Human technology develops in a curious way. Back in the stone age, we realised that outdoor life wasn’t the best idea, especially at night. We might have learned it the hard way by losing a few relatives to predators, or maybe we realised all our wild neighbours sought out shelter, in tall trees or hidden holes.
We began to conglomerate in caves before we learned to build structures of our own. And once we had solid walls around us, we invested in ways to bring our essentials indoors, from fire and water to toilet facilities. After all, leaving our secure walls could mean death. In the 21st century, everything we need is inside out homes, from electric hearths to instant communication tools.
However, we still need the outdoors, and the more our kids attach to their screens, the more we see the importance of getting them outside the house. Modular play sets are a great way to do that. It pushes them to exercise their muscles, growing their physical strength. Many outdoor playsets also invite imaginative play, so kids get to develop their sense of creativity, even if they’re not particularly artistic.
The greatest benefit of outdoor playsets is social skill. As multiple children share the playset, they learn about time management, bonding, negotiation, personal space, and conflict resolution, and they acquire all these skills organically, often without adult intervention. That alone makes it worth installing a playset in your yard.
But what if the yard is too small? As it turns out, there’s no such thing as ‘too small’. Miniature playsets like the Capital Mini Unit can fit in a space of 4m by 4m, and if you don’t have grass or turf, you can install it on concrete. Just line the ground with mulch or artificial turf mats to prevent injury. Alternatively, you could try single-player stand-alone units like the Billy cart rocker in a 3m by 3m space.
Similarly, the oscillating Spin Point Dish requires roughly 5m2 to keep your child happy, and your kids can use it in turns. You can set up a Bushwood swing in less than 30m2. With a little careful shopping, you can find the right playset for any size of yard. Start by looking at your child’s play preferences, then see what you can find that would suit your yard. Good playset manufacturers always include clear specifications on space requirements.
Factors in playset spacing
There are two main factors you need to consider space-wise. The number of children you have matters, as does their age, but space trumps both, because your unit has to sit comfortably in your yard without compromising safety. The two main factors are – therefore – floor space and height. A playset will have a measurement for the fall area, because you want a height your child can safely jump from without hurting themselves.
The fall height is gauged using the age of the child, but you may pick something taller or shorter if your child’s height falls outside the average. A tall child can get a playset gauged for a few years above their age, while a kid with a smaller stature can settle for something underage until their next growth spurt. Just be sure you don’t tell them, lest they throw a tantrum about using ‘baby toys’.
You also need to think about the layout of your yard. Are there any trees, power lines, or similar structures running across your yard? The highest point of your playset has to be well clear of those vertical barriers. The kids should be able to comfortably jump without getting snagged in branches. This becomes crucial for playsets that have zip lines, towers, rope ladders, or trampoline components.
How high can they go?
The second significant measurement is the soft fall area. If a child jumps off the playset, this is roughly how far they would land from the playset. The soft fall includes the outer dimensions of the playset plus a few inches. Its area depends on the nature of the playset. For example, a spring rocker or see-saw has a smaller soft fall than a swing set or climber.
Finally, if your home playground is gradually expanding, you could start with a smaller unit and add one stand-alone at a time before you eventually have a comprehensive playset. However, be careful that the soft fall sections don’t overlap.
It may seem like clever use of space, but it could risk injury. Say a child jumps off the swing in the same moment that another one jumps off a rope wall or dismounts a rocker. If their soft falls overlap, you could end up with some nasty head-on collisions, potentially breaking teeth, bones, and confidence levels.