When you think back to your childhood, what kinds of memories do you conjure up? The day your father chased after the ice cream truck so you
could get that special treat you wanted so badly? Or maybe the Christmas morning when you opened up the present you didn't think you'd get,
but turns out "Santa" had come through for you.
Numerous studies have shown that the strongest childhood memories are those associated with family. It only makes sense because, after
all, your mother, father, sisters and brothers are the people you spent the most time with while you were growing up.
"My fondest memory from my childhood is playing with my sisters at the big playground we had in our neighborhood. I can remember
climbing on the monkey bars for hours, and challenging the girls to see who could swing the highest," says Karl Jessen, founder and owner
of Detailed Play Systems, a New Jersey-based playground equipment company.
When his own boys were four and one-and-a-half, he decided they too needed a playground. "Instead of going out and buying one
already prefabricated, I decided I'd build it myself. Not only to save money without sacrificing quality, but to get my kids directly involved
so they'd have a sense of pride and ownership."
Jessen's older son participated wholeheartedly in the planning process, letting his dad know what kinds of activities he wanted to
have -- a spiral slide, tunnels, and a fort. When it came time to build, Jessen's younger son also pitched in, bringing him the parts or
plastic accessories that he was able to carry safely.
"It was a great bonding experience for me and the boys," says Jessen.
"They saw me come home with a pile of lumber and hardware, and make their dream come true with my own hands."
Once the project was done, the Jessen's backyard turned into the destination of choice for all the neighborhood kids, and their parents
too. He decided to go into the playground building business after realizing he had stumbled onto a niche that needed to be filled.
Detailed Play Systems provides its customers with complete kits including the Detailed Plans needed to build their playground, the
hardware, swings, slides, and accessories. The wood is not included, but each kit contains a Lumber Purchase Guide that shows exactly what
wood needs to be purchased to build each configuration. Kits from Detailed Play Systems range from $169 for a basic Jungle Fort Builder Kit
to $900 and up for the works -- a dual fort plus swing set combination.
The company's most popular kit, the Jungle Fort Swing Set kit, sells for $499. It features a large 6 foot by 6 foot fort with sandbox
beneath complete with inclined step ladder, gangplank ramp, a slide and attached 3-position swing set. Accessories such as periscopes,
telescopes, steering wheels, sandbox covers, and specialty swings -- full bucket or flat swings -- can be added on to kits or purchased
individually and used to upgrade an existing backyard playground.
"It's a special thing when kids and their parents are able to have the same objective. This is a project-oriented activity
where everyone is a winner," says Jessen. "The parents get the savings and the satisfaction of building their child's dream
backyard. The kids and their friends get a playground they can use and enjoy for years to come."
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."
Detailed Play Systems 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.