The 10 Best Play Structures

Updated November 09, 2017 by Sam Kraft

10 Best Play Structures
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Think back to when you were a kid, scrambling around the playground with your friends until daylight ran out, only to do it again the next day. Isn’t that something you’d like your children to experience, away from smartphones and tablets and television screens? With our selection of play structures, your little ones will be outside getting some exercise in the fresh air in a flash. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best play structure on Amazon.

10. ECR4Kids Peek-A-Boo

A far cry from your typical jungle gym, the ECR4Kids Peek-A-Boo offers a nice change of pace for your preschool-age children. The caterpillar feet are interchangeable, which allows kids to choose exactly how they want their caterpillar to look.
  • can be used indoors or outdoors
  • comes with all necessary tools
  • can fade if placed in the sun
Brand ECR4Kids
Model ELR-12511
Weight 43.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Little Tikes Rock Climber

The Little Tikes Rock Climber is a versatile and worthwhile investment that offers multiple configurations and a wide range of play patterns. This option is ideal if you have young children between the ages of two and five.
  • 3 crawl-though tunnels
  • slide can be raised for older kids
  • assembly can be confusing
Brand Little Tikes
Model 620270
Weight 84.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Step2 Clubhouse Climber

The Step2 Clubhouse Climber provides the perfect backdrop for imaginative play, with two slides, windows for peek-through fun, and a bridge. It also features a hideout area connected to a crawl-through tunnel that accommodates multiple kids.
  • rotating steering wheel
  • hand rails for assistance
  • older toddlers may get bored quickly
Brand Step2
Model 801200
Weight 197 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Backyard Discovery Woodridge

One feature kids love about the Backyard Discovery Woodridge is the elevated tunnel that culminates in a crow’s nest, where they’ll feel like a true world explorer. It even features a covered side porch with a sundeck that stands five feet tall.
  • sandbox at the bottom
  • 3-position swing beam
  • takes a while to assemble
Brand Backyard Discovery
Model 6815
Weight 678 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Step2 Play Up

It’s not designed for a ton of kids, but the Step2 Play Up will provide ample recreation for a small group of toddlers. Its creative design and vibrant colors will spark their imaginations, while its slide and two swings will let them burn off some energy.
  • setup is quick and painless
  • slide is deep for safety
  • does not take up much space
Brand Step2
Model 850000
Weight 155 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Lifetime Adventure Tower

You can put the Lifetime Adventure Tower together in your yard without any anchors, which removes some of the difficulty from the process. This simple jungle gym is durable and designed to stand up to the elements without rotting, cracking or peeling.
  • two climbing walls
  • designed in rugged earth tones
  • skylight in the roof
Brand Lifetime
Model 90440
Weight 500 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Backyard Discovery Skyfort II

Whatever activity your children want to engage in, they can probably get it done on the Backyard Discovery Skyfort II. With a two-person glider swing, a lower play deck and a sandbox at the bottom of the structure, the kids will be entertained for hours.
  • stable set of monkey bars
  • roomy front porch
  • steel brackets for stability
Brand Backyard Discovery
Model 6113
Weight 760 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Lifetime Monkey Bar Playset

The Lifetime Monkey Bar Playset is a heavy-duty, weather-resistant structure that easily stands up to the harshest winters and brightest days. It stands sturdy in your backyard without anchors, ready to take on intense play sessions.
  • 9-foot wavy slide
  • crack-resistant powder-coated metal
  • designed for kids aged 5 and up
Brand Lifetime
Model 90143
Weight pending
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Gorilla Nantucket

How many playsets have you come across that have a chimney? The Gorilla Nantucket offers kids a fun little getaway, with a clubhouse that has real working shutters and a safe entry ladder to ensure they can climb on without any issues.
  • instructions are clear and helpful
  • includes tic-tac-toe panel
  • wooden roof features sunbursts
Brand Gorilla Playsets
Model 01-0021
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Lifetime Big Adventure

A robust, freestanding playset that supports an imaginative clubhouse with a solid hardtop roof, the Lifetime Big Adventure is like giving your kids a tree house without all the hard work and danger. Plus, it’s backed by a five-year manufacturer’s warranty.
  • no cement or anchoring required
  • rubberized steel trapeze bar
  • binoculars in the clubhouse
Brand Lifetime
Model Big Stuff Playset
Weight 481 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

How To Choose A Play Structure

Maybe you've just purchased your first home and are envisioning a new backyard haven where your children can play without anyone having to take them to the park. Or perhaps your toddlers have outgrown their first little playhouse and you're looking for something more adventurous that your family can grow into. Either way, choosing a play structure for your backyard will entail more than just measuring how much space you have.

If you're springing for one of the more elaborate structures that include a full-blown swing set, monkey bars, and a cool clubhouse, be sure to budget for assembly and installation costs. Even if you decide to play weekend warrior and endeavor to assemble one of the larger units by yourself, you're going to need at least some high quality tools and a couple of strong, really good friends to complete the process.

The biggest decision you'll have to make is whether you want a wood, metal, or plastic structure for something that will probably be one of the most prominent features in your backyard. Keep in mind that whether you choose wood or metal, most of the accessories (such as the slides, swings and any other riding toys) will be comprised of high density plastic for maximum safety and comfort. Many homeowners choose wood because it blends in with the landscape better and lends an old-fashioned charm to your outdoor space. These units can come finished with an attractive stain, or you may need to finish it yourself. At a minimum, you'll need to apply a sealant yearly to protect your investment from the elements. For a nearly maintenance-free option, you can choose a metal design, and some parents with a more modern aesthetic might enjoy the sleeker, contemporary lines of a steel frame.

If all your of children are still pretty young, or you think you might move in the near future, you might not be ready for such a large investment. You can find plastic play structures that include low slides and even small swings, but are still light-weight enough that you could easily take them with you when you move. This smaller option is ideal for little ones who want to climb, but still need to stay lower to the ground for safety.

Playset Safety Tips

Most parents invest in a backyard play structure to encourage their kids to jump, climb and hang upside down just like we used to do at the neighborhood parks when we were kids. Many of the larger units are modeled after professional playground equipment, so you need to make sure you follow all the professional advice you can find to help prevent the most common playground injuries. Any play structure you buy should come with its own set of safety guidelines, but here some generally important safety factors to consider with any play set you install.

Careful evaluation of the site is the most important part of planning a safe area for your children to climb, swing and slide. For maximum sturdiness, the ground should be as level as possible. It might be necessary to have a contractor level the ground if your yard is especially lumpy. Something parents might not realize when measuring the site is that you need to add-on a minimum six foot safe zone in all directions, and don't forget to measure upwards. There should be no obstacles such as fences, low-hanging tree limbs or wires within six feet, or possibly more for certain types of swing sets.

If you have a budding Olympic gymnast or circus acrobat on your hands, you can be sure they will find a way to climb or crawl all over every surface of their new play space. Many parents under-estimate the amount of loose-fill required for proper cushioning under the larger structures that can tower as high as 12 feet off the ground. For instance, most people would be surprised to find out that you need at least nine inches of loosely packed cushioning for just an eight-foot-high play set. Some acceptable loose-fill materials include wood chips, engineered wood fiber, and shredded rubber.

Reasons To Encourage Outdoor Play

Proper and safe installation of a play structure might seem like an overwhelming under-taking, but it's likely to pay off in ways you wouldn't expect. A backyard swing set is more than just an expensive way to keep rambunctious kids out of your hair for a couple of hours each day; it can also be a vital part of your child's overall physical and mental health. Because one in five school-aged children suffers from obesity, parents need to be proactive in providing their kids with easy access to a safe outdoor play area.

While reading plenty of books and practicing math are effective ways to prevent the summer learning slide, research has also proven that physical activity has a positive impact on the development of important brain connections. Although there is no direct link between IQ and outdoor play-time, it's a vital component of a child's overall development that often gets overlooked with today's over-scheduled child.

The benefits of regular fresh air are also well-documented in the mental health field. A study in Australia found that children who spend time outdoors for 30 minutes a day experienced better mental health, including lower stress levels and increased feelings of happiness.

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Last updated on November 09, 2017 by Sam Kraft

Sam is a marketing/communications professional and freelance writer who resides in Chicago, IL and is perpetually celebrating the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory.

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