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Backyard toys become affordable

Stored under In the News on March 15, 2007 at 7:43 AM
Molded plastic varieties displace rusty sets of yore

Like many parents in her suburban Long Island neighborhood, Patty Tilkin is a veteran buyer of backyard toys. She’s shopped for climbers and slides, seesaws and wagons, child-sized castles and plastic log cabins.

“We’ve had a million things,” she says, “even one of those little railroad tracks with the train that’s battery-powered.”

And yet Tilkin has spent surprisingly little money transforming her yard into a play space for her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. With so many affordable, durable products now on the market, the challenge for parents isn’t tracking down the right toy. It’s deciding which among many to buy.

The molded plastic pieces made by companies such as Little Tikes and The Step2 Co. are easy to assemble and require little or no maintenance. Forget the cumbersome metal swing sets of your childhood, the ones that came with six dozen nuts and bolts for your father to assemble and that were rusty within a year.

Today’s plastic climbers snap together easily and begin at about $100. Slides and teeter-totters run as little as $39.99. And for parents who consider brightly colored outdoor toys an eyesore, these products are available in shades such as tan and dark green, too.

As a result, sales of outdoor toys are growing, says Dotti Foltz, director of marketing communications for Step2. “Parents, if they have the luxury of having a backyard, really like the idea of making it a kid-friendly area,” she says.

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