suggestions for childrens playsets?

February 24, 2005

I recently seen models of the Rainbow (http://www.rainbowplay.com/) children playset at St Paul Home & Patio show. I have an 7 year old and would love to have one in the backyard. I just moved to a new home/neighborhood and the park playset is geared more for younger children.

The model I liked starts around $3000. This is for the King Kong castle model, figured this model would allow more room for growth.

I'm not looking anything really fancy, a couple swings, climbing rock wall, climbing cargo ladder and slide.

Any suggestions? Any other brands I should try?



Comments (57)

  • jasper_60103

    Thanks everyone for the feedback. Yeah, I agree Cedarworks appears to be a high quality set as well. Also, I'm investigating the playset kits or plans available on the web too. Anyone familiar with BackYardCity.com, DetailedPlay.com, PlanItPlay.com or Jacksbackyard.com? Thanks.

  • dgmarie

    I had a sand box. actually my father had 10 yds of sand delivered every year for me. probably the best thing that could have been given to me. taught me to be creative, build my own fun and not have it given to me......little pieces of 2x4's became bulldozers.

    Geez. Bitter, huh?

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  • pilchard

    I bought a wooden set from Toys R Us for $599 with a spiral slide, and my kids adore it. A platform or two, some swings, and simulated rock climber, sand box under with spiral slide... works great... it's made of cedar and non-arsenic pressure treated wood looks nice.

  • jpaul

    dgmarie, bitter? not in the least.

    funny how parents these days think they are doing best for their kids by buying every new toy insight. I think they are more interesting in impressing their nieghbors than their kids. there were swingsets at the school playground, was good enough for me and everyone at that time....

  • djk_sj

    >>> taught me to be creative, build my own fun and not have it given to me....

    >>> I think they are more interesting in impressing their nieghbors than their kids.

    Amen jpaul! $2k+ for a swingset??!!

  • elljays

    We have a Rainbow set and have been more than pleased with it. We bought it when our oldest daughter was young (she's now 18) and our 6 and 8 year olds are still enjoying it. We even moved it, and it held up through that. We have the Castle set, so not as large as the one you are looking at. Regarding the comments about spending too much on a swingset, we have no regrets. I'm happy that the neighborhood kids have always wanted to come to our yard to play. And sadly, we're not living in the same world that we grew up in. It's not always safe to send your kid off to a city schoolyard, or even let them ride their bike all over town like we did when we were kids. Sandboxes are great too, but unfortunately the local wildlife agrees. LOL

  • jasper_60103

    excellent, excellent comment Jennifer! Also, if you peruse this forum, you'll hear about folks spending 10's (and perhaps 100's) of thousands of dollars on seemingly adults toys and remodeling projects. And some I totally disagree with, but its not for me to judge.
    Ahhhh, now I feel better.

    Anywho, I was over at HomeDepot during my lunch break today and I saw some inexpensive swingset kits. Starting at $90, plus the lumber. Also, HomeDepot will even cut the wood for you. Albeit not the same quality as a rainbow or cedarworks, but it works for me and my budget.


  • rivendell

    Another vote for Cedarworks!

  • finz2left

    Costco has a wonderful mid-line exclusive Rainbow set. It's not modular like the other ones, but it is only 1000.00 and it's fabulous! You really ought to check it out. The extra 2000.00 could be a great college fund investment, a car fund, etc. and you still get a Rainbow. We've had ours for 2 years, and it's Rainbow quality from end to end.

    Best of luck!

  • wbralick

    I ordered all the hardware I needed from byoswingset.com and then bought the lumber from the Home Depot. I spent around $450 for the hardware (3 normal swings, one trapeze, and one tire swing). It was all very heavy duty and the coated chains are a must.

    The tire swing is the big hit. We always have a yardful of kids now.

  • joann23456

    Also, check E-Bay. I often see swing sets of all sorts there. Obviously, you have to check the prices against other retailers.

  • janedibber

    my sister puchased cedarworks the same time we purchased rainbow. 5 years later, the rainbow, in my opinion, looks much better. The cedar turns silver/grey with black streaks. silver/grey looks nice on NE capes, but not kid structures (imo). I also think the components are better/stronger on the rainbow.

    rainbows are expensive...but you should try spec'ing the materials list for these things. We thought we could by the components, hardware and redwood timbers and put it together as a DIY. We sent the material list out to three lumber yards and I think we may have saved about $400 dollars. However, that's raw lumber. The timbers need to be cut, routed (we would have to be a router), sanded, predrilled and finished. It probably would have taken half the summer to build a "mimic" of the rainbow design.

    anyway...we waited till late summmer, early fall and called dealers who want to drop inventory. We ended getting 10% off and free delivery/install for waiting till the offseason.

  • GaleForce

    WE're building our own extravaganza. We're in the mountains and have some terracing. My vision is to have a huge sandbox on a terrace with a slide going from one level to the next, swings in trees, etc. The sandbox is almost built but needs sand. And we'll have to make a custom cover for it. The slide deck has posts set in but no planks yet. We've been working on it on-and-off since September.

    It's probably a good idea to buy a kit. LOL

  • steve_in

    FWIW, I had more fun in the huge sandbox that my dad made for us than I ever did on any swingset. Only problem is that they attact cats. We would always clean it out before playing. Also, I had more fun building my treehouses than I did playing in them when finished. Building them taught me alot too. I don't mean this to be a scolding at all, just something to think about. There's nothing wrong with getting something that's gonna last. I would put the swingset together myself. The kids will remember and appreciate dad and/or mom putting that thing together for life. (plus you save some money)

  • chiefneil

    My daughter enjoyed the sandbox for a few years, basically ages 2 - 6. But she graduated from the sandbox and has been going gung-ho on monkey bars for the last couple years. So I think what you get depends on the ages of the kids involved.

    BTW, I tried them out the other day since I used to love monkey bars when I was a kid. Turns out monkey bars are much easier to swing on when you're a pre-teen than when you're, well, somewhat older.....

    I've been looking at play structures myself. I'll probably purchase a basic monkey bar setup and add on DIY pieces (tire swing, rock wall, trapeze bars), so don't forget you can always do a combination of store-bought and DIY.

  • finz2left

    Link to Rainbow's Costco set 1500.00 delivered to your door or 1000.00 in the stores -- they are heavy and shipping will get you. Still cheaper than the components separately


  • houseful

    Chiefneil, that is so funny you said that. My kids try to get me to show them how I used to swing through the monkey bars skipping three at a time. I nearly dislocated my shoulders!

    I live next door to a Montessori school that has a really extensive playground set up. They let us use it in the evenings and on weekends. I sort of lucked out on that one. However, we have a Toys R Us swingset that grandparents bought 8 years ago and I can tell you that the cheap ones don't last. If you can afford it, get the nice one. When your kids are grown, it will still be in nice enough shape to sell it.

  • mxylplik2

    I called someone at CedarWorks and they said the Rainbow sets need to be resanded/refinished every so often and that there is obviously a cost in time and money to do that. CedarWorks playsets are basically maintenance free. Can anyone who owns either playset vouch for this?

  • Katie S

    Cedarworks and Rainbows have the same need for sealing/not sealing in my experience. Our friends have a Cedarworks, our old one was a Rainbow. Whichever company you call will try to convince you that the other is not as good! The wood will turn grey and if you are in an area with wasps or carpenter bees they will love the wood without sealer on it! And it will mildew if not in a very sunny location.

    After selling our King Kong castle to move to another state, we looked at all of our options (Rainbow, Cedarworks, Childcraft, Playnlearn, Playnation and some others I can't remember, and we ended up having one custom-built for us by a guy who advertises on e-bay. We got a HUGE, WONDERFUL, well-built system with four regular swings PLUS a buoy-ball, disc swing, rope ladder, and picnic table (chose it over the tire swing and the sandbox) and big wonderful fort with TWO slides (turbo-twisty spiral slide and a wave slide) custom built for our hillside-- for less than we sold our Rainbow for! INCLUDING delivery and setup! The whole neighborhood loves it. We have four kids, 2-7, and it was 100% worth it. We ordered it before we moved. The guy who owns the company was extremely professional, curteous, and creative, and he built a real masterpiece. The quality is definitely comparable to the other systems we looked at, and having it custom-fitted to our lot was a HUGE bonus. He sanded down everything and explained the whole building process to the children, and made them feel completely involved.

    We can't send our kids off to play at the playground without us in this day and age. I am especially careful about this because my childhood friend (and granddaughter of my nanny) was abducted and murdered when we were kids. Plus, many playgrounds don't have swings anymore (liability?) and swinging is great exercise! And anything I can do to keep my kids playing hard AND in their own yard AND exercising safely is a GREAT thing. The neighborhood kids all play here, which is fine with me! I would MUCH rather have the kids out back having a blast than sitting in front of a TV! This is a great investment for our family. Good thing we ordered it before we moved, our moving costs were much higher than we expected and we would have had to have put it off for a long time if we had waited.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Our wonderful swingset builder

  • kesslerou

    We are building a playset right now in our backyard. We purchased the plans of EBAY and are doing it ourselves. We have a total of about $900 invested in the set and we'll have dual towers, rock wall, climbing ropes, monkey bars, swing bridge...the works.

  • lyc5e

    Where does your custom playset builder live? I went to the website but I can't figure out if it's an option for us since it doens't give any kind of geographic information on delivery and installation.

  • vineyardgirl


    We don't have the space for a big playset and so we're looking for just the "tower", a raised fort kind of thing with maybe a climbing wall and a slide. Any ideas? Am wondering if the Home Depot ones can be modified to fit this idea -- by not buying the additional pieces.

    We saw some gorgeous ones through Pinnacle Play systems but the 2500 - 4000 cost was not so great.

  • Katie S

    lyc5e, he lives in Knoxville, but he delivers very far. Not sure where you are in PA--- He went to northern VA the week before he did ours (in GA) and delivery and setup are free if you are within 5-6 hours of Knoxville (I can't remember) but he will go farther for a fee. If you email or call them, they get back to you quickly. Super people, it's a family business and they were as courteous and professional as could be, and we got so much more for the money than the other companies we considered. (We did not want to tackle such a big project ourselves-- we were afraid it would never happen!!!!)

    Vinyardgirl, you could easilyhave a tower built and then add the accessories like slides and rockclimbing. You can get plans for things like that in books (they sell some at Home Depot and Lowes, etc) and probably someone has them online! A tire sing under the tower might be fun! We had one on our Rainbow set but this time the kids wanted a picnic table. We love it!

  • chiefneil

    My thanks to whoever it was that suggested the Rainbow set at Costco - I went to take a look and it's the one I'll be getting. I'm just trying to decide now if saving $300 is worth talking my buddy with a pickup truck into picking it up with me, or if I should buy it from the website and have it delivered to the curb!

  • mxylplik2

    My only concern with the TN dealer is he uses pressure treated pine with some copper. Rainbow's websites knocks it by saying that it is a safety concern. Who knows if this is true or not.

    There is another manufacturer - Backyard Adventures - anyone know anything about them?

  • Katie S

    I did a lot of research on the new pressure-treated wood (as opposed to the stuff from a couple of years ago, which i would not touch with a ten-foot pole.)) and was completely satisfied that it is safe for my kids. The TN guy is totally custom, though, and would proabably build it out of whatever you wanted.

  • melrosgirl

    We have a rainbow castle. Had it 2 years and we are actually adding onto it this month (making it longer with a couple more swings).

    It's very well built and we love it. The kids in the neighborhood are also attracted to it, which is fine with me, since that way I know my kids are here at home.

    I will say that some type of bug (not a carpenter bee) is attracted to it. Almost looks like claw marks on some of the wood. (Too high to be a deer.) Rainbow has replaced the pieces affected by this. My dealer though is not pleasant to deal with. My only complaint!

  • illinileo

    We have a backyard adventures playset. It's a redwood set with a tower, porch, swingset and slide. We were lucky enough to buy it used, so we saved about $3000. Their big thing is the compression fittings they use to connect the structure together.

    We are very happy with it.

  • blubird

    My daughter purchased the Costco $1000 playset last spring. Her husband and a friend picked it up in a pickup truck - it was packed into 4 boxes. My husband and I put it together in about 4-5 partial days. The hardest part was identifying which wood piece was which - the directions are excellent - with piece sizes listed, but the wood pieces weren't marked with stickers. Identifying most of the pieces was relatively easy, but time consuming...we messed up with one piece, which was easily switched when we realized our mistake. The swing hardware is top notch and compares favorable to the much more expensive sets...this year it's time to restain it....

  • johnCT

    Can anyone offer the dimensions of the Costco Suray set's fort dimensions? Thanks.

  • livvysmom

    We bought and put together the Costco Rainbow Sunray set about a month ago. We just made two trips in the minivan to get it home (the 10 foot slide was the hardest part).

    Anyhow, it took four guys about 15 hours to put it together. Not an easy task, but it is a fantastic swingset. You can actually download the installation instructions from the web if you are interested.

  • jasper_60103

    I bought a kit from backyardcity.com. Plan to start assembly soon. I hear getting the set level can be a challenge as well. Any tips for easily leveling the cross beam and A frame is welcome.

  • mxylplik2

    I heard the Costco Rainbow sets were not built with the same quality as the much more expensive sets. It is there b/c people want to buy a cheaper set and there is a market for them. But the manager at a Rainbow store told me that those sets will only last a couple of years - the sturdiness and construction of those lower end sets can't take the abuse. They are much smaller also and will only serve your kids for a few years before you need a bigger set.

  • pellicanss

    We ordered the basic kit from Detailed play systems and then purchased almost everything else through our local hardware store (Menards and Home Depot). My husband pre-cut all the wood sections. DH and father-in-law assembled it in about one day.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Detailed Play systems

  • judykitch

    There was a lot of discussion of playsets on this thread and I just wanted to add my 2cents. We bought a fairly modest Backyard Adventure playset three years ago. My kids (3.5 and 7yo) use it ALL THE TIME. We love it. But the kids do some daredevil things. OUr backyard is shady and and add to that the abuse of the kids, and our grass definitely wouldn't grow under the playset. So the area under our playset turned into compact hard dirt. We eventually put in rubber mulch. Cost as much as our basic modest playset! But we feel safer and more secure. I just wanted to remind people to give some thought to what is happening under the playset when you do your budgeting and planning. The higher the playset, the more you want to think about this for safety!

  • cusefan1997

    My wife and I decided to buy a cedarworks playset. What cedarworks has that other playsets do not have - the ability to climb within the climbing structure with their surestep system. We saw this in action. Cedarworks has a program that allows you to go to someone's house mearby and see a similar cedarworks set. We brought our daughter with us to see a set, and it was AWESOME. Beautiful set, well built, and fun!!! I had a great time playing with my daughter on it. But best of all, you talk to real people about their experience with the company and the quality of the set. The only problem is that it is very expensive, but we believe it is worth it. We too looked at Rainbow, but CedarWorks offered more climbing, and again, we especially love the climbing within the structure - very safe. Watch out for the not so expensive sets because of weight restrictions. If you want to play with your kids on these sets, you may not be able to.

    I would check out their web site. The other thing we liked - Cedarworks was the only company that had playsets winning awards by Parents Choice and others I believe.

  • annkh_nd

    We bought a Rainbow Monster (the second largest size they offer) when our twinboys were 2. They are almost 11 now, and still play on it. We bought a display model, so got a bit of a discount,but it was still around $2300 (9 years ago). We have had as many as 15 neighborhood kids playing together! My hubby and I can swing in unison as high as we can, and the thing doesn't budge - it is so heavy that it doesn't neeed to be anchored.

    Hubby does power wash and re-stain it every other year, simply because we prefer the look of brown to gray.

    We built a giant sandbox under ours - one can surely have both.

  • jasper_60103

    Finally got around to building the stand alone swingset from backyardcity.com. My carpentry skills aren't the best, but it wasn't too difficult. The plans were easy the follow, but I think they had a couple errors, but I was able to work around.
    Overall, I'm please with the results. Spent about $350 total for the heavy duty hardware kit and lumber. The set really has a very sturdy look and feel.

    If you're a novice DIY'er (like me), my advice:

    -practice making a few cuts if you never used a circular saw.
    -purchase some work horses if you don't have any. My legs and back ache from bending over to make cuts on the floor.
    -Get a helper. My teenage son was a life saver!
    Good luck!

  • kuiporng

    I live in Canada, want to buy playset with similar quality as Costco SunRay, unfortunately, Costco no longer selling it. Does anyone know where I can buy? I know homedepot selling kits plan, but I prefer one similar to Costco SunRay. Canadiantire carries only very basic level stuff which I do not want... Any help /advice are greatly appreciated...

  • skatermom

    Just wanted to chime in here...
    In the Atlanta area I want to recomend the King of Swings. For 2000 all in, delivery+ setup we got a HUGE playset with a 8' rock wall with all the bells and whistles. Do your homework before you go, it's like the car sales guy, you keep gonig back and forth on optinos and price, but you will leave with a great set at a great price.

    I had researched the do-it-yourself route and also find the savings for what we wanted to be just around 400$

    Fast forward to our new city, Portland OR, I couldn't find ANYTHING that I wanted for less than $3000...ugh.

    UNTIL TODAY! Our local Backyard Adventures had a demo that had never been put together, never put outside-the Magellan for $899...WOW! add on the climbing wall, the gangplank, the extra monkey bars, the setup and we are looking close to $2000, but I am just so happy. The Magellan base alone lists for $2100.

    I can't wait for it to go up...we just have to get our HOA to approve it now...ugh

    For those of you who think people get playsets to impress their neighbors...I think 2000 is a small investment for kids happy safe and healthy...life is a whole different in 2005.

    If you are still looking for a playset just keep looking at all your options don't rule out any brand- Ithink they are all really good. Dealers love to unload their stuff at off peak times. The fact we could get a redwood playset for $899 reg $2100 tells me the markup is pretty high.

  • dougyates_msn_com

    I heard the Costco Rainbow sets were not built with the same quality as the much more expensive sets. It is there b/c people want to buy a cheaper set and there is a market for them. But the manager at a Rainbow store told me that those sets will only last a couple of years - the sturdiness and construction of those lower end sets can't take the abuse. They are much smaller also and will only serve your kids for a few years before you need a bigger set.

    This is a good point. I am sure the Costco model is a decent mid-size unit, but not really a fair comparison. The Costco model weighs about 725lbs compared to The 1800lbs of the featured Rainbow Castle for 2006. In fact, The Rainbow catalog compares it to a Kids Kingdom model as a reference (looks the same as Costco's and weighs the same).

  • randymeyer

    I am putting the finishing touches on a used Rainbow set right now. I put an add on the local Craigslist and bought one a couple of days later.

    I paid $400 for a fairly large setup with 5 swing type toys, slide, and clubhouse with wooden roof.

    I had to dismantle it, transport, reassemble and refinish. I probably have about 50 man hours including help to date. Almost done - now I have to build the border and fill with mulch.

  • boerner_gmail_com

    Just noticed this thread and am hoping that someone can offer advice. I am thinking of buying a playset (Rainbow sunray) used and I was wondering how difficult it was to dismantle and transport it. How many people/hours did it take and did you need a u-haul type truck or did a pickup work?


  • jasper_60103

    Hopefully others will chime in.
    I'm not the most handiest guy around. It took me and my teenage son a couple days (~12 hours) to do assemble a small wooden swingset. Ran into some obstacles along the way.
    Anywho, I would estimate a few handy guys/gals a day (or two) for a larger system should be adequate. All the pieces are already measured and cut for you. In theory, it should all fit back together without any problems (Hence for the 2nd day!).

    Can't really comment on transporting, other than choose a vehicle/trailer that you can safely transport the material. I purchased my lumber from HD and the longest beam was 10' and all it fit in my minivan. A foot or so hung out the back, but it was tied down.
    I think a pickup or a trailer should work if you can properly secure it. Hope this helps.

  • lisasto

    I am looking into purchasing a Costco 2007 Sunray model for around 2000 with shipping and handling. Does anyone know how this compares to the Rainbow? Is it the same quality and the same size? We are hoping our child can use it until she is 11 or 12?

  • finz2left

    You can buy it in store for only 1300.00. We have it and love it -- it's gone 3 years and is very strong. It is NOT the same type of wood -- it is the same quality construction and if you seal it every year or two, it should last at least 20 years!

    We spent the $$ on Sunray, and invested the rest in rubber mulch - which we couldn't have afforded with the Rainbow. Sunray is a Rainbow subsidiary --- you can find them online as "sunray by rainbow."

    Best, Carol

  • xyz123

    After weeks of looking, we decided we had to have an all cedar set--strong, maintenance free and splinter free. I loved Cedarworks and really wanted that, but too pricey. DD plays on one of theirs at preschool and it is really fantastic. I couldn't see the play-a-round sold at Sams but made by cedarworks, so I did't feel comfortable trusting the quality of the wood, although the frontier fort is a wonderful design.
    We chose to get one from Childlife. Excellent designs and quality. But the best part is the price. b/c the company was bought by a larger company that already has a playset line, the remaining childlife inventory is being sold at 20-30% off with free shipping. Our set was $1000 less than a similar design from Rainbow, and I think it will be stronger. I am not affiliated with the company at all, just want to share this bargain that I've found and help someone going through what I've gone through researching sets in the past few weeks!

  • laurielesage08

    Hi, I believe Rainbow is the best brand for a playset/swingset. Go to a dealer and play on the unit and see for yourself. We have 3 daughters and that is exactly what we did. We thought people were crazy when we saw Rainbows on ebay going for $2000-$3000 used. My 5 year old daughter just got her wish granted from The Make a Wish foundation. What did she wish for?---She wished for a Rainbow Clubhouse. This one is not cheap as it is the King Kong model. It weighs close to 3500 pounds with the slides. We did put some extra money towards it as Make a Wish only covered 3/4th of it. They had a set limit on what they were able to spend as we knew it but wanted to expand the set and they were find with it. We did buy a used rainbow to get a 90 degree tube slide to hook on to my daughters set. We also bought a glider off of ebay. The best place to get a rainbow used is www.craigslist.org

    Now those of you that want to knock us think about this. Our daughter was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumor, brain cancer. We did not know if she was going to live or die. She suffered through surgery to remove the tumor, chemo and a stem cell transplant. This child was very sick and now this month will make one year of being cancer free. So, her wish for a Rainbow Playset was worth everything to us. You should see her face when she plays on it, very happy. We pray the cancer stays away and that she will grow up and be able to live a normal life. We plan on making her life a happy one!

    So...We aren't done with her Rainbow Playset. We are looking at getting a Used King Kong Castle to hook with it. They are worth the money! 250 pound people have been on the set and it doesn't move. For more info on my daughter check out her website www.caringbridge.org/visit/corinlesage

  • mmike032

    I build custom playsets in between trimming houses in the South GA area. i really enjoy building these, they are alot of fun to do.

  • landdpratt

    Rainbow and CedarWorks are both good brands but we went with Fingo Fun for our children. They have a great variety of children's playsets and indoor playgrounds

    Here is a link that might be useful: Fingo Fun

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