Now that spring is here, kids will be spending a lot more time outdoors, riding bikes, kicking the ball around, and if they have access
to one, enjoying the backyard playground. They know what's good for them. Over the years, numerous studies have shown playgrounds to be
essential not only to physical strength, but to mental well-being as well. Playgrounds help children develop important social, emotional
and cognitive skills, and can provide kids with an opportunity to imagine, create, discover, and reason whether playing independently or
as part of a play group.
"It's truly amazing," says Cindy Corn of Agua Dulce, Calif., a town 50 miles north of Los Angeles. "My sons play all sorts
of imaginative games on their playground. One minute they're pretending to be construction workers building a city in the sandbox, the
next they're swinging high into the sky or racing their Hot Wheels around a makeshift track."
Cindy and her husband Ed decided to get their sons, Benjamin, 7, and Miles, 4, a playground about a year and a half ago. "We live
in Southern California in the desert and will never have a tree big enough to build a tree house for the boys, so we decided to do the
next best thing and get them a playground with a fort."
After researching several companies, both locally and on the Internet, they decided to go with a system designed by a company
they read about in Parents Magazine, New Jersey based Detailed Play Systems. "It allowed us a lot more flexibility than other kits
out there. We were able to pick and choose the pieces we wanted and since we'd be building it ourselves, put them together the way we
wanted to," says Cindy.
The Corns bought Detailed Play System's Jungle Fort Swing Set Kit, which features a large 6-foot by 6-foot fort with sandbox
beneath. The kit sells for $499 and includes the Detailed Plans to put the set together, all galvanized hardware, and the playground
equipment components needed.
For the Jungle Fort Swing Set, these include a ten-foot Wave slide, belt swings, trapeze bar, and handgrips for safety. The
accessories they added on -- an 8-foot rock wall and glider -- cost extra. So did the wood used to put the play set together and the
sand for the sandbox. Altogether, the Corn family spent less than $2,000 on a system that would have cost at least twice that had they
gone with another company.
"We are able to keep costs down because our customers don't have to pay for the labor overhead, machinery, or wood
processing," says Karl Jessen, founder and owner of Detailed Play Systems. "Shipping the wood alone can easily add $500 to
If you decide to build a playground yourself, Jessen says you can count on the project taking about a weekend to complete.
He estimates about 8 hours for the wood processing, which includes cutting the wood to size and drilling the holes for the bolts, and
another 8 hours for assembly.
"Depending on how large or small your chosen playground configuration is, your tool setup, and how much help you have,
it may take more or less time," he says. Only basic skills -- measuring, cutting straight lines, and drilling holes -- are required.
"Many of our customers, having had no prior wood working experience, have built their own playground for about half the cost thanks
to our Detailed Plans that make it easy."
"We've been really happy with this kit. Because of the hot desert out here, a lot of playground sets fall apart around here.
When we put this together, it was absolutely solid, and still is today," says Corn.
Once you have completed your project, you may want to add such safety measures as mulch made from recycled rubber, landscape
timbers made from recycled plastic, bumper pads, and nonskid strips for places where kids need a better grip. All of these kits and
add-ons are available direct from Detailed Play Systems.
The company is based in New Jersey, but does most of its business online
and through catalogs. To order a catalog, call (800) 398-7565 or log on to www.detailedplay.com. Shipping is available in the 48
contiguous United States.