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Backyard Discovery Blog

What is Essential for Your Kids to Have Fun with Their Play Sets?

Perhaps you’ve been looking at promotion or websites for outdoor play sets recently, wondering if your kids would enjoy them. I know how you feel. I went through the same thought process last year when I contemplated buying a play set for my son, Liam. Of course, I have the benefit of hindsight now.  I have seen his moments of glee, experienced his joy, heard his squeals of laughter. He certainly has fun with the play set I did buy him!

Every child is, of course, different. I was a bookish nerd as a kid, who rarely ventured outside if there was still another chapter to be read in my novel. On the surface, you would have thought that I would have been the last kid to want an outdoor play set. I never was given a full play set (living on a steep section on the side of a hill would have made that a challenge anyhow), but my parents gave my sister and I a standalone swing. The surprising thing is that as much as I had a disdain for the outdoor life, I loved my swing. I have many happy memories of swooping high and low, backwards and forwards on it.

I believe that if you are looking at play sets, you will find a set that your child will enjoy - no matter what his or her interests are.

Computers had only just come onto the market when I was a kid. We did have an old tv, but I was only allowed to watch it for a limited amount of time each day. We were not an electronic family. Many of the current generation of kids spend a huge proportion of their time in front of a screen, sometimes watching television, but more often playing a game or surfing the net. My boy, Liam probably spends too many hours glued to Netflix or playing on the tablet or his mother's smartphone. At three, he had already discovered how to use YouTube to find examples of the Marvel / Mr. Potato Head Mashable collectors toys, with people mixing and matching Mr. Potato Head versions of Ironman, Thor, Hulk and other cartoon characters, becoming quite transfixed by them.

As a result of this, I wanted to be certain that using an outdoor playset would truly be fun for Liam. I had nothing to fear, however. He may love his Mr. Potato Head / Marvel Mashup YouTube videos, but at the same time, he is a very active kid. He loves climbing, and sliding and running and swinging. He has a vivid imagination – it is common for him to wear his Iron Man mask on his play set, pretending to be his favorite Superhero in action, playing alongside his cousin Brax wearing the Hulk mask.

I can see that play is extremely important to my son. Indeed, it is very clear that he uses his play as a way to learn. He is developing more physical skills and coordination than I was ever able to. I see him do new things almost daily, and in doing so, develop his confidence.

It is quite common for him to have friends and young relatives visit and join him on the play set. A nice side effect of this has been the development of his social and communication skills. He has had to learn that life necessitates sharing. It may be his play set, but he can have far more fun if he shares it with others.

We chose a middle-of-the-range play set for Liam's fun. I have pondered, however, what I would have done if I had a smaller budget. Looking back with hindsight, I have wondered what are the essential components of the set that Liam finds most fun.

That is a hard question. Each day seems to bring a new adventure. There are days when all he wants to do is to swing - back forward, back forward. I’m glad that he is beyond the point where he needs pushing, as this can be somewhat tedious as a parent. On other days, all he seems to want to do is rush up the stairs, run around the fort (making as much noise as possible), slide down, and then repeat the process all over again. This process continues until he is virtually ready to drop.

Every so often he seems to go through a gymnastic phase, where he prefers to hang from the acrobat bar, rather than using the belt swings. He also hangs from the monkey bars, testing his arm muscles as he pulls himself across.

When Liam’s cousins visit it seems to be a time of harem scarem as the three boys rush between all of the different components. It is at times like this that we see the boys at their most imaginative. This is when they become pirates; the fort becomes their pirate ship. Instead of walking the plank, they slide into the crocodile infested waters (well, our backyard in reality).

I’m not certain that there are any particularly essential components for your kids to have fun. Each kid is different, and they will have their personal tastes and interests. I am sure that you will be able to find a set within your budget that your kids will love. The absolute key to a play set’s ability to generate fun is how the kids choose to use it, and that generally is down to the kids’ imagination.

Of course, you can help the experience, by ensuring that you carefully prepare the setting before you install the play set. Make certain that you have an area of level ground, and that you place some form of safe cushioning ground cover beneath the set. Your kids will undoubtedly enjoy themselves more if they know that there is little danger of them hurting themselves. Your presence, supervising and encouraging them, will also help with this. Positioning the set in a place with some amount of shelter can also add to the play set’s enjoyment value for the kids.

I have previously discussed nine safety tips that will improve your child’s enjoyment.of his or her outdoor play set.

I have also previously discussed Luka's vivid imagination in his play in Outdoor Play on Your Wooden Swingset is Essential to Your Kids' Health.

In many ways, the most essential thing your child needs to have enjoyment using play sets is a vivid imagination. A few words of encouragement may be needed to entice him or her away from the latest online movie or video game. However, most kids thrive if they have an outdoor play set in their backyard. It is up to you to choose which one you think will make your kids the happiest.

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