consider before buying a family swing set—such as space, budget and safety. Our helpful guide to kids’ swing sets will help you make the right choice for your family.

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1Benefits of a swing set

Swing set benefits

Unstructured play on a swing set has a host of benefits for kids (and parents, too!). Here are just a few:

  • Physical exercise: Outdoor play at a swing set encourages healthy movement (running, climbing, swinging!) and gets kids away from screens.
  • Improves athletic ability: Swinging helps kids develop coordinated movements (think: pumping their legs to make themselves go higher and higher), improves gross and fine motor skills, and increases spatial awareness.
  • Promotes social interactions: Playing with other children on a swing set promotes sharing and team play. Kids might help push each other on the swing or play a swinging game together.
  • Soothing and calming: The rhythmic movement of swinging back and forth, combined with fresh air and sunshine, can have a soothing effect. Swinging also releases endorphins, helping kids feel happier and potentially less likely to have temper tantrums.[1]
  • Parents’ health benefits: There’s an invaluable peace of mind that will come from knowing your child is happily playing outdoors. When they’re ready to come inside, they’ll be tired out and easier to get into bed, which means less stress for mom and dad.

2Choosing a frame material

The majority of kids’ swing sets will be made out of either wood or metal, and they’re comparable when it comes to safety and durability. Check the warranty for specific coverage on the swing set material you’re considering. Plastic swing sets are another option and are specifically for baby and toddler use.

Wood frames

Wooden frame swing set

Wood-framed swing sets are pretty reliable and often feature fun extras for kiddos, such as slides and playhouses.

Pros Cons
Wood has a classic appeal that’s aesthetically pleasing. Installation may be long, complicated and expensive and wood requires regular maintenance.
It’s solid, sturdy and durable; made to last for many years. Wood is more susceptible to bug (eg. termite) infestations.
Wooden swing sets are typically larger in size and offer plenty of add-on options, which will appeal to both younger and older kids.

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Metal frames

Metal frame swing set

Metal-framed swing sets don’t require much maintenance and they’re usually quick to install in the yard.

Pros Cons
Metal swing sets are a reliable and more affordable option for young children. Not quite as sturdy and may hold less weight than wood.
Easy to assemble and install. Doesn’t allow for as many add-ins or configurations as a wooden swing set.
Metal frames require less maintenance than wood.

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Plastic frames

Plastic-framed swing sets are great for babies and toddlers (though not ideal for older kids), and they’re easier to move around than wood-framed or metal-framed swing sets.

Pros Cons
Great for babies and toddlers, plastic swing sets are a fun and safe play structure. Plastic material can crack and isn’t sturdy enough to withstand weight or activity beyond toddler age.
Quick and easy to install and usually more affordable than wood or metal swing sets. Plastic isn’t as durable when it comes to withstanding outdoor elements.
Light and easy to transport around the backyard (or move inside during the winter).

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3Swing set features

Swing set features

The more features and activities there are on a swing set, the more kids are going to be entertained. A swing set is an investment and you’ll want to make sure you get as much use as possible out of the one you choose. While each additional feature will add to the total cost of your backyard swing set, it’ll also extend its lifespan. With the right features, even preteens (aged 12 to 13) will still enjoy the family swing set.

Swing seat for young kids: Little ones under age four (and their parents) will feel most secure using a swing seat with a t-bar and straps.[2]

Slides: A swing set with a slide can provide years of fun for your child. Options include an enclosed tube or tunnel slide, a wave slide or a classic straight slide—you really can’t go wrong.

Trapeze bars/monkey bars: Tiny acrobats will love hanging and swinging from a trapeze bar (or rings). Great for building upper body strength and physically challenging in a fun way!

Teeter totter: A teeter totter or glider swing is great for siblings or friends to play and learn to work together. The two riders must practice teamwork, communication and coordination to get this swing rocking smoothly back and forth.

Climber/rock wall: Not high enough to be dangerous, a swing set with a rock wall will sharpen problem-solving skills and provide an exciting physical challenge.

Tire or flyer saucer: Tire or saucer swings are more versatile than a standard swing, allowing for circular movement, rather than just forward and back. Many are large enough to hold more than one child at a time.

Playhouse area: Encourage your child’s imagination with a playhouse swing set and the potential for endless pretend play—and summer memories!

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4Finding the right swing set size and location

When it comes to choosing the best swing sets, you’ll want to compare the size of the set (making sure it accommodates a certain number of kids and is age-appropriate) with how much space you have in your yard.

Swing set location

When deciding where in your yard to put your swing set, choose an area with the following:

  • Level ground and shade.
  • Recommended safety zone: This is the clearance area required around a swing set for safe play. Typically, it should be at least six feet around.
  • Far enough away from any potential overhead hazards, such as falling branches or wires.

Swing set size

Consider how many kids will be playing on the swing set, as well as their ages.

  • Number of swing positions: If you have more than one child or expect to have other children over to play, choose a swing set with two or more swings as opposed to a single swing set.
  • Weight limit: Check the maximum total weight limit of the swing set and ensure it’s well above the combined weight of however many kids you anticipate playing on the structure.

5Swing set safety

Kids should always be supervised by an adult when playing on a swing set—even in their own backyard. Falls are one of the leading causes of injury for children, with falls greater than 1.5-2m in height the most likely to cause injury. If your budget allows for it, you may want to consider installing a softer surface beneath your swing set, such as sand, pea gravel, wood chips or rubber—materials you’ll often find at public playgrounds.[3] Have your child remove any loose clothing with strings or ties, as well as scarves, before playing on the swing set. These could be a risk for strangulation if they got caught on something.[4] Other safety considerations include:

Swing set weight limit: Wooden swing sets hold the most weight, so they’re a sturdier option to accommodate kids as they grow or if you anticipate having other children over to play. Be sure to check the weight limit on each model and ensure it covers the maximum number of kids you anticipate playing at any given time.

Rounded edges: Any edges should be rounded or capped in rubber or plastic to prevent scrapes, scratches or other injuries.

Deck or platform height: The average height of a playhouse swing set is six feet (approximately 1.8 metres). These higher areas should be enclosed or have high, sturdy railings to prevent falls.

Swing chains: These should have hand grips so little fingers don’t get pinched.

6Swing set maintenance

All swing sets require some maintenance to ensure they are in safe working condition. Wood tends to last the longest, but only if it’s properly cared for, which involves some yearly tasks. Metal swing sets are nearly maintenance-free, but not quite as durable as wood. Plastic, on the other hand, won’t last if it’s left outdoors for long periods of time. To extend the life of a plastic swing set, bring it indoors for the winter or during inclement weather.

Cleaning: Use a garden hose, or bucket of water and mild soap, to spray or wipe down your (wood/metal/plastic) swing set at the beginning and end of each season.

Staining and sealing: Similar to a wooden deck, a wooden swing set requires regular maintenance. Each year, you’ll want to stain the wood and apply a waterproof sealant to keep wood from rotting.[5]

Regular inspections: Check wood for signs of wear, including cracks or splinters. Smooth these out with a power sander before sealing.

Tightening bolts/screws: On both wood and metal swing sets, you’ll need to regularly check bolts and hardware (at the beginning and end of each season). Use a wrench to tighten any as required.

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7Walmart’s swing set installation services

Swing set installation

Don’t let a complex installation keep you from purchasing the best rated swing set for your family! Walmart’s installation services can help with the set up for all Walmart swing sets. Simply select the installation package appropriate to the size and cost of the swing set you’ve selected, add it to your cart and check out as usual. A specialist will call or email you to schedule your appointment. The service includes full installation and set-up, as well as a 90-day labour warranty. You can pay upfront, or there’s a 6-month installment plan to help spread out the cost into six affordable monthly payments.

Article Sources

  1. Michigan State University. Just a swinging, sliding and climbing!
  2. Parenting. Start Swinging Like a Big Kid.
  3. Canadian Public Health Association. Playground Injuries.
  4. Government of Canada. Is Your Child Safe? Play Time.
  5. PlayPower Canada. Guide to Maintaining Site Furnishings.