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Backyard Playground

  • A Parent’s Perspective: Backyard Swing Set Benefits

    Here at Eastern Jungle Gym, we firmly believe that having a backyard swing set fosters increased physical fitness, problem-solving abilities and socialization skills, as well as improved independence. We also know that a backyard swing set is what many longtime memories are made of — hence, our slogan, “Creating Childhood Memories.” But we would be remiss if we did not mention the other family members it impacts, too: Parents.

    For moms and dads, there is a long list of milestones to look forward to between a child’s birth and his or her first birthday. Somewhere around seven, eight or nine months, the little one experiences the swing for the first time — a moment he or she will never remember, but one that mom and dad will never forget. I was so excited to put my child on the swing for the first time. Despite it being a gloomy February day, the temperature was warm enough to spend a little while outside, so away we went, snowsuit and all! It didn’t even matter that baby fell asleep after about five minutes in the swing. We had snapped a few photos and were already looking forward to next time.

    When you have a swing set right outside your back door, it is almost impossible to go even one day without using it, no matter the kids’ ages. This is why it makes sense to go with a backyard swing set that is large enough for the children to grow into. If you get something too small, they will outgrow it in no time, and you will be left making a second purchase. Your child may be too small for some of the activities initially, and that’s OK. Simply stick with the ones that are age-appropriate and work your way up. Besides, the sense of challenge that some of the activities provide will help your child develop confidence and new skills. And that means those memorable moments will keep coming as the little ones achieve more and more on their backyard swing set. Investing in a backyard swing set — whether a simple A-frame style or one with towers and multiple activities — is even becoming a popular choice for grandparents for these same reasons.

    Whether you are a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt or uncle, having playset at home is an investment in happiness. It allows the satisfaction and pride a parent feels so often during a child’s early years to be experienced by a number of other family members as they visit for get-togethers, parties and holidays. Having a backyard swing set allows mom, dad, child and others to enjoy an endless number of those special moments as the baby grows from infant to toddler and beyond.

  • The Childhood Benefits of a Backyard Playground

    For many children, a backyard playground or swing set is a dream come true. An outdoor playset gives them the opportunity to explore, learn and improve physical skills on a daily basis, without ever leaving home. As they learn and play, they are expending energy and making memories on the swings, slide, tire swing, rock-climbing wall and other activities.

    But the benefits of a backyard playground go beyond the happiness parents and family members see their kids experiencing on the swing set. Here is a list of the other childhood benefits, some known and others often overlooked, associated with owning a backyard playground:

    Helps Children Learn to Play with Others: One of the most important skills children will need during their school years -- and later on as an adult in the workplace -- is the ability to communicate and work with others. Swing sets and backyard playgrounds facilitate this because the little ones need to share and take turns when it comes to going down the slide, looking through the binoculars in the clubhouse, climbing up the ladder, and so on. By learning how to cooperate with their peers early on and simultaneously imagining and exploring together, the children are understanding and adopting important social norms.

    Helps Them Learn to Play Alone: Just as important as it is to learn to interact with others, learning to entertain oneself and be content alone is a wonderful skill for children to gain. Whether the little one is an only child or a young sibling whose brothers and sisters are much older, a swing set gives him or her many activities to keep busy. Displaying independence at such a young age is a good indication that the child may continue to nurture this skill as he or she grows.

    Helps Develop Muscles: Who doesn’t want their child to be strong and healthy? A swing set or backyard playground allows little ones to be just that. With more than 23 years in the business, we have seen a common scenario play out: a new wooden swing set is installed, and the parents of young children are quietly hesitant because of the size of the playset. By the end of the day, that hesitation is gone because they see how quickly their children pick up the new activities. As they master these challenges — swinging, climbing, hanging, pushing, etc. — they develop upper body strength, leg strength and more.

    Helps Develop Motor Skills: With all the activities the average backyard playground offers today, there are endless opportunities to work on grasping, hand/eye/foot coordination, balance, jumping ability, hanging strength, and more. We always recommending choosing a swing set that is large enough to grow with your family, so there are opportunities to develop different motor skills at different ages (think learning how to step as a young toddler to becoming an expert on the monkey bars just a few years later). Some of the abilities children develop on their swing set will help them grow into athletes, too.

    Encourages Physical Activity: With all of the devices available to little ones today, it's important to instill a love of movement and a love of the outdoors. There are enormous benefits to simply being outside (see this article and this article for specifics that range from the importance of Vitamin D to mental health improvements to advantages for vision and sight). A backyard playground will get the kids out of the house each day for years to come. What a wonderful way to get them to exercise without even really knowing it! The benefits of a swing set may be even greater if your child attends a school where recess has started to dwindle away in recent years.

    It’s important to remember that all of these benefits work alongside the number-one reward of having a backyard playground for the kids, which is the happiness they feel anytime they play on it. What sorts of positive effects has your home swing set had on your children? Tell us in the comments. And don’t forget to check out this blog, which discusses the impact swing sets have on self-esteem and problem-solving skills.

    Thanks for reading and happy playing!

  • Contest Winner Thrilled with Playset

    As luck would have it, the winner of Eastern Jungle Gym's 2015 Springtime Swing Set Giveaway was just starting to look for a backyard playset for her kids. In fact, Molly Conetta and her husband Jason were planning to start shopping in the coming days -- until they got the good news, of course!

    "Thank you so very much," Molly wrote to Eastern Jungle Gym. "We are so thrilled and can't wait to play on our new swing set!!! My son and daughter will love this for years to come. You totally made our weekend, especially since we were going to be out shopping for a swing set for our family and now we are lucky to have this one."

    Molly, a first grade teacher, and Jason, a high school vice principal, live in Massachusetts with their two young children: Jack, who will be 3 in May, and Gabriella, who will be 1 in May. The family had their choice of a Classic Kids Swing Set, valued at $999, or a Classic Wooden Tire Swing, valued at $799. The Classic Kids Swing features a horse glider for two, a full bucket swing and a sling swing. The Classic Tire Swing comes with a three-chain tire swing designed for up to three children.

    Eastern Jungle Gym was happy to work with the Conettas, who had their hearts set on a playset with a platform play deck and a slide. So the family received a credit toward the purchase of another wooden swing set.

    "I think this is the best option for our family," Molly said.

    Molly and Jason were looking for a swing set the kids could grow into, so they are planning to order the Dreamscape 1. It features a clubhouse, a 10-foot wave slide, a rock climbing wall, a Jacob's Ladder and more.

    "There's nothing we love more than helping a family get the swing set of their dreams," said Rolf Zimmermann, the company's Vice President of Sales. "After all, our motto is creating childhood memories. It's something we've been doing for more than two decades."

    Eastern Jungle Gym regularly hosts contests and giveaways through its website and social media channels. The company is based in Carmel, New York and has been manufacturing wooden swing sets for 22 years.

  • Swing Sets Buying Guide

    5 Things to Consider When Shopping for an Outdoor Playset

    Spring has finally arrived here in the Northeast and across the rest of the country. With warm weather right around the corner, the kids will undoubtedly be spending more and more time outdoors. If this is the year you're planning to buy a swing set, now is the time to start browsing and planning your purchase.

    When it comes to investing in a backyard playground--and all the wonderful memories that will follow--there are a few factors to think about. Here is a list of considerations (in no particular order) that we recommend you mull over as you begin shopping for a swing set.

    • Family Size: The number of little ones you foresee using the swing set on a daily basis is something to account for as you decide what size unit would fit your family's needs. If your immediate family is still growing, plan accordingly. Similarly, take extended family members and friends into consideration, too. If you typically have brothers, sisters, cousins and their young children over on the weekends, you will want to make sure your playset is large enough to accommodate the group. You can judge this by looking at the swing set and all its activities. Ideally, you'll have at least two to three swing positions (say, two for sling swings or belt swings, and the third for a horse glider swing or a gym ring/trapeze bar combo), a slide, a clubhouse with a toy or two, a rock-climbing wall, maybe some monkey bars, and so on. Consider the types of activities, too -- ones that work the upper body, the legs and so on. Do make sure the clubhouse is roomy enough for the group, too. Beyond cousins and immediate family, don't forget about the friends your kids have over after school, or the neighborhood pals they spend time with in the summer.
    • Age of Children: While it may be tempting to focus on the current ages of your little ones, we encourage families to think ahead. When purchasing a swing set, you're making an investment that will last several years. It is best to look for a swing set that has activities the kids can grow into, even if it looks large for a toddler. Otherwise you could end up buying two swing sets, one that's small (say with a deck height of just four feet) and one that's on the larger side (with a deck height of at least five and a half feet).
    A swing set with a slide, gang plank ramp, swings, ladders and a rock-climbing wall provides plenty of activities. A swing set with a slide, gang plank ramp, swings, ladders and a rock-climbing wall provides plenty of activities.
    • Available space: Perhaps the first thing you should do when you decide to add a swing set to your home is identify an appropriate space. Ideally, you're looking for a spot that is somewhat level and free of obstructions. Certain swing sets can be installed on unlevel ground, so if your property is significantly sloped, you'll want to mention this as you are out browsing for a playset. If that's the case, a swing set with an angled base, rather than a straight base, would be best. And while the backyard is the most common place to find a swing set, you could also place yours on the side of the home or in the front yard. Just be sure mom or dad has access to a window close by, so keeping an eye on the kids from inside won't be a challenge.
    • Swing Set Material: When it comes to backyard swing sets and material, you have a few choices: Metal, wooden or vinyl. Your decision will likely depend on the style of your home and backyard, your personal preference, and your budget. With more than 22 years of experience in this industry, we always recommend wooden swing sets--specifically cedar--because of their strength, beauty and natural resistance to rot and insect damage. You can find more information about other types of swing set materials here. Whichever style you choose, be sure to inspect the quality of the material and the hardware. A safe wooden swing set, for example, should have smooth, sanded wood with rounded corners, solid or thru-bolt construction, and recessed hardware.
    • Price: Once you've done a little research online, you'll see that swing set prices range from about $500, for a small unit from a big box store, all the way up to $5,000 or more, for a large, high quality swing set with many, many activities. If you are the DIY type, you may be able to install the swing set yourself. However, if you're planning to opt for a professional to do the setup, remember to factor this into the cost. Also consider the cost of adding an appropriate play surface, such as rubber mulch (our favorite for safety reasons, and the fact that it never needs replenishing) or even wood mulch, to your swing set area. This is not a requirement for a backyard swing set, but it's a good idea if you can find room in your budget. Surfacing will tack on anywhere from a few hundred bucks to an additional $3,000 to your total cost.
  • Metal, Vinyl or Wooden Swing Sets

    When it comes to selecting a new playset for the family, one of the most important first questions to consider is the type of material you are selecting. From wooden swing sets to those made of vinyl or metal, there are plenty of options, each with pros and cons that are worth contemplating before making a purchase.

    If you are leaning toward one of the many types of wooden swing sets, you have several choices: cedar, pressure-treated pine or redwood.

    Redwood, which grows on the coast of California, is the most expensive. Like cedar, it is naturally resistant to decay and rot, as well as to damage from insects. Experts consider this wood very durable, and easy to work with. It offers minimal shrinking and swelling when compared to other wood, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. As its name suggests, this wood is naturally red. This is a look many people feel adds tremendously to the aesthetics of their backyard playground.

    Still, redwood is not maintenance free. Sealing and staining a redwood swing set is a smart move, as it will lengthen its lifespan.

    Wooden swing sets that are made of cedar are naturally resistant to insect damage, rot and decay.

    Cedar wooden swing sets are typically a bit more affordable than redwood swing sets. They, too, are naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect damage -- plus, they have a beautiful aroma. They are also less prone to twisting and warping when compared to pressured-treated swing sets. Most cedar swing sets today are made from either Western red cedar, Northern white cedar or China-Fir.

    • Northern white cedar is the lightest of all commercial wood in the country, according to the US Forest Service Department of Agriculture. It glues and holds paint well and offers little dimensional change, the department states. But this wood is rather soft, so it does not hold fasteners as well as other materials. On the plus side, Northern white cedar is naturally resistant to splintering.
    • Western red cedar, which comes from the Pacific Northwest, is also known for its durability and lightness. This material has been used for decades on fencing, outdoor furniture and playgrounds.
    • China-Fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) is very resistant to decay, pest infestations and fungus. It has been used abroad for centuries because it is a terrific all-around, versatile material. This wood is typically a warm yellow or light white color, with hints of red.

    Pressure-treated swing sets contain preservatives, which are applied in an effort to make the material last. And last it does! This material can hold up for years and years, although the quality (swing sets are not all created equally) can affect tendency to warp and twist. The process for pressure-treating wood allows the preservatives to be forced deep in the wood so that the material becomes resistant (which it is not naturally) to decay, insects and rot.

    Before 2003--when the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in--this type of lumber often contained a composite that used arsenic. Today's pressure-treated wood has safer preservatives, but it is wise to look into the specific type of preservative your swing set contains before making a purchase. Pressure-treated swing sets are usually the least expensive when it comes to wooden playsets.

    Another option is metal. These are the swing sets most adults remember having as a kid. They use thin gauge steel pipes that are painted or powder-coated, and anchored in concrete. Maintenance may include applying an oil or grease to fight off corrosion, depending on the type of metal. These swing sets are strong and affordable, but definitely give a backyard a different feel than that of a wooden swing set. Again, the quality of the swing set can make a big difference, so look at plenty of reviews and be prepared with questions.

    Vinyl swing sets use pressure-treated pine wrapped in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for the structural components. They use composite decking (wood-alternatives made of recycled materials, such as plastics and lumber) for the walls and decks of the playset. There is no need to stain or seal these swing sets, but they should be cleaned annually. There is also no risk of splinters (which should be nearly non-existent with a quality wood playset that is sanded and has properly rounded edges). These swing sets are typically on the expensive side. One thing to keep in mind is that the moisture trapped in the pressured-treated pine has no place to go when it is encapsulated. That means rot is likely inevitable at some point in the life of a vinyl swing set. When that occurs, and to what degree, varies.

    One more important factor in your decision of a swing set material is the construction of the support posts and beams. Some wooden play sets use solid pieces of woods, such as 4-by-4s, which can sometimes lead to increased cracking because of the constant swelling from rain and shrinking from the heat. Other jungle gyms use a two-piece construction--where the wood is bolted together without glue. This reduces the frequency of checking and cracking. Another possibility is laminated wood, meaning multiple pieces of wood are glued together. Although often hard to detect, this type of post is prone to de-lamination and failure. Painting or sealing would only slow down the process.

    No matter the swing set style and design you are leaning toward, it is important to be educated and do your research when making this purchase. After all, this is an item your family will enjoy for years to come! We would love to hear about your experience with wooden swing sets, metal swing sets and vinyl swing sets.

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