How to choose a climbing frame

Looking for a Climbing Frame for your Children? –

Are you looking for a climbing frame for your children and don’t know where to start? If you have toddlers and young children you most likely have taken them to public playgrounds and would like to have something similar at home so your little ones can play safely in your own garden. But searching online has given you lots of different options and you don’t know how to choose? Read on for expert advice to help you select the best play area for your children.

Active Garden has nearly 20 year’s experience in supplying and building climbing frames and designing play areas for private and commercial use. They are parents of teenagers so they also tried and tested lots of playgrounds over the years!

An important part of choosing a play area for your garden, for any parent, should be safety.

There are a lot of suppliers that create bespoke equipment who don’t know about regulations and safety, so beware of that. Off the peg equipment should be able to provide certification for the safety aspects.

Also, as part of the safety you should allow plenty of space around your climbing frame and swings.

How much? 2m around it is the rule of thumb, but a minimum of 1.5m around a climbing frame and always 2m in front of slides. For swings, 3.5m normally front and back from where the swings hang from.

Make sure that there are no low branches or hard objects in the way (tree trunks, concrete, patio slabs, flower pots etc within the safety area. Check the equipment dimensions, add the safety area around it before purchasing, to avoid disappointment. Also make sure your neighbours agree with having a tower where children might overlook their house or garden.

 All climbing frames and swings should be anchored into the ground and concreted.

This will provide safe equipment for your children to use. Some brands concrete the wood into the ground and others use metal ground anchors. Make sure the ground anchors are of good quality.

Of course, you want something sturdy that will last many years so your children can make the most of it, as it can be a large expense, depending on what you select. This is influenced by the timber (the quality of it and the treatment, as you don’t want to be painting it every year, choose pressure treated timber with guarantee against rot and infestation). It is good practice to check with the supplier how many years they guarantee the timber for.

The thickness of the timber is important. Check for chunky legs, minimum of 7x7cm, that would provide a sturdy tower/swing. However, the way the towers and swings are built and the type of fixings used will provide quality and durable equipment. Timber is the most popular material as it blends in with the garden and it is a sustainable material (look for timber from responsibly managed forests), but there are other options, such as plastic and metal.

One important factor to take into account, especially when searching online, is the size of the equipment.

Sometimes it is difficult to realise the scale of the climbing frame and swings from a photo, so look for dimensions or photos with children and adults. A lot of products are quite small and you might be disappointed when they are installed. So always check first! Mark out in your garden to see how much of your space will be taken up by the new addition.

If you have space, then a play tower with slide and swings is the basic equipment that will provide hours of fun. Make sure you select the platform height that is right for your children. If you choose a platform that is too low, the children will outgrow it quickly. Generally, you can find platforms at 60cm, 90cm, 120cm and 150cm from the ground. The higher the platform, the longer the children will be interested in it. There are towers with different platform heights that last for years, always keeping the children interested and are also ideal for grandparents who will have grandchildren of different ages throughout the years. If your budget and space allow it, you can have more towers joined together by a bridge.

There are lots of accessories and modules that can go with your climbing frame, it depends on the manufacturer if you can mix and match or design your own.

Optional with second slide

Climbing features like rock/climbing wall, ramp, nets, fireman’s poles, ladders, slides and monkey bars are the most popular. You can choose colourful accessories for a fun and inspiring space or keep it blending in with the garden with most accessories in green. For the swings, you can have seats of different kinds, flat seats are for children 3 and up and if you have a toddler or babies, under 36 months, then you will need a baby seat. One of the most sought-after swings are the group seats, like nest swings, that can be used from toddlers to 12. On a swing module you can also hang ring trapezes, ladders, tyre swings, knotted ropes, etc.

The slides can be straight, wavy, tubular or spiral. There is a significant price difference but the straight and wavy slides are the most popular for their price and the fun they provide, plus you can always see your children whilst they are using them. If you are looking for a den, you can have playhouses on platforms or some climbing frames that come with playhouse modules to enclose the bottom of the platform to have a playhouse at ground level. Other options for the bottom of the towers are sandpits, super popular with toddlers, and can keep them busy for hours!

Climbing frame instructions, DIY and installation services

A lot of the off the shelf climbing frames will come with instructions for self-installation, others, especially bespoke equipment, will have to be installed for you.

For example, Active Garden have a great installation team that can build your climbing frame quickly and professionally (only for the items purchased from them), so you know it has been done properly, following the manufacturer’s instructions and in the right time scale (no waiting for mum and dad to have time to do it!)

Safer surfaces, which one do you need?

With regards to surface, for residential gardens, grass is an appropriate surface. You can add rubber grass mats to increase the cushioning, they allow the grass to grow through, you can place them where you want them without the need to cover the entire area and are the cheapest option.

There are other surfaces if you cannot have grass or prefer not to use it, such as woodchip, rubber, bonded rubber, wetpour, artificial grass etc. The surface to select depends of different factors, like the height of the platforms and the base you have. Also, those surfaces are quite costly and can cost more than the equipment itself, so always check before designing a space! It will be best to contact the professionals with your surface enquiry so they can advise accordingly.

Please never install play equipment onto hard surfaces like decking, concrete, patio slabs, etc.

Children can have serious head injuries if falling from height onto them. Always check for feedback on the company you are choosing to buy from, call them and make sure they know what they are selling and ask all the questions you need for your peace of mind.

At Active Garden, with their years of experience on the market, they have selected a few ranges that provide excellent quality, variety and great prices. Active Garden supply Blue Rabbit climbing framesJungle Gym climbing framesAll Out Play playhouses and Hyland and Active Towers. They are all very safe, sturdy and reliable equipment. Some of them are modular and you can create your own design adding different modules and accessories. The team at Active Garden can help you and advice what would be best for your space, budget and needs.

Call with your enquiry, they will be happy to help!

Tel: 01568 782241


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