As a parent, you are always looking for safe, fun activities to fill an endless summer day or help a toddler burn off some of her boundless energy. For more than a century, American families have flocked to public playgrounds equipped with swings, slides and climbing structures where kids can refine their motor skills and hone their social skills. The very first such playground was installed in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1887 [source: Erickson].
But sometimes the public playground is just too far away —loading and unloading kids from car seats can make even a short trip feel like hours — or you just need something to keep the kids occupied for 30 minutes while you throw together dinner. That's why so many families invest in a swingset, a scaled-down version of the neighborhood park right in your own backyard.
Here's the problem, though. Like most children's (baby dolls, bikes, video game systems), there will always be a compromise between the coolness level of the product and the amount of money you can reasonably afford to pay. If you go for the cheapest swingset, there's a chance your kids will lose interest in it well before it rusts to the ground in three years. But if you go for the really high-end model, your kids will have to charge the neighbors admission in order to refill their empty college funds.
To help you get the most out of your backyard entertainment investment, we've assembled some of the best advice on choosing the right swingset for your kids, and if you're lucky, your grandkids. Let's start with choosing an age-appropriate play set.