What to Look For When Buying a Climbing Frame

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CHild looking over the edge of a slide at the camera

When we peer back through misty, rose-tinted lenses at our early childhoods, it’s very unlikely that we’ll be remembering the days we spent inside playing video games or watching TV. We’ll be remembering the times we spent outdoors with our friends; exploring the limits of our imaginations, clambering over the climbing frames and playing house in the playhouses that we pestered our parents for.

To this day, a climbing frame has an innate, magnetic draw for young children, particularly those who are just discovering and growing into an adventurous streak. And who could blame them?

Is a Climbing Frame Right for My Kids?

If you are under any doubt that a climbing frame is a wise investment, please allow us to assuage your reservations.

  • Modern climbing frames are built to last, so it will give your children years of pleasure. When they have outgrown it (sad, but true), you should also be able to sell it on with little trouble.
  • Research has revealed that children who spend a lot of time playing outdoors are not only a lot healthier (which should be an obvious benefit), but generally perform better at school. Healthy and smart kids. What’s not to love?
  • The energy your kids will expend when climbing, jumping, sliding and swinging on their climbing frame should mean they’ll be ready to sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow.
  • A climbing frame can act as a blank canvas; encouraging their imagination and creativity as the wooden climbing frame in their back garden becomes a pirate ship, a jungle playground, a battleship overrun by alien invaders or even an intergalactic space station.
  • The endless possibilities for interaction and adventure offered by a climbing frame should be able to distract your children from their numerous gadgets and gizmos and nurture a more disciplined approach to ‘screen time.’
  • By playing together with other children on your climbing frame, your kids will be given ample opportunities to practice and enhance their social skills, which are vitally important for the social and emotional development of any young child.
  • If they have their own space outside where they are given free rein to make as much mess as they like, your little darlings will be far less likely to cause an unholy mess in the house.
  • A climbing frame might offer your children years of entertainment, but it might also give you back a little free time and a lot of your sanity. If they’re out in the garden all day, that means you have the day to yourself. Granted, you’ll need to keep one eye on the garden, but that other eye is free to wander. So, if you just want a little more time to yourself, or simply can’t find the time to get everything done with the kids constantly demanding entertainment, a climbing frame could be the ideal solution.

What to Look For When Buying a Climbing Frame

Now that you’ve made the decision to invest in your child’s development (and your own sanity) with a climbing frame, there are a few things that you’ll need to consider. First and foremost is the quality of the climbing frame in question. Wood is generally your best bet when it comes to a balance between cost and quality. Always make sure, however, that the manufacturers have used ‘Grade A’ timber (which we do), which is not only the best quality aesthetically, but will last longer and provide a greater degree of reliability. A typical timber climbing frame will be manufactured using soft pine wood that will most likely have been pressure-treated in order to prevent rot and wear.

Timber has become one of the most popular choices for outdoor children’s toys, due to its affordability and environmental factors, with softwood offering a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to construction. Timber is a building material with an immense amount of soul and personality, with every piece bearing its own distinct knots and cracks, which is all part of its organic charm. Be warned, however, that by its very nature, timber is temperamental, and will change over time as it reacts to atmospheric changes. With the right maintenance, however, and if the wood is of a decent enough quality, your climbing frame could potentially last for decades. So, it might not just entertain your children, but even, eventually, your grandchildren!

How Much Space Do I Need for a Climbing Frame?

This will obviously depend on the size of the climbing frame in question. With enough diligent shopping, you should be able to find suitable climbing frames for small gardens and larger gardens. However, there are a few constants to take into consideration, not least of which is the amount of space to leave around the frame. Adequate preparation is very much your friend here, as once the climbing frame has been assembled, moving it can pose a significant challenge. Basically, you’re going to want to get it right first time!

First, whether your budget and space allows for a small space climbing frame or a gigantic, modular behemoth, assure that there is at least 1.5m of space surrounding the perimeter of the final build. This is especially important if the frame is equipped with a swing set, but even if you’ve opted for a model with just a simple frame and a slide, your kids deserve adequate space to run around safely. You should also try to keep it clear of any pathways, as not only are pathways generally harder (and more prone to scrape knees and leave nasty bruises), but you’re going to want to avoid any potential collisions. If possible, also try building your climbing frame on a level surface and (if your budget can stretch to it) laying down some safety surfacing (rubber mats preferably, but bark should suffice) to cushion the impact of any potential trips, falls or pushes.

What Size Climbing Frame Should I Buy?

Obviously, as logic dictates – the bigger the garden, the bigger the climbing frame, but smaller gardens can also enjoy the benefits of a climbing frame. Most modern climbing frames for kids are built with expansion in mind and will consist of a number of modules that can be added and subtracted as your kids develop. The size of your initial frame shouldn’t just be determined by the size of your garden, but by the size of your children. If your children are still very young and you might not trust them with a full set, consider a small tower with a short slide that can be added to when they are ready for it.

Most conventional ‘starter’ climbing frames for toddlers and babies consist of a central tower with a slide and a swing. This is ideal for a small-medium sized garden and younger children. They will, however, eventually outgrow the standard setup and will yearn for a swing set attachment (a very popular choice), a fireman’s pole or monkey bars. Some manufacturers will also build playhouses for kids that can be purchased as modules to supplement the main ’hub’. Ultimately, a good climbing frame shouldn’t be seen as a short-term purchase, but as a long-term investment, and the best way to keep your investment paying dividends (in your child’s growth and wellbeing) is to scale up and down when necessary to meet the ever-changing demands of your pesky ‘investors’.

How Much Does a Climbing Frame Cost?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but, as a given in any situation; the cost should always reflect the size and quality of the product. Cheap climbing frames, often built from plastic, will offer your kids largely the same experience, but it probably won’t last much longer than a year and could look seriously out of place (or just plain ugly) in your garden. If you buy something with a little more class though, that little extra will always go a long way.

In terms of cost, for a small, plastic climbing frame for a baby or a toddler, you’ll be looking at spending around £100. For a similar wooden option, you might pay thrice the price, but it’ll last 10 times as long and won’t be finding itself in a skip before they reach nursery school. From there you can expect to pay upwards of £500 for a decent wooden climbing frame for older children (with a slide and swing set), which is about as much as a modern games console. If you have the budget (and the room), meanwhile, you could spend up to as much as £3,000 for something a little grander, particularly if you opt for bespoke options.

In Conclusion…

With the material, size and modular options available, there is truly a climbing frame fit for all budgets, all gardens and all children. So, whether you’re looking for a birthday present that will make them the envy of the playground, or an investment in their future that will cultivate a happy, healthy home environment and a happy healthy child; why not choose something that offers both?

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