With families across the UK having to stay isolated for the foreseeable future, you might be shopping for a climbing frame to keep the little ones active and entertained in the garden.
Whether you’re shopping for a portable, indoor climbing frame or a climbing frame that’s suitable for a toddler, it’s important you’re familiar with where to position it, how to build it and how to make sure it’s used safely.
Below, we run through the various types of climbing frame and explain how to safely assemble one yourself. Advice from the European Child Safety Alliance also includes tips on preparing your building space.
1. Indoor climbing frames
Designed to improve motor and agility skills, a small indoor climbing frame could be a good fit for a child aged two to three. Although they’re built with indoor use in mind, many of these climbing frames can be used in the garden too, as long as they’re safely secured to the ground.
We’ve spotted a range of climbing frames that have a foldable design, so once playtime is over you can chuck them in the cupboard or in the garden shed.
Argos stocks the £130 Lil Monkey Climb and Slide Olympus (below) – it has some cubes to clamber over, a mini ladder and a slide. This one is suitable for ages three and up.
Other websites that stock indoor climbing frames include Early Years Resources, Costcutters UK and the Early Learning Centre.
2. Outdoor climbing frames
Unsurprisingly, you can treat the kids to a bigger climbing frame if you buy one that’s built for outdoor use. But a larger climbing frame designed to withstand the elements will often be made from pricier materials, so expect a jump in price.
Children’s toy brand Dolu offers the £200 7-in 1 Playground Frame (below). It’s suitable for kids between ages two and 10 and combines a basketball hoop, mini football net, slide, swing, pull-up bar and two tables.
For older kids that have more upper body strength, you can shop for climbing frame sets that incorporate vertical climbing walls and monkey bars.
Argos stocks climbing frames from Plum that go from £575 up to £750. The cheapest is the Plum Bonobo 2 Wooden Climbing Frame (below). This wooden climbing frame has a look-out tower, ladder, swing set and sand pit.
Wickey is another popular go-to for outdoor climbing frames. You can expect to pay anywhere between £230 and £5,800.
3. Where is the best place to buy a kids climbing frame?
If you’re shopping for your climbing frame online, you have plenty of options. But make sure you pay attention to the dimensions of the structure, to get a sense of how it will look when assembled, before you click that ‘buy’ button.
Some of the most popular options for ‘jungle gyms’ include Argos, Costco, Little Tikes, Smyths Toys and Wickey.
If you prefer to head in-store to look at them first, try Little Tikes. The brand does have a website, although many of its ‘activity gyms’ are available in-store only at the time of writing.
You’ll also have to wait until restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak are lifted to shop in-store for your climbing frame.
4. How much does a kids climbing frame cost?
Prices for climbing frames will vary depending on the size of the climbing frame, its age range and the number of play elements included.
Here’s an overview of outdoor climbing frame price ranges from several retailers:
- Argos – £100 to £750
- Costco – £530 to £4,500
- Early Learning Centre – £150 to £200
- Early Years Resources – £130 to £2,335
- John Lewis – £175 to £1,140
- Little Tikes – £99 to £500
- Smyths Toys – £120 to £330
- Wickey – £230 to £5,750
Prices above correct as of April 2020.
5. Climbing frame safety tips
Where to place an outdoor climbing frame
When picking a spot for the climbing frame, make sure the ground is firm and level. If you place the climbing frame on uneven ground, excess weight could cause parts to bend or tip over.
Child Safety Europe notes that you’ll need to take into account falling space and impact area as well. Playground guidelines from the group explain: ‘For elevated play structures ensure there is enough room for a falling space free from obstacles of at least 1.5 metres all around the equipment.
‘For equipment with a fall height more than 1.5 metres, this space increases gradually up to a minimum of 2.5 metres’.
What to put underneath the climbing frame
You have a couple ofoptions when it comes to laying down a foundation for the climbing frame. Of course, a concrete base is a no-go – if your child slips off the frame, they’ll have a tough landing.
If you’re assembling the climbing frame yourself and want to keep additional costs low, simply placing the climbing frame on the grass is an obvious choice. This provides a softer cushion and you might prefer the way it looks on your lawn. According to the European Child Safety Alliance, it’s acceptable to use grass for play equipment ‘up to one metre in height’ as long as the grass is maintained in good condition.
Bark chippings are fairly inexpensive and a good pick if you’re looking to cover a wide area. But note that with children running across the surface excitedly, you might need to top up the chippings when they escape the pit you’re containing them in.
Supervising your child
Keeping an eye on your child when they’re on a climbing frame is very important, especially if they’re a little uncertain on their feet.
Consider what your child is wearing. Loose, hanging strings or large coat hoods can get caught on play equipment and cause injury. You’ll also want to consider the weather – on a hot day, metal slides can get especially hot on bare skin.
Follow the instructions carefully
Buy a climbing frame and it will arrive in pieces that you’ll need to assemble yourself in the garden. When you’re working through the manual, make sure you’re reading the instructions very carefully. Cutting corners or skipping a step if you’re unsure of something could potentially put your child at risk.
The equipment needs to be properly anchored to the ground to avoid it slipping around when children are climbing on it.
If you have any questions about assembling the climbing frame, contact the manufacturer, whether that’s in-store, through the brand’s website or via the brand’s social media pages.
Check for sharp edges and exposed screws
Once you’ve assembled your climbing frame, have a check around the structure before you let your children try it out. You’ll be looking for any sharp edges, loose fittings or exposed screw ends that may have escaped your gaze while you were building or setting it up.
If you spot a sharp corner or two that you’d like to cover up, consider investing in some edge and corner guards. These sticky-back attachments are transparent, so they won’t really affect the look of the climbing frame. You can get packs of these covers online.
Alternatively, try a trampoline
If you really want to upgrade the garden for your children, a trampoline is a step (or a bounce) in the right direction.
When buying a trampoline, consider your budget, the size of trampoline you ideally want to pick up, and whether or not you should opt for a spring-based or spring-free trampoline.
For more details on how to buy the best trampoline and which brands parents recommend, head over to our trampoline advice page.