Category Archives: Backyard Fun

Three Swing Set Upgrades That Keep Kids Interested in Backyard Play

Heavy Duty Scoop Slide

The backyard swing set you bought for your kids when they were small was probably filled with challenging and fun equipment just right for their age and size. Bucket swings for safety, a short ladder leading to a scoop slide, and maybe even a club house for hours of pretend play. As kids grow older, though, their ideas about what’s fun and challenging evolve. Making sure that the backyard swing set doesn’t become an unused eyesore means keeping up with your children’s changing interests and abilities. By updating the swing set periodically with equipment and accessories that meet your kids’ current needs, you can ensure that the swing set continues to appeal to your kids over the course of many years.

Alternative Swings

Swings are an affordable place to start when it comes to updating a swing set’s accessories. If you haven’t done so already, swap out the bucket swing or half-bucket swing with a traditional belt swing or two. The belt swing is a standard “big kid” swing that will continue to interest kids as they grow. Don’t stop there, though. Swings come in all shapes and styles, and a little variety adds a lot of appeal to a backyard swing set.

Some of the more popular alternative swings include tire swings and disc swings. Kids like that these two swings move in any and every direction, rather than just back and forth. Kids also like the tire swing for its ability to hold two or more friends, which brings an increasingly social and cooperative element to the activity of swinging. Glider swings are another fun alternative to standard swings. Glider swings seat two people, back to back, who work as a team to keep the swing flying high. Finally, older kids and even adults can enjoy a wooden chair swing. A chair swing attaches to the swing set in the same way as any other kind of traditional swing, and it offers a relaxing way to swing gently while chatting with a friend or reading a book.


Swing sets generally come with a standard scoop slide, which is straight, smooth, and adequately thrilling for little ones. As kids get older, though, they tend to prefer a more exhilarating ride. Replacing your original slide for a spiral slide can offer that extra bit of thrill to older kids. Spiral slides are often completely enclosed tubes, too, similar to what you find on commercial or public playgrounds. The enclosed spiral brings an additional measure of excitement to the sliding experience.

Climbing Accessories

Climbing equipment offers growing kids a fun way to challenge their bodies’ developing abilities. While not usually appropriate for young children, climbing accessories help older kids gain confidence, strengthen muscles, and refine gross motor and motor planning skills. Monkey bars may be the most common type of climbing accessory found on standard swing sets, but they can be added to an existing swing set that doesn’t already have them. Rope ladders and rock wall climbing kits are available, too, and are exceptionally appealing to adventurous kids.

Updating the backyard swing set to meet the changing abilities and interests of your growing kids can be as easy as replacing the existing swings and slide and adding climbing features more suited to older kids. Making small but meaningful changes over time will not only encourage years of continued interest by your kids, but will also reinforce the value of your initial investment in the swing set.

Swing Sets Encourage Free Play and Foster Healthy Child Development

Trailblazer Swing Set Kit

The Importance of Play and Practical Tools for Parents

Life in today’s world is hurried, and the pressures put upon children to succeed can be overwhelming. In many communities, it isn’t uncommon for parents to overschedule their children with extracurricular activities that they feel can enrich the children’s knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, what becomes lost in this arrangement is the child’s need for free play. When there is no room in the day for free play, children suffer. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Play is so crucial to child development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right that every child deserves.

What is free play? Briefly, it is the kind of play that is child-centered. It is initiated by children and guided by children. Free play doesn’t involve screens or electronics, isn’t scheduled, and isn’t controlled or directed by adults. Free play is play that just happens. It can be an individual kind of play devised by one child, or it can be a cooperative effort on the part of a group of children. While adults may be invited to engage in free play with children, the children themselves must be the ones who direct the activities. Free play can come in any shape or form, but parents who wish to help encourage free play can provide children with tools to assist.

In the view of many parents, backyard swing sets are one of the best tools children can use for free play. With a swing set, children can initiate and engage in play, whether alone or with friends, and still be under the secretly watchful eye of mom or dad. Swing sets come in a wide array of configurations, so finding one that offers the desired features is easy. Wood swing sets are most common for backyard use, but metal swing sets are available as well. The most basic swing sets are equipped with a couple of swings and a trapeze bar or rings, but parents can also opt for more features. A club house, slide, and monkey bars are common additions that parents want for their children’s backyard swing set. Other accessories can be added, of course, to meet the individual needs of the family. Some of the options can include a climbing apparatus, different types of swings, or an attached sandbox. Pretend play can be encouraged with the addition of accessories like a telescope, steering wheel, or vinyl playhouse enclosure for the swing set’s existing club house.

Children are wonderfully creative and can use free play time to exercise their imagination. Swing sets are just one tool for free play that parents can provide to children, but they are a particularly powerful tool. Swing sets, in addition to encouraging imaginative free play, also encourage active play. On a swing set, children are required to move their bodies as well as their minds, and this goes a long way toward developing the whole child.

When it comes down to it, though, time is the most important tool that parents can provide their children to encourage free play. Allowing more time for children to engage in their own imaginative play will benefit their development far more meaningfully than a day filled with extracurricular activities ever could.

Outdoor Fireplaces, Chimineas, Fire Bowls, and Fire Pits

Outdoor Fire Pit

Multiple Ways to Cozy Up In the Cold

Outdoor living areas are increasingly the most occupied spaces in a home during the warmer months of the year. Whether you spend mornings alone by the pool with a good book or evenings on the patio dining with friends and family, spending as much time as possible outside in the fresh air is a priority for many home owners. When the weather turns too cool for lingering outside, though, it’s often with reluctance that home owners retreat from comfortable backyard living spaces into the home for the long winter. Luckily, the season for enjoying those exterior living areas can be extended significantly with the use of an outdoor fireplace. Outdoor fireplaces come in a variety of types, including the traditional outdoor fireplace, chimineas, fire pits, and fire bowls. Making the best choice can sometimes feel daunting, though, but knowing more about each option can help in your decision.

For the most part, the traditional outdoor fireplace looks similar to a fireplace you might see on the inside of a home. Many traditional outdoor fireplaces are rectangular in shape and feature a mesh metal door which swings open to allow easy access, and swings closed to keep sparks from flying out of the fire. Traditional outdoor fireplaces are not boring in design, though. Whether your preferred style is one of clean lines or of romantically ornate decor, there is an outdoor fireplace to match that preference. In addition, most outdoor fireplaces provide you with 360 degree warmth, which creates an inviting space large enough to entertain multiple guests on chilly evenings.

A more utilitarian style of traditional outdoor fireplace is available, too, which suits many families’ needs while at home or while on camping or other outdoor vacations. These fireplaces boast a round body and sturdy, often tubular metal legs. Some models of this kind of outdoor fireplace have two wheels which allow the units to be moved easily to different locations. This more utilitarian of fireplaces offers the essential features without the fussiness of decorative elements.

Chimineas are a different kind of outdoor fireplace. Chimineas were originally developed in Mexico as a means for heating the home and cooking food. The design of chimineas, which is reminiscent of the pot belly stove with a round, mostly enclosed firebox and tall stack, allows fires to light quickly and burn longer than in a traditional outdoor fireplace, which has an open firebox. Additionally, the design of chimineas prevents rain from extinguishing the fire. Chimineas were traditionally constructed of clay or terra cotta and worked well in warmer, drier Mexican climates, but for superior durability and performance in colder climates, the preferred material for backyard chimineas is heavy duty metal, such as cast iron or cast aluminum. In cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions, clay or terra cotta chimineas tend to flake, crack, or crumble. Metal chimineas are beautifully designed and easily become the decorative focal point in any elegant outdoor living space. Chimineas are outdoor fireplaces with real character and style.

Fire bowls and fire pits are yet another type of outdoor fireplace available. Fire bowls and fire pits are usually smaller than traditional outdoor fireplaces, and the depth of the bowl or pit varies greatly. Larger capacity fire bowls or fire pits will hold more firewood and provide more warmth for those surrounding them. Fire bowls and fire pits can also be found in a wider variety of styles than traditional outdoor fireplaces. For example, materials used to construct fire bowls and fire pits range from sturdy and attractive metals like aged bronze, copper, or stainless steel to stone such as slate, marble, or granite. Additionally, some fire bowls and fire pits are adorned with tastefully decorative elements like ceramic tile, metal scroll work, or outdoor motifs. Fire bowls and fire pits are versatile, too. Some fire bowls and fire pits can double as a grill for cooking out, and some can be found at the center of a backyard dining table or patio table, making cozy dinners and quiet conversations all the more inviting. Many fire bowls and fire pits come with a mesh spark arrestor to help prevent embers from jumping out of the flames.

Choosing an outdoor fireplace to fit your personal style and needs may be the most challenging task, but it is important to know that outdoor fireplaces are not appropriate for every exterior living space. Before selecting from the many traditional fireplaces, chimineas, fire bowls, or fire pits, be sure that one can be used safely in your home’s exterior living area. For example, many outdoor fireplaces cannot be used on or near wood decks or other wooden structures. While some of the portable fireplaces can be taken into grassy areas and campgrounds, an ideal location for most of the outdoor fireplaces discussed in this article would be a stone, brick, dirt, or concrete surface.

Tailgating Supplies

Weekend Tailgater Grill

A Few Necessities Make the Difference

It’s football season again, and time for tailgating! Tailgating supplies vary enormously from vehicle to vehicle, and they can include anything from team logo flags and banners to portable bean bag games and decorative area rugs. Most items considered essential for tailgating could probably stay at home, but three of the most important pieces of equipment that should never be forgotten include the portable shade canopy, folding chairs or other basic seating options, and a portable grill.

Portable shade canopies not only protect you and your tailgating supplies from the sun’s harsh UV rays, they also help to create your own outdoor space. With so many people joining in on the tailgating fun, your own personal space can be easily encroached upon by tailgating neighbors. A shade canopy offers a welcoming place to party with fellow tailgaters, but it also establishes boundaries within which you can comfortably set up your tailgating supplies and enjoy the day. Portable shade canopies are easy to put up, fast to take down, and can be stored conveniently with your other tailgating supplies in the back of your vehicle or at home. If you drive an SUV or truck, the most ideal instant shade canopy for tailgating is one that attaches to the roof of your vehicle. Clips or Velcro tabs attach the shade canopy to one side of your vehicle’s roof rack, while the other side of the canopy is held up with support legs. But, when it comes down to it, any kind of portable shade canopy will do the job.

Seating options for tailgating come in all shapes and sizes, but what’s important is that it’s portable. A folding sports couch or folding butterfly chairs with cup holders and head rests offer comfort and convenience, but any kind of folding chairs will suffice. The key is finding seating options that are not only comfortable for you, but that will also fit easily into the back of your vehicle with the rest of your tailgating supplies. If you have room, you may consider packing an extra folding chair or two in your car or truck in case you want to have seating ready for fellow tailgaters.

Food and drinks are another necessary addition to your tailgating supplies, but unless you plan to serve only cold, picnic-style foods, you’ll need to bring along a portable grill to prepare your meal and snacks. A number of portable grills are available for tailgating, and choosing the right one depends only on your situation. Do you have a surface, like a table, on which a portable grill can be placed when it’s time to grill those steaks or hamburgers? If so, then any tabletop portable grill would work. If you don’t have access to an appropriate table-high surface for cooking, then a portable grill with full-sized folding legs is a good choice. The most ideal type of portable grill for tailgating, though, attaches to the back of your vehicle and stays there during transport and grilling. Known as the Margaritaville Tailgating Grill, this portable grill comes with a steel swing arm that attaches to any standard receiving hitch. The swing arm locks when the vehicle is in motion, but when it’s time to light the grill, the swing arm can be extended out, keeping the heat and mess away from your vehicle. Lock the swing arm in place before driving home, and the portable grill never has to touch the inside of your car or truck.


The goal of tailgating, whether or not you ever go into the stadium to see the game, is to celebrate your team and its potential victory. Being prepared for the game with the proper tailgating supplies means that you can focus entirely on the experience of the day rather than on what you left behind at home. Any number of items can be included in your list of tailgating supplies, but without a shade canopy, comfortable seating, and a portable grill, your tailgating experience is sure to be a drag.

Unique Gift Ideas for the Backyard Enthusiast

Dragon Fly Glass Lantern

Reduce the Environmental Impact of Gift Giving

If you or someone you love is conscious about environmental issues, then gift giving times can be less than joyful occasions. Wrapping paper, ribbons, packaging materials, and even the gift idea itself often demonstrate our wasteful tendencies when it comes to giving gifts. Being more environmentally considerate about what we give as gifts and how we present those gifts can go a long way to show our loved ones that we care about them as well as about the environment. Here are a few unique gift ideas that are, in themselves environmentally friendly, but that would also appeal to anyone who loves spending time outdoors.

Decorative Solar Lanterns

Affordable and practical, decorative solar lanterns make a beautiful addition to an outdoor dining table or sitting area. Powered by the sun’s rays during the day, most high quality solar lanterns can illuminate their surroundings with an energy-saving LED bulb for up to 8 hours after the sun goes down. No operating costs means no impact on the environment, and that is beautiful, indeed.

For small gifts such as solar lanterns, consider replacing traditional wrapping papers with cloth wrapping. Secure the cloth wrapping to the gift with a color-coordinated fabric ribbon. Whether you purchase a cloth bag, or use fabric you already have in your home, cloth wrapping is durable and can be re-used multiple times. Your friend will appreciate this additional gift.

Solar Fountains

Solar fountains for the patio or garden are other unique gift ideas for your environment-loving outdoor enthusiast. The gentle sound of running water is soothing to the mind and spirit, and it can help your friend unwind and relax at the end of hectic days. In addition, a solar fountain adds an attractive focal point to a garden or patio without requiring a nearby electrical outlet to power the water pump.

Depending on the size of the solar fountain you plan to give as a gift, you may wish to consider no wrapping whatsoever. Instead, add value to the gift by assembling it beforehand, choosing a location outdoors, and presenting it to your loved one so that it can be enjoyed right away. Because there are no electrical cords to worry about, the solar fountain can be relocated easily if desired.

Recycled Rope Hammock Swing

hammock swing is a gift idea that is rarely considered, but it’s one that many people would love to receive. Unlike a traditional hammock, a hammock swing allows you to sit up comfortably and enjoy reading a book, having a conversation, or just taking in the surroundings. Hammock swings can be constructed from weather-resistant outdoor fabrics or woven with rope materials, but the most environmentally-friendly hammock swing is one whose ropes are made from 100% recycled polyester fibers. These ropes are extremely durable and resistant to harsh weather, but they are also soft to the touch like cotton.

While you may not want to install a hammock swing gift before presenting it to your loved one, you can add value to the gift by installing it yourself once a location is chosen, or you can hire an installer to do the work. No wrapping is necessary for a hammock swing, but tying a decorative fabric bow around the gift before you present it can provide a festive touch.

Gift giving doesn’t have to continue to be as wasteful as it has always been. Creative and re-usable wrappings, or no wrappings, and gift choices that are sustainable as well as attractive and useful are some of the simple ways we can reduce our impact on the environment. By paying a little more attention to what we give and how we give it, we can make a big difference. Environmentally considerate gifts add value and joy to the giving, and to the receiving.