The Appleton and Ainsley Wooden Swing Sets by KidKraft are a discount, value-based swing set at under $700, including shipping, but is it still worth the money? We take a hard look at the quality and customer experience of the Appleton and Ainsley Swing Sets to see if its low cost makes for something sweet or too cheap.
Also, why are we consolidating two swing sets into one review? The Appleton and Ainsley are almost identical playsets with a small tweak in the tarp roof pitch. Additionally, the Ainsley is exclusively sold at Walmart and comes with an even cheaper price tag. We will refer to them interchangeably throughout the review, though we’ll make the delineation in the roof section of the review.
The Backyartisan's Verdict
The following review covers the Appleton and Ainsley in pretty close detail. At Backyartisan, we rate a handful of categories on a 5-star scale and then weight the 5 categories in terms of (our opinion of) importance. Roughly 30% of the rating weight goes to the playset before use, 45% to the life and use, and 25% to the value of the swing set. Okay, here’s the Backyartisan rating for the Appleton/Ainsley Swing Set.
Shipping & Receiving
You’ll want to check out our article on receiving a playset shipment to be in the know about shipping. It’ll explain the ins and outs, but know that generally these playsets are more complicated than a typical online order.
Our KidKraft Appleton/Ainsley verdict: KidKraft is a toy company at its core. Their primary products are dollhouses, pretend kitchens, and various toys - so KidKraft really is attuned to the unboxing experience. They get the adrenaline rush and wide eyes when you purchase a toy, the fact that you don’t want to wait any longer than when you have that item in your possession. Though swing sets just cannot be thrown together, the Appleton is a strong attempt at this experience.
Trucking Company Appointments
This is one of the more compact swing sets out there, so the shipping will likely not be a big issue here. While most swing sets ship via “LTL freight”, this one may be shipped to you via ground service and could be dropped off at your door without an appointment. You’ll want to check the delivery method with your retailer, but ground should be an easier option.
Dealing with Pallets
If it does come to you via ground shipping, there shouldn’t be a pallet to deal with, thus the waste or recycling will be limited to the box and inner wrapping. No additional headaches here!
Unboxing and Taking Inventory
Again, this is just really straightforward - 1 box, that’s it. Obviously you’ll note damage, take pictures and handle things if it comes messed up. You’re starting to get the idea about why this shipping experience is 5 stars…
Taking inventory of the materials on the inside will still need to be done and you generally have 30 days to give the manufacturer or your retailer a heads up that something is missing on the inside of the box. Though it does happen, it is fairly rare that something doesn’t show up in the sealed box. Compare your directions with what you received and keep an eye out for any discrepancies.
Box Weight and Dimensions
This box is only 140 lbs, but 7’ in length, 9.5” thick, but less than 2’ wide. When you have a swing set crossbeam and upright posts involved, it’s just going to be hard to get around that 7’+ length box. You will honestly be surprised a whole swing set fits into such a compact box, but you’ll probably see that there’s a tradeoff for that uber convenience.
Installation is the most critical part of the purchasing process for a swing set. You’ll need to check out what we’ve already written on swing set assembly on your own and may want to consider reading up on hiring the right installer.
Our KidKraft Appleton/Ainsley verdict: This really is representative of the entire swing set industry - these things are hard to put together. Even though the scope of this entire playset is small, it’ll still take 2 people a solid day’s worth of work. KidKraft is looking to make things easier in some of their playsets with pre-assembly and hinges, but that isn’t available on this set. We give the Ainsley an average rating of 3 stars.
Most of the tools you’ll need are fairly standard: shovel, tap measurer, hammer, level, ratchet (½”, 7/16” and 9/16” available sockets), square ruler, ladder and any protective gear. You will also need a drill with ⅛” and 3/16” bits. Pretty standard stuff, nothing complex like paddle bits.
Most everything should be pretty well-drilled and lined up to get going with these items ready.
Ease and Timeframe of Installation
You know, this is where your head could start spinning. Just look at the simplicity of the completed set - easy enough right? Well, this project could take even a couple of average handy Joes 8-10 hours to finish. The KidKraft will say 4-8 hours in total, but keep in mind that they want you to purchase that swing set. There are literally hundreds of screws and bolts that will keep you busy working out your forearms and drills.
Most of what you’re doing should take 1-2 people to complete (like just the turning of screws and basic fastening), but when you need 3, you could really need 3 to keep things safe. The professional installers will likely get the job done with 2 people.
Quality of Directions
These directions are decent, but I’m a big fan of using colors in the diagrams and pictures - it can really cut down on confusion and help identify everything you’re working with. Unfortunately these directions are gray-scaled and black/white. I know, it’s a small gripe, but it’s also not a huge additional cost to better the customer experience.
With that said, the directions are well-written, clearly in native English, and they go so far as to chart out the nominal and actual wood scale, showing what the true size of the boards are.
The use zone for the Appleton is 22’3” wide by 28’ long. That’ll give you plenty of space for roaming around the set, while the actual playset dimensions are 10’3” long by 9’ wide and 8’ high. Not the largest set, but you know that by the pictures at this point.
The deck height is only 39 inches while the beam height is 70 inches, so you’ll need a ladder for this installation, but it just isn’t the tallest set on the market.
Stability & Durability
Stability and durability are hugely important for the longevity of your swing set. In this section of the review, we highlight what we see in the Appleton/Ainsley swing set, and try to get ahead of potential problems you may encounter.
Our KidKraft Appleton/Ainsley verdict: With a low deck height, little sandbox, and simple packaging, this swing set could be exactly what you’re looking for while your children are small. A few years from when you buy it, you’ll really note the thin boards and probably even wince as your growing kids start to grow rougher on the playset. A rough and tumble 8 year old hanging from the crossbar (which happens and is NOT recommended) will may have you questioning your insurance coverage.
Joints & Hardware
Honestly, I would love to see a little thicker screws than the #8 - I’m sure they are sufficient for the needs of this set from an engineering standpoint, and I think going bigger will highlight the shortcomings of the wood thickness (i.e. splitting). When it comes to the hex bolts, most are 5/16” or smaller, and we see ⅜” or greater on most of the heavy duty swing sets, but you’re just not paying for a heavy duty playset at this time.
The corner triangle plate attaching the beam to the upright posts is fine - nothing to write home about, and just in line with the rest of the hardware. This seems to be a place where KidKraft has “value-engineered” the playset and dialed in the overall cost of the product.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the wood also points to the fact that you’re dealing with a cheaper swing set. KidKraft doesn’t go with one solid crossbeam, instead opting for two 2”x6” boards (which are really only 1.5” in width). I get what they are doing here by lowering the cost by layering the boards, I just can’t say I’m in love with the idea. I may be picky and leaning towards the long-term here, but this is just where you’ll see the price and simplicity of unboxing the set start to trade off.
This is another area where KidKraft is paying a lot of attention to the value and costing of the playset. If you think through how they formed this slide, you’ll take note of the ways they’ve optimized it for shipping. Though there’s a wave to it, it is very tight and doesn’t really interfere with the overall dimension of the slide. KidKraft continues to look into ways of optimizing around shipping, so I’d expect more changes and updates to slides.
At the moment, this slide is plenty thick, not top of the line, but sufficient. What is a little strange about it is the surface - they have made this slide slightly more textured than your typical thermoformed plastic. It makes the slide carry lower static charges, but it also doesn’t ride quite as smoothly.
Wood Stain & Finish
Pretty typical yellow finish stain for KidKraft. Not really a color I love, but pretty typical across the industry. Smoothly applied and not much more to point out. Generally acceptable if you are good with the color.
The weight limits define how many kids and their ages will fit on the swing set. The limit here is 6 children at a time. Obviously only 2 on the swings, so when you consider one on the slide, one on the climbing wall, and one on the deck, I’m sure they are also considering one in the sandbox under the deck.
With a max of 110 lbs. per child, that should handle most any kid you throw at it, but you’ll want to avoid having many children who are over 90 lbs. on the swing set at one time. It might be technically okay if you’re still under 110 lbs. per child, but probably a little on the dicey end.
There aren’t really that many play options here, so the typical breakdown of weight limits by elements isn’t really available beyond the 110 lbs. limit.
So you’ve gone with a cheaper swing set and want to make your money last - this is where you can probably get the most bang for your buck. For most who playset owners, looking over a checklist, inspecting the set thoroughly, and replacing parts preemptively is not really on your radar.
With the Appleton/Ainsley, you should strongly consider re-staining the wood, checking the hardware, and giving the swing set a regular tune-up. The heavier duty sets have more margin for maintaining the set, but this one doesn’t. Staying on top of it will be a great way to get an extra couple of years out of it.
Onto the play elements, which is how your kids will mainly interact with the playset. You’ve put the work into assembling them, so you’re going to want to see your kids engage!
Our KidKraft Appleton/Ainsley verdict: This swing set is very limited in your options. Very basic offering and not much excess. The elements you do get aren’t very high end either.
Ups, Downs & Acrosses
Our section about the climbing up, sliding downs, and paths across. The Ainsley swing set really just doesn’t offer much. You get a slatted wood ramp with plastic rock holds going up and a straightforward slide coming straight down. Nothing to crawl through and clatter across. Can’t say I’m enamored with the options, but covers the *very* basics.
With two belt swings, this is a pretty standard offering. You may want to get a glider to upgrade the experience, but essentially you’re limited to two swing positions. This could be plenty for small children.
Social Play Accessories
No real social play elements here. At Backyartisan, we consider these to be elements that engage multiple kids in the same activity.
Solo Play Accessories
Under the main deck is a classic small sandbox area for play, though the boards used to contain the sand are only a few inches tall. If you find yourself wanting a legitimate amount of sand for this sandbox, you may find yourself digging to get the room!
The chalk *board* is a chalk tarp. It’s fine, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t hold chalk really well. It gives your kid the option to draw, just without retaining much of the chalk. Yeesh.
Roof & Kit Options
Here’s the real distinction between the Ainlsey and the Appleton swing sets. The Ainsley (sold exclusively by Walmart) has a rounded tarp roof while the Appleton has a pitched triangular roof. The Ainsley lacks the roof support of the Appleton, probably helping Walmart achieve a lower price point, but there really doesn’t seem to be much more of a need for one over the other.
Price & Value
You’ve gone with a cheaper swing set for sure. You’re wondering if it has paid off and whether or not you’ll have gotten your money’s worth.
Our KidKraft Appleton/Ainsley verdict: Meh. The Appleton and Ainsley will serve a purpose, but maybe only for a couple of seasons of use. If you have one child at the right age, they may get good use out of it, and you’ve checked your box, but don’t expect your kid to enjoy this playset to the hilt for years to come.
You get what you pay for. At this price, you get a decent shipping and unboxing experience, you get some good pictures of it set up, and hopefully you get 3-4 years of good use out of it with a couple of kids. Look, I’m not trying to be snooty about paying up, but I am trying to give you fair warning - if you go this route, know that you will definitely want to keep up with maintenance and may find yourself putting off a needed replacement in a couple years if you have kids of varying ages.
You should expect shipping costs to run very low compared to most swing sets. It’s one box for Pete’s sake. Return policies depend upon your retailer, but you’ll probably spend $100+ to return an unopened package.
If you do hire a professional, you’ll save some money on the Appleton swing set because an experienced pro really should whip this thing together quickly. With that said, it’ll still cost you something just to get the guys to come over to help out. It may even cost as much as 80% of what you spent on the set.
The warranty matches my expectations based on what I’ve told you about the materials. KidKraft highlights a 5-year limited warranty, but that really is only for the lumber. All hardware and accessories come with a 1-year warranty. The way seasonal play goes with these playsets, that 1-year warranty is not quite up to my standards. It’s not quite an average warranty in terms of timing, but it’s about an average swing set.
The Appleton/Ainsley wooden swing set gets just under 3 stars. Remember, we consider 3 stars average. The upfront experience is actually pretty nice. One box, cheap shipping, pretty easy to put together - but the tradeoff is longevity. You could find yourself purchasing another one every 2-3 years, and by the time you’ve purchased it 5 times, you could’ve gotten a solid one for many years.
With that said, kids are only a certain size and age (with a certain curiosity) for a short amount of time. Spending a lower amount of money for this finite amount of time may just be smart for your wallet and family. For the growing number of consumers who care about the the long term and sustainability of their purchases, buying a swing set you know you’ll want to throw away in a few years time probably isn’t the way to go.
Thanks for reading the Backyartisan comprehensive review of the Appleton and Ainsley wood swing set by KidKraft!