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Independent retailers like Woodplay of the Carolinas offer unparalleled service and high-quality design when it comes to outdoor playsets.

photo: Woodplay

Kiddie kingdoms

Creating the ideal playset for your kids

by Jessica Mattison



Whatever name you give them — playsets, castles, swingsets, clubhouses or forts — outdoor play areas are the desire of every child and a staple in most Triangle families’ back yards.


But before you build big, there are some important factors to consider, including where to shop, whether to customize and how to make sure your children will be safe. Read on for the latest in outdoor kiddie kingdoms.


Where to shop

Once you’ve decided to add a playset to your back yard, start looking into where you’d like to buy. Commercial stores like Toys ‘R Us and Lowes Home Improvement might first come to mind, but there’s a wealth of independent retailers in the region as well.


And while you might initially pay a bit more at a smaller, locally owned shop, you’ll likely save more in the long run.


“The individual retailers that specialize in play equipment are able to come to your house and talk to you about your family,” says Carolynne Barrs, owner of Woodplay of the Carolinas in Morrisville.


“If you have a slope or space issues that you need to deal with, then they’ll build the safest playground system for your family.”


“Most independent retailers also build locally, so you’re supporting someone in your community,” adds Billie Ann Andrews, owner of Kids Korner Playsets in Durham.


Customize for fun, safety

Today’s playsets no longer feature aluminum poles with a few swings and a slide. They can be customized to include rock walls, rope ladders, high and low decks, and half-bucket and sling swings. Retailers like Rainbow Play Systems of North Carolina in Raleigh offer more than 100 accessories to choose from, and add-ons can be mixed and matched to create a truly unique design.


Some of these add-ons aren’t solely for enjoyment, however; many are safety enhancements designed to help put parents’ minds at ease while their children play. Additional safety handles to help reduce accidents, solar-powered lights, and canopy and wooden roofs to shield from the elements are just a few of these features. Kids Korner even offers adult swings to give parents a place to sit and relax while supervising.


When it comes to determining a location, most independent retailers will send an expert to your home to analyze the yard, including whether it’s level and how close it’ll be to trees and other encroachments.


“Parents need to be careful that each element has a safety zone that goes along with it and that it has no conflicting play areas, like a swing overlapping with another activity area like a chain ladder,” Barrs says. “An expert will help make sure that the design incorporates safety zones for each item.”


The overall quality of material also tends to be higher with playsets purchased from independent retailers, making it much safer for kids. At Woodplay of the Carolinas and Rainbow Play Systems, for example, outdoor playsets are made from redwood and cedar, making them both durable and naturally insect repellant. The timber used in construction often is grown on certified, sustainable tree farms, while construction-grade materials are used to ensure the highest safety possible.


“Modularity ensures longevity and endless enjoyment years after purchase,” notes Abdul Salem, sales and marketing manager with Rainbow Play Systems.


Build as they grow

Independent retailers also are available to advise parents on the safest, most age-appropriate playsets for their children. For instance, they can help determine weight limits, which should be taken into account when considering how long a playset is intended to be used. Add-ons also have become popular with today’s outdoor playsets.


“Manufacturers are coming out with more age-appropriate designs that can be added later so that children can grow with their playsets, both from an emotional play standpoint and a physical one,” Barrs notes.


With all of this in mind, you should be ready and able to get started on that ideal playset for your kids. 


Jessica Mattison, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lives in Cary.

Shopping local

The Triangle has several independent, locally owned retailers offering all types of customized wooden playsets for children, including: