The next time your kids come home from a friend's house and beg you for a backyard playground of their own, surprise them with an answer
they're not expecting. Say yes. You'll be doing them a big favor. Research has found that playgrounds are essential not only to a child's
physical strength, but mental well-being. They help kids develop cognitive reasoning and problem solving skills, and encourage them to use
their imaginations and creativity.
Having heard about the research, Daniel and Bethany Jacques of Hadley, Mass., recently decided to invest in a play set for their sons Joshua,
Matthew and John. "We thought it would be good for the boys," says Daniel. "It was actually more of a Mother's Day present
to my wife -- to give the kids something to do."
They knew they wanted a wooden play set, one that would be sturdy and last a long time but when they found out how much one would cost, the
Jacques' were shocked. Depending on the features they come with, wooden play sets typically cost between $2,000 and $3,000. "While doing our
research online, we came across a company that advertised a high-quality play set for under $1,000, and that's who we decided to go with,"
The company they found, Detailed Play Systems, has been around since 1998. Founder and owner, Karl Jessen, is a dad who had found himself in a
similar predicament just five years ago. "When my boys were four and one-and-a-half, I started looking into getting a backyard play set for
them, and the prices were so high, I decided to build one myself," he says.
When he started shopping around for supplies, Jessen realized the task wouldn't be as easy as he first thought. He had to go to different
places to find the swings, slide, monkey bars, hardware and lumber. "No one was selling materials that met my standards as a kit, and that
gave me an idea."
Jessen decided to go into the playground building business after realizing he had stumbled onto a niche that needed to be filled. "Our
business plan is designed to meet the needs of the cost-conscious consumer who wants to save approximately 50 percent off the cost of comparable
prefabricated wooden forts and swing sets, without sacrificing the safety, size, quality, or features of their children's backyard playground,
" says Jessen. "The key to the savings is low overhead and the willingness of our customers to spend about 8 hours time cutting and
drilling hand-selected wood prior to starting to build something special for their children."
Detailed Play Systems provides its customers with the Detailed Plans needed to build their playground, the hardware, swings and slide. 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,
giving parents the added benefits of being able to choose the type of wood, and to hand-select each piece if desired for quality control.
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.
Included in the price are the Detailed Plans, 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 kits are fully customizable, a multitude of playground configurations can be built, and the sets are modular so they can be added to over
time. 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."
"The idea here is to help our customers provide quality playgrounds for their kids that won't break the bank. We are able to keep costs
down because our customers don't have to pay for the labor overhead, machinery, or wood processing," says Jessen. "Shipping the wood alone
can easily add $500 to the cost."
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
"It took us a couple of weekends to get it all done," says Jacques. "And it was a family project that was rewarding for us to
accomplish together. My father-in-law and brother-in-law helped."
Once you have your 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.