There are three fast ways down from the upper level of a play structure: a slide, a firepole and a zip line. I believe every play structure should have a slide: they appeal to kids of all ages. A fireman’s pole, (or as I have shortened it to: the firepole) starts appealing to kids around the age of 4. The zip line or cable ride is for kids 6 years and up.
Sometimes adults forget how much fun a fast slide can be. We offer a variety of shapes & sizes of slides, so there’s a slide for every yard. When designing a play structure for a yard, I often place the slide on the backside of the structure so the view from the house is of the fort, not the slide. When I was a kid, all the slides were metal but today the slides are mostly plastic. I think they’re great: they come in all sorts of fun shapes, colors and sizes, and they’re not as hot or as hard as metal slides.
Turbo Tube Slide
The Turbo Tube Slide is our most popular slide. It fits in almost any yard because it only takes up an area of 6’x 6’ space (plus the landing zone at the exit). It’s a standard feature on all the Robin Hood’s Forts and it requires a 7 foot high deck for its take-off. Besides being a great fit in any yard, it’s a cool disorienting type of ride: you fling yourself into the green tube and suddenly you’re spinning around and next thing you know, you’re on the ground. Kids and adults love it! Also, being a closed tube, it stays clean without a lot of effort, which can be especially important if there are a lot of trees around.
Straight Tube Slide
This Straight Tube Slide is an excellent commercial-grade slide, which makes it more expensive than the strictly residential slides above. Kids love crawling up this slide as much as sliding down it and since they are totally enclosed, parents don’t have to worry about anyone falling. Another advantage of this slide is that we can also order a few additional pieces that lets the slide jog left or right. Sometimes that is very helpful in fitting a slide in around a tree or another unmovable obstacle in the play area.
For the forts and playhouses with 4’high deck, I recommend the Wave Slide. The Wave Slide is a light-duty slide that extends only 8 feet into the yard (but don’t forget to then add the 6’ of landing zone.) Kids love the bump of the wave on the way down the slide. It’s perfect for young kids and smaller yards.
Straight Scoop Slide
The Straight Scoop Slide is also very popular. Most kids (and I agree) think the perfect play structure would have both a Turbo Tube Slide and a Straight Scoop Slide! One problem is that the Straight Scoop Slide requires a lot of space. From a 7-foot high take-off deck, the Straight Scoop Slide is almost 14 feet long. Then you need to add another 6 feet for the landing zone. If you have the space, it’s a fun fast slide that is strong enough for adults as well. And since it is one solid piece, we can turn it into a water slide as well.
10-foot high Spiral Tube Slide
>>Redwood Rough House
This amazing slide takes off of a 10-foot high platform and travels 450 degrees from start to finish. The 10-foot high Spiral Tube Slide is a commercial-grade slide that we can special order if you want a really big slide! It’s a fun twisty-turny ride and kids giggle the whole way down. It requires a big amount of space (as well as a 10-foot high take-off platform): 9’ x 9’ plus the 6’ landing zone at the exit. This slide can be ordered in 20 different colors. I like the dark green because it blends in so well with the rest of the play structure.
Unfortunately, these custom slides are very expensive (prices start at $7,000) and hard to install. Interested? Email Gabrielle for a quote (@barbarabutler.com). Include the height of your deck and zip code.
Embankment Wave Slide
Another custom slide is the 36’ long Embankment Wave Slide that I installed as part of the Connecticut Castle. This slide starts out from a 7’ high deck at the top of the hill, travels under the main tower and continues down the hill for a total of 36 feet. This slide is fun in spring and summer but in the winter it is amazingly fun and fast, as you can tell from the photo.
Open Spiral Slide
This Open Spiral Slide is a commercial grade slide that starts off of a 6’ high deck. It’s a fun ride down when you swoop under the deck you just walked across. It comes with a built-in hood for extra safety. With a footprint of just 6’ x 6’ (plus the 6’ landing zone at the exit), this Open Spiral Slide is great for projects were space is tight.
I try to always include a firepole (or fireman’s pole). It’s not just a fast way down, it’s a hard way up too! Older kids seem to really like the firepole. We use heavy-duty stainless steel pipe and we set the end of the firepole in concrete in the ground, so these firepoles are ready for real rough and tumble action. I often combine the firepole with the rock climbing wall. Then younger kids can try climbing one or two rock holds and then try a bit of the firepole. That’s a real confidence booster! Once they’re ready, the kids can try the firepole from the top without fear. It’s also just fun to climb up the rock wall while hanging on to the firepole.
A Zip Line (or Cable Ride) is what the older kids like best. They can spend hours going down a zip line! My favorite thing to do is to incorporate a zip line take-off platform with the play structure: that leads to all sorts of fun games. We attach heavy-duty aircraft cable to two trees and add the cable ride, which is a plastic gizmo with handles. Then we add a marine buoy on rope as a seat. We spend a great deal of time selecting the trees, deciding on the distance, the drop and the amount of slack in the line for the ride. Then we set up a temporary zip line and start the testing to make sure it’s a fast fun ride but not too fast. That means we have to go on it again and again. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it! Once we get the ride zipping along just right, we attach the permanent cable to the trees and hand it over to the kids.