The Saga of the Swing Set

Whenever Alex and I go visit my sister and my niece in Reno, Alex loves going outside at their house and playing on their swing set. It is a pretty fancy model with a fort, a climbing wall, and a slide that they got at Costco several years back. It’s very nice, and I could not help but wish I had a similar set up for Alex at our house.

We have a pretty small yard, and there are parks not too far away, so we have had mixed feelings about getting a swing set of our own. After all, how hard is it to go to the nearest park so Alex can play? And if the weather is bad, we can always go to Inflatable Kingdom for an Open Play session.

On the other hand, we don’t make it to the parks often enough, and when you go to the park, you need to be watching like a hawk so your child does not get bullied, hurt, lost, or picked up by strangers. A kid can still get hurt on a swing set in your yard, but it does not require nearly as diligent supervision, so if I were to have a swing set in our backyard for Alex, I reasoned, Alex could play while I worked outside on the computer or in the garden. We would still go to the park and Inflatable Kingdom when we were had time, but this way Alex could play on his swing set on a nearly daily basis, as long as the weather allowed.

After our last trip to Reno, I decided that I really wanted to get Alex a play structure, and I wanted to get it as soon as possible so he would have it for the summer. After all, the sooner he got the swing set, the longer he would be able to use it before he grew out of it. I really liked my sister’s play set, but it was more money than we could afford, and it was pretty big. I wanted something a little smaller with a swing, a slide, a climbing wall, and a fort.

I started my search on Craig’s List. There are a fair amount of used play sets that you can find online as kids grow out of them or people move. Play sets take a lot of space and are hard to relocate. I found some nice ones, but more often than not, they were too big and expensive. I was also concerned about how difficult it would be to move the play set since there would not be diagrams or instructions. The more I thought about it, the more of a concern that became. After all, it would probably take a day or so just to take the swing set down, then you would have to move it and put it back up which could be a confusing disaster. If the swing set was already taken apart when I bought it, there was no way to know whether or not it was complete and putting it together would be no easy task.

The more I thought about it, the more appealing getting a new play set became, but new play sets like what I wanted were pretty expensive. I started looking for sales. One day I got an email from Toys R Us offering a pretty good discount on play sets, so Brian and I went over to see what they had to offer. Alas, the only set on sale that remained when we got to the store was far more money than we could afford. The play sets that were not on sale had gone up in price since the last time we were there, so we went home discouraged without a play set.

The next week we were shopping at Kmart and we happened to look at what they had available. We had looked at their play sets before and decided we preferred the ones at Toys R Us, but after seeing the most recent prices at Toys R Us, suddenly Kmarts play sets looked much more appealing. Especially since one we liked was on sale with a considerable discount. I checked availability then went home to think it over.

I called my mom to discuss the situation, since even on sale, it was still a lot of money that I could not afford. She graciously offered to chip in a large portion of the buying price. I redeemed some points on one of my credit card for a Kmart gift card to further help with the purchase price. Suddenly the play set was a lot more affordable, so it was just a matter of going to purchase and pick the play structure up.

I began to worry that they would sell out before we bought our play set, so instead of going to the store to purchase it, I went online and ordered our play set with free in store pick up. The play set was ordered, paid for, and now it was just a matter of picking it up and putting it together.

In spite of the fact that the play set was in stock when we went to Kmart, it took over a week for it to be ready to pick up. I think they shipped one to the store for us (even though they already had them in stock). It was probably just as well though as we were pretty busy till it came, so would not have time to put it up anyway. When the play set finally arrived in the store, I arranged for Alex’s grandparents to come over to help us put the play set together and went to pick it up the day before.

I had looked at the box measurements online and determined it should fit across one side of the car, so I placed Alex’s car seat on the other. The very nice employees at Kmart came outside to help me load the big box in the car. What I had not counted on though was in this particular car, the front seat did not go down like it does in our other car. Without the front seat going down, the car was just a few inches to short. We pondered tying the back of the car open (which I have done before to haul other things) and tried maneuvering the box around to make it fit since it was really close. In the end, I leaned the front seat as far back as it would go and we slid the box on top of the seat. We slammed the back of the car closed- success.

Alex’s grandparents came over the next day and we opened up the box, It was packed full of wood pieces of all shapes and sizes and various pieces of hardware. I had known this was going to be a big job, but I don’t think it really dawned on me just how big until I looked in that box. We sorted the pieces into piles and began the slow process of putting together the pieces.

The instructions were decent, but there were some confusing parts, and more than once we had to take things apart since after we found out we had made a mistake. We ended up re-drilling some holes in the process too. Brian and his dad (Alex’s grandfather) did most of the work on the play set while Alex’s grandma watched Alex, and I fixed lunch then later went to work.

That Sunday we managed to get enough of the play structure built so Alex could climb the climbing wall and slide down the slide. This last weekend Alex’s parents came over again and we put up the swings. There is still more work to do, but at least Alex can enjoy most of the play structure’s features now.

I started writing this article sitting outside while Alex played on his new swing set. I was able to work nearly half an hour until the battery on my laptop ran down. Alex climbed, and slid, and played on his swings. He was much happier outside then he would have been inside and I was able to get that much more work done. I think getting a swing set was a very good decision!

-HL