Building a compact play structure in the backyard

We have a modest backyard with very active little kids (preschool and kindergarten age). I could take them to the park but sometimes I just want to let them play in the backyard while I do laundry or dishes or enjoy a cup of coffee. Right now, they jupm on the bed, create obstable course with pillows and destroy the house every day! I would like to create an environment where they do that shenanigans in the backyard.

We looked at the play sets at Home Depot, Costco, etc. These sets must be designed and marketed for people who have TX size backyards. Our yard is pretty decent size for this area but isn't big enough for any of the sets (even the ones that are marketed as "compact") that they sell at these outfits. The shape of the yard is such that I could chop up those sets in half and use just the play house / tree house / fort part on one end of the yard and build  2 posts for 1 swing on another part of the yard or install swings under the eaves.

Basically, my kids are begging for some sort of climbing and swinging options in the yard. Our yard is too small for a trampoline. We could put a trampoline but won't be able to fit anything else and we do like to grill and eat outside. 

Is this the kind of thing that I speak to a landscape designer about? Who do I talk to? Handyman? Carpenter? Is this the kind of thing that will cost several thousand dollars? 

Maybe I'm dreaming the unattainable. We are not handy and have no idea how to even start researching options. 

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My dad built a compact play structure for my daughter (funnily enough, in a giant Texas backyard) for when she visits. He ordered a slide from amazon and bought and cut the wood to his own design spending less than $300 for everything. I just did a quick google and this is pretty much what he built her and it sits in a narrow space (the size of a driveway?) in our side yard.

There would be room to add a swing to the side or a hammock underneath. He's planning on adding a climbing wall up the back side of it for her 3rd birthday.

I think a handyman could build this pretty easily and there are plenty of DIY kits and instructions online. It should definitely cost you less than $600 even including labor.

We went through this exact same struggle, as we have a small yard, that is deep, but very narrow. After dozens of hours of agonizing research and quotes, we discovered a few things.

1. There are almost no options that are cheap, quality (will last, as well as are geared towards kids larger than 4 and wont immediately be outgrown), and compact. 

2. You will either be spending $3k+ for a more compact or custom option, or doing a little customization to make it work yourself. I really loved the Jumbo and Jr from Terra Kids, but they run about $3-4k

3. If you are willing to sacrifice swings, you can find a lot of much more compact options.

4. The clearance guidelines they give (6' perimeter) are really pretty bonkers unless your kid is going to do parkour off the damn roof or something. We were able to cut that down to more like 3-4', and we tucked the brace of the swing nearly up against our side fence, as we didnt want anyone walking along that side anyway, and there is no fall potential. 

I ended up purchasing The Gorilla Playsets Nantucket Model and cutting the swing arm down by about 28". As a result, it does not have the trapeze, but does still have two swing positions. I suppose you could also opt for one swing and the trapeze. Additionally, I had planned to have both the slide and ladder on the same side to further minimize the footprint, but ultimately decided against it once I had it in the space and realized I could sacrifice a bit more room. Overall I was very impressed by the quality of the wood and other materials. I assembled it pregnant, and nearly single handedly over the course of 2 days (there are a few pieces youll need help with due to size and weight) but I am very comfortable with power tools and following assembly diagrams. You will need a power drill, socket set, and hammer (no nails but helpful in driving the huge bolts through the larger lumber pieces) as well as a table or chop saw if you intend to cut down the swing arm (unless you are handy and patient with a hand saw) to assemble.

This blogger used the same set as me, but with a different custom configuration. I originally planned to do the same, but discovered we only lost 8 additional inches by using my modification with the two swing positions, and she mentions that hers began to creak in a way they didnt like and they ultimately opted to brace it anyway.  

I suggest that you look for play structures on Pinterest and then find someone to build something for you. I think you can buy a tiny trampoline that people use for exercise. Maybe they would like that. 

We looked at this and talked to 2 contractors, since we are redoing our backyard anyways... They recommended against anything built in/ permanent, (which is the only thing we really had space for) since it wouldn't last for long in terms of the kids growing out of it, and would be bad for resale.

Have you thought about using both the front yard and back yard? We have a couple neighbors that put trampolines, a swingset in the front yard...

Also, there are many straight forward playthings easier put in a yard-- toddler basketball hoop or soccer net, plastic seesaw, a Bobo Clown punching bag. It encourages the kids to move and burn off energy in ways harder in the house, but is not permanent, expensive or as big. Maybe a kiddie pogo stick and hula hoop instead of a trampoline?

Good luck!

We have a pretty large backyard, but for obvious reasons, we wanted to limit the amount of space the structure would take up. We purchased a used structure from someone else that was made of redwood, and my husband (who is pretty handy and makes furniture) purchased extra redwood pieces to create a few extra support beams so that we could separate the swing area from the structure so now the swings are across from the slide/climbing area rather than being one long giant structure. I don't think you need a landscape designer. A handyman or carpenter should be able to separate a redwood structure for you (or you yourself, if you're handy enough). We also built our own area for the playground mulch, which is simple if you are using a square/rectangle shape.

I would agree that you need to think about the future as well as today's needs. My kids are now 7 & 9; there was about a 5 year period when we were at the park and playground EVERY DAY and now honestly I have to drag them once a month - they just aren't interested in "baby stuff" and little play equipment anymore. We got a 10' trampoline 2 years ago (when they were 5 & 7) and, knock on wood, it's been great and nobody has been to the ER yet. I would recommend a trampoline (with netting, obviously) to anyone else with active kids, it is more than worthwhile and was about $300. There is a 200 pound weight limit so in essence, they will outgrow it (at least to play on together) in a few years. Even if it feels like you can't squeeze it in, think hard about how you will really use that yard space otherwise, and if the gain in time you get (by not having to schlep to a park) is worth it. Any other play structure type thing you install, they will outgrow in a year - emotionally if not physically, and then physically too.