Your kids are growing a little tired of the playset in your backyard, you’ve got a little extra savings to go big, and you still want to see your children off of the video games and spending a little more time outside while the weather is good. Now you’ve got to upgrade your playset to something more age-appropriate that will hold the attention of your children. Here’s the Short List for your situation!

We continue to line up more reviews every month so that you’ll know what you’re getting into. Here are the best swing sets and playsets for the older kids out there. Namely looking to keep your pre-teens interested.

The Backyartisan's Short List: Best Backyard Playsets for Older Kids

Gorilla Empire Extreme Swing Set Best Overall Playset for Older Kids
Backyard Discovery Woodridge Elite Best Fort Option
Gorilla Pioneer Peak Swing Set Best Climbing Swing Set

Gorilla Empire Extreme Swing Set

Best Overall Playset for Older Kids

Backyartisan Rating: 4.4 stars

The Empire Extreme is possibly the swing set that you’ll buy – and that is saying a lot. First off, you probably won’t be able to afford much of anything after you buy it. Next, after you put it together (just don’t), you’ll never want to go through that again. Finally, the thing will last you the better part of two decades. It’s just totally great for anything that the big boys and girls will throw at it. Not our favorite colors, but hits all of the highlights otherwise. Please do check out our entire review of the Empire Extreme.

Where It Shines:

  • This playset has it all
  • Very heavy duty
  • Will last you forever

Where It Could Improve:

  • This playset is very difficult to assemble
  • Top of the line in terms of price point
  • We’ve never loved Gorilla’s yellow cedar

Backyard Discovery Woodridge Elite

Best Fort Option

Backyartisan Rating: 4.35 stars

The Woodridge Swing Set is a great option for children who may enjoy more pretend play and clubhouse meetings. It is plenty large for the big kids and looks to be perfect for playing house. Maybe even a saloon-ish look. It’s got three swing positions and only one wave slide, but we just love the climbing ladder, crow’s nest and tunnel across the swing beam. Such a unique play option for a backyard swing set. We think the big kids will love it, and it should hold their attention at a fairly reasonable price of $2,400 (well, reasonable in the large swing set business).

Where It Shines:

  • Awesome use of the upright post
  • Unique tunnel feature
  • Large clubhouse setup

Where It Could Improve:

  • Only one slide option
  • Mainly a large playhouse with some swings

Gorilla Pioneer Peak Swing Set

Best Climbing Swing Set

Backyartisan Rating: 3.6 stars

The Pioneer Peak is one of the stalwarts in the Gorilla selection. It does a ton of the work of their large playsets, just with more climbing and less sliding. Tons of up options on the Pioneer Peak. Honestly, that isn’t very common among the larger price points. The Pioneer Peak also comes with a tire swing. All in all a unique set of options for swing sets at this price point.

Where It Shines:

  • Tons of climbing options
  • Tire swings on crossbeams are unique
  • Sturdy wood roof option

Where It Could Improve:

  • Pretty expensive for very few slides
  • Never loved the Gorilla yellow

How We Picked the Playsets for Older Kids on This Short List

Shipping & Receiving Process

Receiving a playset shipment is...bulky. Especially for the behemoth playsets for older kids that we feature in this Short List. You have to factor in freight or LTL shipping, set up delivery appointments, take inventory of all the parts you received, and occasionally deal with the unsavory damaged item here and there. Gorilla Playsets, which we feature twice on this Short List, is one of the bulkiest manufacturers in terms of the number of boxes and unloading. It will be a process to get everything settled, but it is generally a pleasant process. Backyard Discovery is more on the minimalist side with fewer boxes and a good overall delivery process. You can read more about this important factor in our playset shipping process guide.

Installation & Setup

Similar to the delivery process, installation and setup for these playsets for big kids can be cumbersome and time-consuming. For this average-size swing set, you're probably looking at 20+ boxes for Gorilla Playsets. It will be fewer boxes for Backyard Discovery, but the effort will still need to be there. Expect it to take a weekend and a helping hand from your partner or neighbor if you set up the playset yourself. You can also hire professional playset installers, but make sure to factor that into your budget if you go that route.

Stability & Durability of Materials

The total weight on the playset at one time is higher than average for big kids (as expected), so the stability and durability of the playset you purchase are paramount. We look at factors like hardware and joints, wood thickness, plastic thickness, the wood stain and finish, and of course weight limits for all the playsets we review. Of the top manufacturers, Gorilla Playsets and Backyard Discovery are hands down the most durable.

Play Elements

The accessories and main play features of the swing set are arguably the most important part and a big factor for older kids who may get bored with simple social play accessories that younger kids may enjoy. Here, we look at all of the "ups, downs, and acrosses" (i.e. how kids get around the playset), swings, slides, roof kits, and more. These bigger playsets come with more of the unique play elements too like tire swings, climbing walls, and more slides.

Price & Value

Your budget should always play a big role in your decision-making process for a new playset. Especially for these playsets that carry a higher-than-average price tag. We believe our recommendations strike a nice balance of features and cost, and we always think value for your dollar first. Read our breakdowns of cheap playsets, expensive playsets, and the average cost of a playset for more price analyses.

We cover all of these factors and more in our complete playset buying guide. For all of our playset recommendations, make sure to read our Short List of the top-rated outdoor playsets.

Recap: The Best Playsets for Older Kids


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