backyard kid related ?'s: swingset, zip line, mulch...

mamadadapaigeSeptember 5, 2008

need as much input as possible!!

our situation: 6.5 year old girl who loves gymnastics, monkey bars, swings -- almost 3 year old boy who loves to climb, play with trucks, very agile and adventurous.

I have already purchased a Childlife swingset which has not been delivered yet. It is the Mt. Shasta and includes 4 swing positions with trapeze (good for DD), buoy ball, swing and toddler swing. There is a rope swing underneath the big climbing platform. There are 3 rope ladders and a rock wall and a slide.

Swingset includes A LOT, but is missing two elements that had been on my must have list: monkey bars and sandbox, BUT with their closeout pricing it was within my budget. I had wanted to go with Cedarworks but when I included everything I wanted I was double my budget at least and that was with scaling back dramatically.

Total budget is $4000. Childlife swingset with tax and installation is $3123


I have $900 left in my budget. Do I put that into Monkey Bars for my DD or would a zip line carry her through the tween years better than the monkey bars. Zip line is less $$. For the monkey bars I am looking at it would take me a little beyond my budget and cut into the mulch issue. My priorities are low maintence (ie: cedar) and something that will "go" with the Childlife set.

Sandbox: Is it worth it, or if I use pea gravel underneath the swingset (which people on this board seem to like) can this function well enough as a "sandbox". He can use his trucks to scoop up the rocks etc. -- if so, is the pea gravel really safe enough? the fort is 5.5' off the ground.

I was planning to re-use some cobble stones to edge the area, but am concerned with someone catapulting themselves off the swing and smacking their head on a cobblestone. Is there an attractive and cost effective yet safe option for edging?

Zip Line: anyone have any recommendations on which kit to buy? I would like to use it too (and am in the 140 lb. range!!). I would definitely want it to be sturdy enough so that the neighborhood kids who tend to be a little older could use it too. Also, on the zipline: we have one good tree, but for the other end, we'll have to attach it to a post of some sort... any ideas on the sturdiest means of doing this? pressure treated lumber? steel post? cement it into the ground or just dig a very deep hole?

Mulch: pea stone (with added benefit of eliminating sandbox, saves money and keeps me from having to remember to put the cover on and off), wood chips? had looked into rubber mulch but it is what out of my budget.

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Only you, your daughter and your family members can evaluate the correct decision in regards to choosing the zip line over the monkey bars.
You know your kids and how they express themselves in an active outdoor area better than anybody.

Zip lines are well loved by adults and kids alike. They attract a lot of attention, (ie, the neighborhood kids ) sometime even more than a trampoline, which is saying a lot.

They (ziplines) do not provide the same type of physical challenges that monkey bars do , so if your daughter and or son is going onto gymnastics later on in their teens this may give you a little direction in your choice.

Sandbox- In my experience they are highly usable elements. Often times it does not matter whether the box is filled with pea gravel or sand. It is simply the fun of digging.
You can pick up an inexpensive 5 foot diameter plastic pool and fill it with play sand or safely bolt four 2x6 cedar boards together with a double bonded weed barrier cloth at the bottom.

I do not like pea gravel as a safe flooring material under play sets as a personal choice, but it is accepted by the U.S. consumer safety commission.
It has a very low safety rating plus it can become a lethal weapon if tempers flare up.

An excerpt from a Kidspace Book :

Choose A Safe Protective Play Surface

Install a shock absorbing surface area under and around your play equipment .
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ( suggests that a loose filled material such as cedar wood chips , engineered wood fiber ( EWF) or shredded recycled rubber mulch should be installed to a minimum maintained depth of 9 inches for areas that will support play equipment that is 8 feet high.
For equipment that is 5 feet in height or less , 9 inches depth of sand or rounded pea gravel is suggested.

Because of eventual settling , compaction and displacement it is suggested that the loose mulch surface material should be originally applied at 12 inches thick .

Grass, artificial turf, and dirt are not considered protective surfacing and do not have the shock absorption integrity as a thick bed of chipped bark mulch.
Carpeting and thin rubber mats are also not adequate protective surfacing.
High density commercial rubber mats designed specifically for playgrounds are safe but should be fully researched and evaluated before using. Check their safety report information via the internet.

Ground level equipment such as sandboxes , playhouses and other equipment that do not have any elevated play surface areas do not require any protective surfacing by code compliance , but play it safe and provide a safe cushioned surface for your loved ones.

Edging- I would never recommend cobble stone. Kids are bound to fly off the swings and or run and fall.
I often specify Trex ( plastic wood board ) or rubber bricks ( higher end ). Or if I am using rubber mats I don't use any border at all.

Favorite type of mulch - play ground fiber. - call your local landscape supply store .

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 5:35PM
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thank you so much for the information and the time you took to post. I really appreciate it. I am thinking of monkey bars at this point and a zipline down the road. have never heard of rubber bricks... will look into that and will use my cobblestones else where in the yard (which I guess was my intuition but confirmation of that cements the decision). maybe with my budget, trex will work.

thanks again for the wealth of information!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 11:06AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Our sandbox has been a big hit with the kids for years, they really get a lot of use out of it. Just put a bunch of trucks and old kitchen utensils and they will use it for hours and years.

Pea gravel is a pain, always getting kicked into the grass, very hard to fall on, not recommended.

$3000 for swingset seems like overkill, surely you can find something that costs less and is just as fun.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 12:44PM
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hi gottagarden,
thanks for the info re: the sandbox... that was my sense, that it would be a hit. re: the pea gravel... why do some many on this board sing its praises?? it would seem that falling on rocks wouldn't be so nice plus the other issue you raise.

re: the $3000 swingset... have you shopped for swingsets recently? the prices are staggering ... your money doesn't go very far. I was looking at demo models at 50% off at backyard adventures and was still looking at $5K. I shopped really hard for what I got and believe me it was a deal at $3K. I wasn't going to get something really tiny though as I have a 6 year old.

thanks again.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 7:47AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Sandbox. Easy to make, and cheap. DH made our sandbox, back in the day. He used four 8' long 2"x10" boards (they might have been 2"x12") and made an open, bottomless box. Back in the day we used pressure-treated lumber...I understand now that one isn't supposed to use that. You'll have to stain your box, or by cedar or some-such.

He placed the box on a relatively level spot in the yard. We went to the local gravel yard with my 1981 Chevette hatchback....back seat down covered in a tarp. Got a load of "washed builders sand." Coarser than "play sand". Less expensive than play sand--and it still has a little clay in it so it "sticks together" for the building of piles and roads and such.

He made a two part lid with a sheet of plywood, with handles on it. I had to open the box for the kids when they were really little, and closed it for them. The lid is crucial...keeps the local cats from using it as...well... a sandbox. When the kids were older they could handle the lid themselves.

Ours was under a couple of big oaks, so it was shady. They played with it until we moved when Elder Son was in middle school and The Boy had just finished 3rd grade.

The swings were the most used part of our swing set. (Wood Play--it came with the "new" house.) Even after they were "too old" the kids used to sit down on the swing set and talk with their friends.

If I get really ambitious I'll attempt to find pics of our sandbox and scan them...and I'll post them for you. I have to go to work at the Garden Center this afternoon...but I'll see what I can come up with.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 9:11AM
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Please please please put in a sandbox. There is no limit to the creativity for the kids, going way beyond the three year old's truck play. We cover with a tarp, stapled to a simple frame, a bit higher at one end to provide runoff of rain. Also, if it's going to be in the sun, a shade cloth would be advisable. Two frames, one with sand, the other with gravel are fun, but sand is the preferred option.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 8:44AM
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When my elementary school got a wild hair and put in one of those fancy, expansive, architect-designed playgrounds, they used pea gravel. What a miserable experience- we all spent the class period after recess picking stones out of our bloody knees, dumping stones out of our shoes and socks, and trying to ignore our raw little hands. Kids play hard.

I'm with you that $3K is totally reasonable for a playset. One of my clients spent $22K on theirs, which... must be nice.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 8:20AM
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zip-lines can be safely installed and they are alof of fun for the kids. I bought a kit on amazon for under $100, some lumber for posts and a few other parts and put one together. It has a 70 foot run and a disk seat so they do not have to hang from the trolley. Nothing but smiles :)

Here is a link that might be useful: zipline project

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 3:35PM
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