Play is a huge part of the childhood experience — so much so that the UN General Assembly decreed it to be a human right.
Through all play styles and ages, children grow, learn, and, most importantly, have fun. Today, we’re going to be talking about a quintessential childhood play tool: the playset.
Before picking out the playground you want, you need to decide on the material you’re using. Today, we want to specifically talk about wooden playsets and how they measure up to other playground materials out there.
There are a few types of wood that can be used, so we’ll start by breaking them down and then go into some details about how upkeep and wear and tear have an effect on the life expectancy of wooden playsets. Then, we will finish by reviewing how playsets can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
What Types of Wood Are Used in Playsets?
There are three main types of wood used to make playsets. This is attributed to the fact that certain woods are stronger and more durable than others and have a lower risk of splitting and falling apart.
Below are the merits and the disadvantages of cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated pine:
Cedar is a strong, durable wood naturally resistant to decay and damage. However, playsets made from cedar don’t have the longest life expectancy of all wood options.
The wood often comes untreated, so you will need to stain, paint, or treat your cedar playset often to keep it lasting. It also happens to be the least expensive option.
Redwood is also a hearty and durable wood, found running through Northern California all the way to Oregon. These majestic trees can grow up to 300 feet tall!
It is popular due to the rich red color of the wood, but like cedar, it needs constant maintenance to keep it safe to use and lasting for years. Redwood is strong, but it is the softest option of the three and the most expensive.
It also tends to have the shortest life expectancy. While coastal redwoods can grow for over 2,000 years, research finds that the cradle-to-grave lifespan of a redwood deck is usually only about 25 years.
Pressure-treated pine is the most durable of the three options and comes at a median price point. In the past, pressure-treated pine was unsafe for use as it contained harmful arsenic. However, it is now considered safe for humans and the environment.
This material is treated with a copper-based chemical to prevent decay, damage, and warps or cracks in the wood. This type of material is preserved; it doesn’t need as much maintenance but will benefit from a cleaning and touch-up on paint about every two years.
How Long Does a Wooden Playset Last?
The life expectancy of a wooden playset can be a long time or just a few years. There are two factors that either deteriorate or improve the lifetime use of a wooden playset, so let’s examine those and what they will mean for your years of fun.
A well-maintained wooden playset can last up to 20 years. Even though the woods described are sturdier than other woods, some still are considered softer woods. This means that without this proper care you could be looking at cracks, decay, or irreparable damage. If it is stained and treated regularly, you can expect plenty of sunny days outside.
A neglected playset’s life expectancy is cut down by more than half. If you don’t take care of your wooden playset, don’t expect it to last more than five years. The only reason it will last that long is because of the life expectancy of the wood itself.
Especially with standard wear and tear, these woods aren’t built to be left untreated. Even going with a pressure-treated pine will need some care every so often.
Other Material Options
There are other materials you can consider, and we can go over their lifetime expectancies next.
Metal doesn’t usually require the time and attention that wood will need, so the maintenance is much more attractive, but it will degrade due to weather or other elements outside your control.
Those in public parks can last a bit longer due to the thickness of the material but will require some maintenance and care.
On extremely hot days, it’s wise to check the temperature of metal playsets. For example, if the temperature is 84 degrees Fahrenheit, a metal set of monkey bars can soar to 112 degrees in the shade.
Plastic playground equipment can last up to ten years with proper care. You need to inspect it often to ensure that nothing has broken or needs repair, but around that ten-year mark, expect that pieces will need to be replaced.
Polywood is a combination of high-quality lumber and a strong polymer, and it’s a common material used for playsets. The polymer protects the lumber from rain, snow, hail, heat, and cold, along with everyday wear and tear. You’ll often find polywood used to make swings, jungle gyms, and other playground equipment due to its durability.
Polywood is made from recycled materials like milk bottles or detergent bottles. In fact, 40,000 milk jugs are recycled every day to make polywood.
You can use recycled rubber, wood, and metal to create a playground, and expect the lifetime to match the materials. This means that using sustainable materials can increase the life expectancy of your playground, and the materials can be recycled or composted after use! It’s part of leaving a cleaner world behind for our children.
Why Should You Get a Playset?
Here are some of the enrichment benefits of a playset:
Climbing, jumping, swinging, and crawling are all the different activities your child can learn and master while enjoying a playground.
They won’t realize how strong these activities are making them and helping them fine-tune their motor skills. They’ll be too busy having the time of their lives to pay any attention to how much their bodies are strengthening.
It’s not only muscle growth; brains work on cognitive development.
By creating fantasy worlds and finding fun activities to incorporate the different working parts of the playground, your child is expanding their cognition and imagination.
Imagination might seem like something associated more strongly with childhood, but really our imagination lays vital building blocks for adulthood. It creates a need to learn and understand and be generally inquisitive about what goes on around us.
Active Social Life
If we think back to some of our fondest childhood memories, likely many of these involve our best friends and the playground.
A playground is a safe space for kids to let their imaginations wander and their friends go along for the ride. While there are six developmental stages to kids playing together, a playground offers the opportunity for kids to move at their own pace.
If they are in the first few stages, onlooker play or parallel play, then the playground offers them a chance to watch their older counterparts at work. Or, if they are entering cooperative play, the playground offers kids many circles and games to join so they feel fulfilled.
If you’ve got a shy child on your hands, a playground is a great way to foster confidence. The hesitance around engaging with peers can have many causes, but one reason could be a lack of practice in navigating these social channels.
A playset offers a welcoming environment for new playdates and gatherings to help flex their social interaction muscles. A playground where they’re free to express themselves will enhance their confidence to find like-minded friends and be free to be themselves.
Love of Nature
Kids need fresh air and sun. A playground encourages an appropriate amount of play for our little ones and keeps them content from start to finish.
Allowing our kids to be bored from time to time is a good thing, but having a playground to be bored on means that they’ll have new games and fun activities ready to go in no time.
Gone are the days of hearing requests for hours upon hours of sunscreen. Instead, they’ll be mad when it’s time to come back in. As parents, we know the value of a child’s playground time and want to do everything in our power to be a motivating force behind the best games and play.
Care and attention to your playground will go a long way in improving the lifetime of your product. While there are many ways to create and build a playground, with a little research, everyone can make the decision that’s best for their family's fun time.
Childhood is an adventure; let a playground set make it that much more awesome.
- What Are Fine Motor Skills? | Understood
- The 6 Stages of How Kids Learn to Play | Child Development
- Children and shyness | Better Health Channel
- Convention on the Rights of the Child | OHCHR
- Coast Redwood Cone Harvesting Season | SFGate
- Life-cycle assessment of redwood lumber products in the US | Treesearch
- Pressure-Treated Wood (CCA) | Thurston County Public Health & Social Services
- How Polywood Turns Millions Of Pounds Of Plastic Waste Into Beautiful Outdoor Furniture | Forbes