Last updated: 06/09/2020

How we pick our products

19Products analyzed

21Hours invested

4Studies researched

99Comments collected

One of the most prominent dilemmas parents have when it comes to their child’s care is knowing how much freedom is the right amount. Every parent wants their child to learn how to live, play and move on their own. Yet finding the right balance between allowing them autonomy and offering protection can be very hard. Many parents feel like they must always be watching, ensuring they are always out of harm’s way.

Thanks to the emergence of playgrounds, parents can allow their kids independence while still providing a safe environment. Playsets provide little ones a safe and comfortable area where they can play and move about completely on their own, while parents are able to watch on-and-off from a safe distance. Children can explore, create, imagine and develop their critical thinking skills, all within the comfort of a play area made especially for them.

Key Facts

  • In order to develop fully both physically and psychologically, children need to have their own space to play and grow. Providing them with a safe environment where they can test, challenge and hone their coordination and critical thinking skills. Nonetheless, it is often difficult for parents to find a place that promotes creativity and movement in a safe way.
  • Playgrounds are designed in such a way that they allow for children to play in an enclosed, comfortable and safe environment that is still stimulating. This, in turn, enables parents to relax knowing their kids are entertained and active, and almost entirely out of harm’s way.
  • These days, there’s an almost infinite amount of ways that playgrounds are being designed. Choosing the right one for you and your kids should be based on a number of different factors, such as size, safety, durability, and individualized built-in features. Taking into consideration all these different elements will help you purchase the best playground to fit the needs of your family.

Our Selection: The Best Playgrounds on the U.S. Market

When it comes to choosing a playground for your toddlers and young children, one can easily spend hours, even days, searching to find the best one. For this reason, in the following section, we have prepared a selection of the top-rated playgrounds that are currently on the U.S. market. Hopefully, this will give you a good starting point for you to better understand the makings of a good playset.

Simplay3 — Young Explorers Adventure Climber

The Young Explorers Adventure Climber playground is the perfect humble-but-entertaining playground for inside or outside use. It has a super durable square-shaped base with holes for your kids to weave in-and-out of or hide underneath. These “jeep style” doors and wheels are crawl-through portals to your child’s secret hideaway fort.

Its bright colors are stimulating and the whole playground is built with child-friendly rounded edges. It comes with a slide and easy-grip features, while the ladder leads to a second platform. This playground set was the winner of the 2019 Parents’ Choice award. It is both weather and UV resistant, providing lasting value for years to come.

Step2 — All Around Playtime Patio with Canopy Playhouse

This pavillion-style outdoor playhouse allows kids to host their own backyard party. It is ideal for social and interactive play, made with a built-in play kitchen and water features. The working double doors let kids in and out easily while the overhead canopy provides shade for them to play under the sun.

Several accessories are included for water fun and sand exploration, including a water tower, sand scoops, and a double-sided shovel. This kids’ outdoor playhouse features realistic stacked stone and a neutral-colored palette, which allows it to blend into any backyard setting. The open design allows your little ones to play freely and on their own, as you keep an eye from a distance.

ECR4Kids — Pic-N-Rock Picnic Table/Rocker

No products found.

This brightly colored play structure combines the fun of a seesaw/rocking chair with an outdoor picnic table. It’s great for both indoor and outdoor use, made to be weather and fade resistant, and specially designed to be easy to clean and wipe down. It has a lightweight design that includes built-in handles that allow it to easily transition from a toy to a table.

This multi-purpose play structure by ECR4Kids includes two benches for up to four kids, ages 18 months-3 years old. It allows kids to play together on the rocker or use as a picnic table for lunch or during snack time. The seatback support allows children to feel safe and secure while enjoying the smooth and exciting seesaw motion. This product is certified safe by Greenguard Gold for minimal chemical emissions.

Savings Supreme — Toddler Swing N Slide Infant Playground

This fun and imaginative playset is both an indoor and outdoor playground with both a swing and slide to keep your little tot entertained and developing their new motor skills. It includes small and safe kids slide and swing seat with a built-in 3-point safety belt. The easy-climbing rock wall on the sides is great for allowing your child to develop good grip strength.

This playset by Savings Supreme is suitable for ages 12 months – 3 years. Its clubhouse-style windows are easy to peek through and fun to climb around. The fun and imaginative tree and house designs stimulate the imagination, children will feel like they have their own treehouse right in the safety of their own home.

Little Tykes — Activity Garden Baby Playset

This multi-functional play center helps infants develop fine motor skills and stay entertained. It’s a safe, durable and enclosed environment that easily transforms (without any tools) into an open, two-sided play center. The play panel can be adjusted to sit horizontally for seated play. This brightly colored and stimulating playpen is built with a crawl-through archway and a shape-sorter mailbox.

It has a working tap-tune piano that sits atop the open/close door for your baby to experiment, create and develop their listening and motor skills, all at the same time. It has a movable look through telescope and functioning window shutters that feature a drop flower pot. The size and age-appropriate stimulation make this playset ideal for infants and young toddlers.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Playground Sets

Every parent wants their children to be active, entertained and constantly learning. For children, having a safe place to release energy and develop good movement and motor skills is extremely important. Because your child will spend their time (either alone or with friends) in the playset, it is important to research your options well. To help you understand the makings of a good playground, in this section we cover the most important facts and answer the most frequently asked questions among buyers.

cute baby boy in a cradle

Make sure that the playground set you choose is durable and safe.
(Source: JMaryna Sokolova: 26560198/ 123rf.com)

What are playground sets and what are their advantages?

Playgrounds, also known as playpens, are structures where children can play safely and comfortably, allowing their imagination to expand as they p with friends or alone. These structures are usually more-or-less closed-off spaces, designed to provide sufficient visibility for both the kids and the parents.

This allows the young child to explore their environment with confidence, enhancing their physical and mental development, without parents fearing them wandering off or placing themselves in dangerous situations. Introducing playgrounds to children from a young age provides numerous benefits, by creating a heightened learning experience as well as encouraging proper development.

Playgrounds strengthen kid’s relationships with the environment, promote their imagination, and offer a safe play space for children to develop their psychomotor, coordination and muscle strength. Listed below are the main advantages that playgrounds can provide a young child:

  • Combats sedentary behavior and reduces the risk of childhood obesity.
  • Stimulates physical development, psychomotor capacity and muscle growth.
  • Enhances emotional development and individual autonomy.
  • Helps develop creativity and strengthens self-confidence.
  • Allows the little one to move, explore and play safely.

Playgrounds ultimately also provide benefits for parents, by allowing parents to relax knowing that their child can play without having to watch over them every second of every day. Parents can have a little more freedom to work, clean or carry out other household tasks, all with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their child is playing in a safe environment, away from screens!

What types of playgrounds are there?

Over the years, children’s playgrounds have evolved immensely, incorporating the latest gadgets and technology to create new and improved designs and environments. There’s an enormous variety of models, sizes and structures that include unique, one-of-a-kind features from built-in flashlights to built-in trampolines. However, to help with the decision-making process, we can first differentiate between three basic types of models:

  • Childrens cradle playset: These are conventional designs; very popular thanks to their versatility and practicality. These playgrounds can also serve as a travel cot. They have a comfortable base but are not recommended for children older than eighteen months, due to lack of space.
  • Rectangular or square playgrounds: These playsets have a comfortable, resistant and usually elevated base. They are almost always made of plastic or metal, and the sides are usually covered with some sort of mesh or plastic – to allow for visibility as well as provide a safety barrier. Some Designs are even made with built-in wheels, allowing you to fold and move them easily, making them extremely portable.
  • Modular panels or safety bar playground sets: These playgrounds have no base and are designed with only a surrounding structure made of either plastic or metal panels or safety bars. They are made for enhanced durability and last for years. Mainly because they can adapt to the size of the child as they grow. Most have hooks or different points of attachment where you can add panels depending on the size of space you want to create.

Keep in mind that within these three basic models of playgrounds you can find an endless selection of designs and customizable features. It’s best to think first about what type of playground set and what size would best suit your needs and from there, research all the different brands, models, makes and varying qualities within that group to choose the one that will provide your kids with the most entertaining and is the safest option for your home.

baby in crib

To ensure the safety of your little one, set up the playground in a well-lit area with comfortable temperatures and maximum air flow.
(Source: Reana: 32103230/123rf.com)

Which type of playground is the best one for my child?

As we briefly described before, choosing the right playground for your needs will depend entirely on your budget, space and what features you or your kids want. Perhaps you’re not even sure which features you’d like to have incorporated in your playground set yet. It is understandable given the new and improved toys and child’ products coming out year after year, making it very hard to even know what the possibilities are.

To start, it’s good to ask yourself whether you’ll be using the playset at home, or if you want it to be portable or not, how much space you have for it, how many kids will be using it, how long you want it to last and lastly, determine your budget. These are all the criterion that you should have clear in order to make the best decision.

Infant playset Rectangular or square Modular panels or safety bars
Comfort * ** ***
Portability *** ** *
Space * ** ***
Versatility *** * ***
Durability * * ***

If you’re looking for the most versatile, long-lasting and well-rounded playset, the rectangular and square models will more than likely be your best bet. While crib or adjustable paneled sets can be taken anywhere and are quite comfortable, most kids will outgrow them once they reach toddlerhood.

What are the essential playground safety considerations to keep in mind?

Although in the United States most playgrounds are designed, approved and certified for long-lasting durability and maximum safety, it’s still a good idea for you to look carefully at the structure of the playset and do some sort of safety check before allowing your kids to play in it. The safety checklist below covers the most important risks of playsets.

  • Check for stability and resistance.
  • The connection points should be easy to operate and put together, but strong and complicated enough that the child cannot disassemble them.
  • All points of contact and surfaces should be padded and comfortable.
  • The sides should not give in with one swift move of the hand or arm.
  • They should be easy to clean and wash.
  • If it has wheels, they should have their own built-in and sturdy brakes.

Be sure to run through this checklist to make sure the playground is safe for your child to play freely. However, it’s essential that at least once a month you go through this checklist again. Keep in mind that time can cause wear and tear on any playground set, causing potential damage and safety hazards.

Mother and little baby

You can choose between many different styles and features of playground sets.
(Source: Massonforstock: 49466849/ 123rf.com)

How young can children begin to play on playgrounds?

Although it’s impossible to give an exact age when babies can start playing on playgrounds, generally speaking, babies begin to sit up and crawl around between the ages of five and seven months. From this point on its great to start introducing them to various toys and play areas; providing environments for them to develop and play independently.

Keep in mind that if you introduce babies to playgrounds before they have developed the ability to crawl and move on their own, they can easily become frustrated and agitated; stimulated by the sights and toys around them but still not able to explore the environment around them.

Some babies even have the potential of becoming overwhelmed, overstimulated and may feel a little lost; invoking sensations of fear and insecurity. Make sure you watch the baby’s behavior well and critically analyze their different developmental stages to consciously decide whether or not they are ready to be introduced to playgrounds.

What are the recommended dimensions of playgrounds?

There are playgrounds of many shapes and sizes. Some are designed to fit right inside the home, some are made to be portable, and others are designed just like a mini-house, more often than not, they are made to be placed outside in the backyard or at a school. There are even some playsets that can change its size and shape, adapting to the babies different stages of growth and allowing you to use them for a number of years.

However, for security reasons, playpens must have minimum dimensions to decrease the risk of the baby escaping the enclosed area, or falling off of a high tiered platform. To prevent this from happening, the minimum recommended height for a playground in the U.S. is 60 cm. In addition, for reasons of comfort, the total surface area should not be less than half a square meter, as the baby will not have enough space to play.

National Safety CouncilPlayground Safety Tips

“Ensure that your children use appropriate playground equipment based on their age and development level. Every child develops differently, so if they want to try the “big kid” swing, the monkey bars or a more challenging piece of equipment and you feel like they’re ready, go for it.”

What should I keep in mind when using playgrounds?

Here is a shortlist of some of the main points and considerations that many childcare professionals have given to parents in regards to using playground sets:

  • Allow your baby time to adapt to their new play environment: This new play area has the potential to be quite overwhelming at first with all the bright colors and loud toys. It may be a good idea to start by leaving the child in the playpen for just a few minutes to see how they respond. Little by little, you can increase the time they spent alone in their new play place.
  • Do not abuse the use of a playground set: It’s great and arguably necessary that our little ones learn how to play and live on their own. However, this should never be a replacement for proper childcare and parental love. Never allow the child to feel as though they’ve been abandoned.
  • The playpen should never be used as a place of punishment: If we do this, the baby will begin to associate it with negative consequences and will soon lose interest and even fear being placed in their play area by themselves.
  • The playset should be set up in a safe environment: Either outside, or in a room with sufficient light, comfortable temperature and away from objects that could be potentially dangerous.
  • It’s advisable to occasionally move the location of the playset:
    Doing this will constantly provide your baby with new stimulation and new landscapes to explore.
  • Don’t saturate the space with too many toys: Two or three toys is enough. While we want to keep babies stimulated, overstimulation is something we want to avoid. Instead, exchange toys from time to time to keep them constantly stimulated and interested.

Following this advice, there’s no doubt your baby will enjoy their new playset to the fullest. If you’re still having doubts, check out the reviews of other parents who have experienced the same situation to get their advice. Often times parents have their own little tricks, suggestions, and recommendations of how to go about purchasing the right playgrounds and which one will be the best for your baby.

Are there regulations for playground sets?

As with all children’s toys, playgrounds are subject to design regulations to reduce the risk of injury. It’s important to make sure the products are stable, well-made and non-toxic. According to certain standards, playpens must meet certain safety requirements that have been laid out the ATSM International Consensus Committee.

Today, these standards are laid out by each state and local jurisdiction, school boards, as well as by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission. Checking for their mark of certification will give you 100% assurance that whatever playground set you’re looking for will be safe for your child.

Purchase Criteria

Once you’ve decided on the general design and size of the playground you’d like to buy, you then have to get more specific in order to choose the model and brand of playset that will best suit your family’s needs. In this section, we leave you with the five most common criteria to consider before making a final purchase:

Size of Child

The first, and undoubtedly the most important criteria to keep in mind is the size of your child. The child should feel comfortable and have plenty of room to play and explore without being overwhelmed or run the risk of falling. Especially for playsets with swings, it’s important to make note of the height and weight of your baby. If your playground set includes various tiers and elevated floors, you’ll want to double-check the weight limit capacity to avoid breaking the playset and potentially injuring your kid.

If you decide to opt for a playset that has adjustable and removable panels, this won’t be as much of a problem. Not only does this accommodate a wider range of children, but it can also be used for a longer period of time. From the age of 18 months to 3 years, you won’t have to worry about purchasing another set because your baby outgrew it. All in all, making sure you buy a playground that withstands the size of your baby will ensure the highest amount of safety. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setup and maintenance to avoid any type of risk.

foco

Did you know that according to the Oxford English Dictionary of 1902, the first children’s playground sets were made of only wood and metal bars? Today, many companies hold to this tradition; building and designing new and more complicated playsets made of both wood and structural bars.

Size of Playground Set

This category is very similar to the previous one. The bigger your child is, the bigger you will want your playground set. However, depending on where you will be setting it up will also have an influence on which one you decide to buy. If you have a small house but would like to set up a play area for your baby in their room, it will have to be smaller and more compact. If you have a large space in the backyard, you can opt for a larger playground.

It’s best to place the playground in an open, spacious area that has sufficient lighting to help reduce the chance of falls. Space should be clear of sharp corners or edges either from tables, doors, walls or other household items. These considerations will help eliminate the chance of serious injury if your child does take a fall (as they so often do in exploration and play mode). These things will influence the size of playpen that you will be able to buy and set up in your home.

Safety

As with any other kids product or toy, safety is the number one concern. Parents never want to purchase products that have high rates of malfunctioning, break easily, include items that children can easily choke on and, in the case of playgrounds, aren’t sufficiently stable.

Alongside a safe and sturdy construction, the playground we choose should be designed to allow for proper ventilation with a more or less open floor plan to allow for constant monitoring of your baby, even from far away. A good design allows parents to watch their kids from afar, giving them privacy and autonomy but enabling the adult to always be vigilant.

Intended Use

Ask yourself, what exactly will you be using this playground set for? Will it be placed in a preschool where handfuls of kids will be playing on it every day? Or will it be set up in your kids’ toy room, occupied mainly by them and an occasional friend? This is something to take into consideration when beginning your search for the perfect model. It will help determine the appropriate size and what features you should include within the playset.

It may be more logical to purchase higher quality and more intricate playground set if you know your child will be using it every single day. If you’re going to set it up simply as a complimentary toy and play area alongside the many other toys they already have, perhaps you can get away with purchasing a simpler and more affordable model.

If you have multiple kids or know you plan on having more in the future, you may want to look into buying a resizable playground set. This will not only accommodate your child as they grow, but it can be adjusted for all children. If you’re looking for a humble playpen to keep your baby calm and entertained as you travel, then a cradle pen design will be your best bet.

Versatility and Portability

Last but not least, you’ll want to consider the versatility and portability of the playset you opt for. This goes in conjunction with considering what it is exactly what you want to use the playground set for. If you know you’ll be moving the playpen around frequently, look for a portable model that is easy to fold, and can fit comfortably in all the different places you plan to use it in.

If you know that you will always be moving it around the house, looking for a playpen with wheels is recommended. If you want to provide your kids with endless entertainment, perhaps you will go with a playground set that comes with added accessories and other advanced features like built-in sound boxes or functioning play kitchens. The possibilities are truly endless!

Summary

Playgrounds are one of the best inventions humans have created to keep kids entertained, safe and happy. Not only does it give them their own space to explore the world, but provides them with a place to play that is safe and greatly reduces the risk of injury. As the years go on, companies are incorporating more and more features into their playground designs, enhancing stimulation and increasing learning opportunities.

Playsets are known to help babies and young children develop proper motor skills, critical thinking skills, muscular strength all while giving parents a break from the demanding job of having a child. With so many playground set brands and models on the market, knowing which one to choose can be overwhelming. It’s important to take into consideration not only price but also shape, size, versatility, features, safety ratings, and other consumer reviews.

If you liked our guide to children’s playground sets, share it on social media and leave us a comment with your thoughts.

(Featured image source: Yevheniia Ustinovska: 26765803/123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Topaz Gomez Obstetrician
Topaz is an obstetrician by profession and a mother of two sons. She knows a lot about the education of small children. Besides her work in the hospital, she likes to take care of the children of friendly parents and works as a blogger.